Monet's late 'Haystacks' painting could sell for US$30m at Sotheby's New York

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris, where Claude Monet gained a reputation as the foremost landscape painter of the group.

To mark the occasion, Sotheby's is offering in New York this spring a rare "Haystacks" painting by the Impressionist master, Meules à Giverny (1893), a late work in the series completed while he was suffocated by the city. 

The piece is estimated to sell for US$30 million at its Modern Evening Auction on 15 May, and it has already been backed by an irrevocable bid – meaning it will surely sell. Notably, the auction record for an Impressionist artwork is held by an earlier work in the "Haystacks" series, which sold for US$110 million in 2019. 

Also on offer at the sale will be Monet's Antibes vue de la Salis (1888), a landscape of Antibes under the Mediterranean sun, and Belgian artist René Magritte's Le Banquet (circa 1955-1957), a surreal image of an eerie red sun in front of a tree. 

Lot 11 | Claude Monet (1840-1926) | Meules à Giverny, Oil on canvas
Executed in 1893
65.5 x 100.2 cm

  • Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired directly from the artist on 2 December 1893)
  • Dwight Blaney, Brookline (acquired from the above on 4 March 1895)
  • Walter I. Nichols, Boston, 12-15 June 1945, lot 645 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • Doll and Richards, Inc., Boston (acquired at the above sale)
  • Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired from the above on 15 June 1945)
  • The Honorable and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, New York (acquired from the above on 4 January 1947)
  • Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired from the above)
  • Joseph B. Ridder, San Jose (acquired from the above on 2 December 1953)
  • Virginia Ridder, New York and Santa Barbara (ex-wife of the above)
  • Christie’s, New York, 15 November 1983, lot 56
  • Private Collection, United States
  • Acquired from the above in 2001 by the present owner

Estimate upon request (In the region of US$30,000,000)

Meules à Giverny is one of a handful of Monet's paintings featuring the haystack motif to come to the market in recent years.

Five years ago, Meules (1890) sold for US$110 million at Sotheby's New York, doubling estimates and setting auction records for both the artist and an Impressionist work. The buyer of that work is German Collector Hasso Plattner, who put the work in his Museum Barberini in Potsdam. 

The present lot was first acquired by American landscape painter Dwight Blaney in 1895 when he was on a trip to Paris. Bringing the painting back to the United States, he lent it almost immediately to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and later to the Copley Society. Ever since then, it has resided exclusively in American collections.  

Claude Monet | Meules (1890); 72.2 x 92.6 cm | Sold: US$110,747,000, Sotheby's New York, 2019 (Auction record for the artist and an Impressionist work)

Portrait of Dwight Blaney | John Singer Sargent | The Artist Sketching (Dwight Blaney) (1922) | Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence 

Painted in 1893, Meules à Giverny was completed in the midst of his Cathedral paintings between 1892 and 1894 and was the last moment Monet fully engaged with the subject of the large haystacks. 

During the associated painting campaigns in Rouen Cathedral, Monet, who was never a city person, reflected in his letters to his wife a deep sense of fulfilled longing and homecoming: "This Catheral is admirable but it is terribly dry and hard to do; it will be a delight for me after this to paint en plein air," "Giverny must be so beautiful that I dare not even think about it.

With that desire in mind, at the height of the hay-making season that year, Monet set up his easel in the meadow just to the south of the site of his future water-lily pond and set out to paint Meules à Giverny. 

The present work installed in the 1905 Monet exhibition at Copley Hall, Boston

Claude Monet | Cathédrale de Rouen, Portail Plein Midi (1892-1894) | The Clark, Williamstown 

In choosing grainstacks – a theme of harvest, fertility, and prosperity – as his subject, Monet carried on a long tradition of depicting rural France and its abundant riches as seen in the paintings of Realist artists such as Jean-François Millet and the Barbizon school.

The father of Impressionism, however, updated this tradition: his versions of grainstacks contain no anecdotal details; no livestock or laborers, no figures walking through the fields or birds flying in the sky. He pares down his vision to focus solely on the grainstacks themselves, on the play of light or night on them, on the sky and the horizon. 

