Monet’s 1908 Nymphéas Painting to Make Auction Debut at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

Claude Monet's (1840 - 1926) Meules (1890) became the most expensive painting by the artist and for any Impressionist art painting after realising a whopping US$110.7m at Sotheby's New York last month. The auction house is offering yet another masterpiece from Monet's Nymphéas en feur series in their Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in London. Estimated at £25m - 35m (US$31.9m - 44.6m), the painting is appearing on the auction stage for the first time. 

Monet's Nymphéas (1908) will be offered at Sotheby's London

Meules (1890) sold for US$110.7m at Sotheby's New York last month

The Nymphéas en feur (or Water Lillies) series by the French Impressionist artist is a series of approximately 250 paintings inspired by the lily pond in his garden at Giverny. It was said that Monet planted the water lilies purely for pleasure, with no intention in creating any artwork inspired by them. Yet, later on, Monet grew more fond of his pond and began to reach for his palette, painting more than 200 water lily oeuvres in his late years. 

Monet photographed at his lily pond at Giverny

Monet in his studio at Giverny, circa 1920

The current lot depicts the effect of light on the surface of the pond

The uniqueness of the current Water Lily painting offered by Sotheby's lies in the depiction of the effect of light on the surface of the pond and the water lilies. The French painter eliminated the horizon line, thus reducing the illusion of depth and perspective. The sky which is outside the scope of the canvas is only seen through the reflection of the water. The canvas becomes two-dimensional, making all parts of the composition equally important. 

Claude Monet. Nymphéas (1907). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Due to the elimination of the horizon line, the current lot employs a square canvas instead of a horizontal one. The painting is characterised by a stream of light that descends towards the right and curves around a large pad of water lilies in the foreground. In some of Monet's other Nymphéas paintings, a lily pad in the foreground intercepts the light. On the contrary, the present work presents a ray of light which meanders all the way to the bottom of the canvas. 

Nymphéas en feur (circa 1914-1917) was sold for US$84.6m at Christie’s sale of the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller

In April 2018, Nymphéas en feur (circa 1914-1917) was sold for US$84.6m at Christie’s sale of the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, surpassing the presale estimate of US$35. It became the most expensive Monet painting ever sold until the record was broken just last month by Meules (1890) from the artist's Haystack series which sold for over US$110m.

Details of the painting

The current lot has been residing in a private collection since 1932 and is making its auction debut. With an estimate of £25m - 35m, the painting is the leading lot of the sale. Following Monet's work is Amedeo Modigliani's (1884 - 1920) Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux painted in 1918. This portrait of an unidentified young model is estimated at £16m - 24m. The third top lot of the sale is Peinture (L’Air) by Joan Miró (1893 - 1983), estimated at  £10m - 15m. 

Top three lot 

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926). Nymphéas

Lot no.: 10
Created in: 1908
Size: 92 x 89cm

  • Galería Müller, Buenos Aires
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1932)
  • Thence by descent to the present owners

Estimate: £25,000,000 - 35,000,000 (US$31,880,000 - 44,630,000)

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 - 1920)Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur les genoux. 

Lot no.: 8
Created in: 1918
Size: 92 x 60cm

  • Léopold Zborowski, Paris
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1927)
  • Thence by descent to the present owners

Estimate: £16,000,000 - 24,000,000 (US$ 20,400,000 - 30,600,000)

Joan Miró (1893 - 1983). Peinture (L’Air).

Lot no.: 16
Created in: 1938
Size: 55 x 46cm

  • E. Tériade (Stratis Eleftheriades), Paris (acquired by 1961)
  • Galerie Berggruen, Paris
  • Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York
  • Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above. Sold: Christie’s, New York, 3rd November 2010, lot 25)
  • Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £10,000,000 - 15,000,000 (US$12,750,000 - 19,130,000)

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby's London
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Date: 19 June 2019