Monet Haystacks Breaks the $100m Mark At Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s New York has broken yet another record for the Impressionist artist Claude Monet. The painting titled Meules (Haystacks) from 1890 sold for $110.7 million. The result was a new world auction record for any work by Claude Monet and the first work of Impressionist art to cross the $100 million line at auction.

The other 17 examples reside in distinguished museum collections

Meules was first acquired by Bertha Honoré Palmer in 1892. As the wife of wealthy Chicago businessman Potter Palmer, Mrs Palmer had the means to invest liberally in great artworks. Meules is one of only four works from Monet’s acclaimed Haystacks series to come to auction this century, and one of only eight examples remaining in private hands. The other 17 examples reside in distinguished museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and six in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Meules breaks the $100 million mark at auction Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's.
Meules breaks the $100 million mark at auction Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Meules is further distinguished by its illustrious provenance, having been acquired by wealthy Chicago socialites/collectors of Impressionist works, Mr and Mrs Potter Palmer, directly from Monet’s dealer in the 1890s. Mrs Potter Palmer is thought to have owned as many as 90 works by Monet throughout her life, of which eight were from the Haystacks series, often selling them soon after they were acquired. However, this canvas remained with her until the time of her death in 1918 and descended through the Palmer family until it was purchased at auction in 1986 by the present owners for $2.53 million. The work had remained in the same private collection ever since.

After experiencing Haystacks at Monet’s seminal 1891 exhibition in Paris, Mrs Palmer was captivated – a year later, she acquired the work from Monet’s dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. Though she soon resold the painting to the Paris museum, by November of 1892, she changed her mind a final time. Meules, along with eight other works from Monet’s Haystacks series, returned with her to the United States. Throughout her lifetime, Mrs Palmer remained an enthusiastic admirer of Monet’s series paintings; in addition to the Haystacks, she owned four of the Poplars, three of the Rouen Cathedral, and three works from the morning on the Seine series.

Monet began working on the group of paintings that are almost universally known as Haystacks as early as 1884, depicting stacks that were subsumed into a broader environment. However, the original series of majestic canvases depicting haystacks, with a focus on the transient effects of light, was completed between 1889 and 1891. The stacks in the present composition are distinguished from other depictions in the series by the diagonal swaths of light between the forms. Referred to as his “series” pictures, Monet’s renderings of Haystacks, as well as the Rouen Cathedral and water lilies in Giverny, are the most celebrated images of the artist’s oeuvre.

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