In this reduction of motif, Monet also demonstrates a divergence of approach from contemporary artists such as Vincent van Gogh, who treated the same subject in Arles during 1890 with very different aims, imbuing his subject with a wealth of details that Monet chose to exclude from his painting. 

Jean-François Millet | Haystacks Autumn (circa 1874) | Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

Vincent van Gogh | Stacks of Wheat by a Farm (1888) | Collection of Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Lot 33 | Claude Monet (1840-1926) | Antibes vue de la Salis, Oil on canvas
Executed in 1888
65.5 x 91 cm

  • Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris (acquired directly from the artist on 4 June 1888)
  • Paul Aubry, Paris (acquired from the above on 14 June 1888)
  • Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 10 May 1897, lot 19 (consigned by the above)
  • Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York (acquired at the above sale)
  • William H. Fuller, New York (acquired from the above on 22 July 1897)
  • The American Art Association, New York, 12-13 March 1903, lot 149 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • George Augustus Dowden, Newark (acquired at the above sale and until circa 1915)
  • Pedro Valenilla de Echeverría, Caracas (acquired by 1957)
  • Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above May 1962)
  • Florence J. Gould, Juan-les-Pins (acquired from the above November 1962)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 24 April 1985, lot 41 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • Private Collection, Japan (acquired at the above sale)
  • Yasuji Hatano, Tokyo (acquired by 1997)
  • Christie’s, New York, 12 May 1999, lot 32
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired at the above sale)
  • Sotheby's, London, 3 February 2015, lot 8 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$12,000,000 - 18,000,000

Another high-value lot by Monet is Antibes vue de la Salis (1888), which carries an estimate between US$12 and 18 million. 

In early 1888, the artist set off for the French Riviera, soon landing in the easterly town of Antibes. After a rocky start bothered by the presence of his peer painters and the dreadful weather, he soon succumbed to the charms of the small fortified town all golden in the sun.

The blazing light of the Mediterranean coastline, however, not only provided endless new opportunities but also pictorial challenges. "Working from morning to evening, brimming with energy... I'm fencing and wrestling with the sun. And what a sun it is," he wrote to the sculptor Rodin in early February, likening the act of painting there to a physical challenge. 

His sentiments carried over in his letters to his wife, to whom he conveyed his simultaneous ecstasy and exhaustion: "How beautiful it is here, to be sure, but how difficult to paint! I can see what I want to do quite clearly but I’m not there yet. It’s so clear and pure in its pinks and blues that the slightest misjudged stroke looks like a smear of dirt. Anyhow, I’m hard at it and when I’m working away like this I’m bound to come up with something. I’ve fourteen canvases under way, so you see how carried away I’ve become."

Claude Monet | Antibes vue de la Salis (1888) | Sold: US$13,342,400, Sotheby's New York, 2021

The present lot

Claude Monet | Antibes, le Matin (1888) | Collection of Philadelphia Museum of Art

Claude Monet | Antibes Vue de la Salis (1888) | Collection of The Toledo Museum of Art

Eventually, Monet returned home with nearly forty pictures capturing myriad views of the region, and the present lot is one of only four works painted from the same vantage point and of roughly the same scale. 

Two works now belong in museum collections, those of the Toledo Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and one sold for US$13.3 million at Sotheby's New York in 2021. 

The four paintings of this view show differing times of the day, starting with the one auctioned in 2021, where the dawn light is still too low to reach the trees. When the town seems to have just been awoken by the crisp light, Monet painted the present work, its background still bathed in the cool purple hues of the early morning but appears slightly brighter. 

As the name suggests, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Antibes, le matin captures a gentle morning scene, drawing particular attention to the green sea and the light tones of the foliage and dappled sunlight below. Finally depicted in the broad afternoon daylight under a bright blue sky is the Toledo Museum of Art’s version, which is the starkest in contrast to the other three. 

Lot 39 | René Magritte (1898-1967) | Le Banquet, Oil on canvas
Executed circa 1955-1957
75.5 x 121 cm

  • Ruth Moskin Fineshriber, New York (acquired circa 1956)
  • Fineshriber Family Foundation, Culver City (acquired as a gift from the above)
  • Christie's, New York, 9 May 2007, lot 7 (consigned by the above)
  • Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 14 November 2017, lot 36 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$15,000,000 - 20,000,000

Estimated at US$15 to 20 million, René Magritte’s Le banquet (circa 1955-1957) last came up to the market in 2017 at Sotheby's New York, where it fetched US$13.6 million. It is the second-largest of four oil paintings of this title, only after the one in the Art Institute of Chicago.

The artist first realized the idea and conceived the title for the series in 1956, when he worked on the present motif in gouache, telling his peers in a letter that "Le Banquet" was one of his latest "finds".

With this newfound subject, Magritte went on to explore several important themes that he developed throughout his life, such as the evocation and conflation of day and night, and, most significantly, the fraught but interrelated tension between the visible and the invisible. 

The four oil paintings Magritte completed on the present motif; the present one is the second-largest

The nocturnal counterpart of Le banquetLe seize septembre (circa 1956-58) | The Minneapolis Institute of Art

In 1957, Magritte stated, "In the invisible, we must after all distinguish what is invisible from what is hidden. What is visible can be hidden – a letter in an envelope, for example, is something visible but hidden, it isn't something invisible. An unknown person at the bottom of the sea is not something invisible, it's something visible but hidden."

At first glance, Le banquet seems to be a straightforward depiction of a gleaming sunset over trees and water, but one quickly notices that the sun is oddly superimposed over the shadowed trees in the center of the canvas. Logically, the sun should not be behind the trees but also rest close to the horizon line. 

Here, the artist has made what was hidden, the sun, visible. Yet, as the Surrealist master would have been quick to admit, by placing the sun in front of the tree, part of the tree is now hidden: "That which is interposed between an object and us is hidden by the object which is no longer hidden?!?!?"

He wrote this of the nocturnal counterpart of Le banquet, Le seize semptembre, and he unmistakably took great pleasure in such paradox and circular logic, which he had no intention of clearing up and left the question for his viewers. 

Other Highlight Lots:

Lot 20 | Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) | Les Distractions de Dagobert, Tempera on Masonite
Executed in 1945
75.6 x 87 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
  • Albert Landry Galleries, New York (acquired from the above in February 1960)
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in April 1960)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 21 November 1995, lot 30 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$12,000,000 - 18,000,000

Lot 4 | Mark Rothko (1903-1970) | Untitled, Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas
Executed in 1969
147.3 x 102.9 cm

  • Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Pace Gallery, New York
  • Phyllis and Aaron Katz, Boulder (acquired by 1983)
  • Knoedler Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in 1986)
  • Sotheby’s, New York, 17 November 1998, lot 42 (consigned by the above)
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired at the above sale)
  • Christie’s, London, 24 June 2004, lot 15 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$10,000,000 - 15,000,000

Lot 45 | Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) | Buste d'homme, Oil and Ripolin on canvas
Executed on 20 October 1969
116.4 x 89.6 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist)
  • Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Briest Scp., 20 November 1989, lot 44
  • Private Collection, France
  • Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Briest, Scp., 21 November 1995, lot 35 (consigned by the above)
  • Private Collection, Monaco (acquired at the above sale)
  • Acquired from the above circa 2002 by the present owner

Estimate: US$8,000,000 - 12,000,000

Lot 31 | Édouard Manet (1832-1883) | Vase de fleurs, roses et lilas, Oil on canvas
Executed in 1882
56 x 35.3 cm

  • Eugène Pertuiset, Paris (acquired directly from the artist in 1882)
  • Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 6 June 1888, lot 5 (consigned by the above) 
  • Jean-Baptiste Faure, Paris (acquired by 1902)
  • Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above on 16 July 1906)
  • Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above in 1906)
  • Eduard Arnhold, Berlin (acquired from the above in 1906)
  • Wildenstein & Co., New York (acquired in 1948)
  • Edwin C. Vogel, New York (acquired by 1954 and until at least 1968)
  • Sam Salz, New York
  • Basil P. Goulandris, Lausanne (acquired from the above on 17 April 1972)
  • Private Collection (acquired by descent from the above)
  • Private Collection, United States
  • Acquired from the above in 2004 by the present owner

Estimate: US$7,000,000 - 10,000,000

Lot 3 | Alexander Calder (1898-1976) | Blue Moon, Sheet metal, rod, wire, and paint
Incised with the artist’s monogram and dated 62 (on the red circular element)
Executed in 1962
152.4 x 762 cm

  • Galerie Maeght, Paris
  • Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1975)
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: US$7,000,000 - 10,000,000


Lot 42 | Marc Chagall (1887-1985) | Bethsabée, Oil on canvas
Executed in 1965
196.7 x 107.6 cm

  • Private Collection (commissioned and acquired directly from the artist)
  • Sotheby’s, London, 10 February 2011, lot 12 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

Lot 32 | Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) | Portrait d'Edmond Maître, Oil on canvas
Executed in 1871
22 x 29.2 cm

  • Louis-Edmond Maître, Paris (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Paul-Arthur Chéramy, Paris
  • Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15 April 1913, lot 59 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • Dikran K. Kélékian, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
  • The American Art Association, New York, 30-31 January 1922, lot 98 (consigned by the above)
  • Charles R. Sheeler, New York (acquired at the above sale)
  • Agnes Meyer, Mt. Kisco, New York and Washington, D.C.
  • Katherine Graham, Washington, D.C. (acquired by descent from the above)
  • Sotheby’s, New York, November 5, 2002, lot 1 (consigned by the estate of the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$2,000,000 - 3,000,000

Lot 51 | Henry Moore (1898-1986) | Reclining Figure: Umbilicus, Bronze
Inscribed Moore and numbered 5/9 (on the base)
Conceived in 1984 and cast by Fiorini Ltd, London in an edition of nine plus one artist’s proof
Length: 94.7 cm

  • Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,000,000

Lot 30 | Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) | Tête de paysanne, Oil on canvas
Executed in January-March 1885
25.1 x 19 cm

  • Oldenzeel Gallery, Rotterdam
  • David Klinkhamer, Amsterdam
  • A. Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 4 November 1930, lot 76 (consigned by the above)
  • Kunsthandel Frans Buffa and Zonen, Amsterdam
  • Frederico Jorge Logemann, Bremen
  • Theodor Werner, Berlin
  • Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 25-27 April 1951, lot 1344
  • Theodor Werner, Berlin 
  • Galerie Paul Römer, Berlin
  • Galerie Günther Franke, Munich
  • Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 3-4 May 1962, lot 128
  • Marlborough Fine Art, London
  • Donald and Jean Stralem, New York (acquired from the above in September 1962)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 8 May 1995, lot 11 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,500,000

Lot 44 | Edvard Munch (1863-1944) | Fjordlandskap (Fjord Landscape), Oil on canvas
 Executed circa 1918
58.5 x 85 cm

  • Paul Cassirer (on consignment from the artist by 1921)
  • Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin
  • Anton Fredrik Klaveness, Oslo (acquired by 1958)
  • Åge Wahlstrøm, Norway 
  • Private Collection (acquired in 1990)
  • Grev Wedels Plass Auksjoner, Oslo, 5 June 2013, lot 28
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner 

Estimate: US$1,000,000 - 1,500,000

Lot 52 | Fernand Léger (1881-1955) | Un Oiseau et deux papillons (La Journée d'été), Oil on canvas
Executed in 1948
65.2 x 92.3 cm

  • Galerie Louis Carré, Paris 
  • Dr. Walter Hadron, Bern (acquired by 1948)
  • Christie’s, London, 12 December 1969, lot 88 (consigned by the above)
  • Hans Ravenborg, Hamburg (acquired at the above sale)
  • Christie’s, London, 10 December 1998, lot 509 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$800,000 - 1,200,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby's New York
Sale: Modern Evening Auction
Date and Time: 16 May 2024 | 7:00 pm (New York local time)
Number of Lots: 52