Monet Painting Defys The Market

25 06 2008

A water lily painting by impressionist master Claude Monet was sold for more than $80 million at auction Tuesday, kicking off a week of modern-art sales expected to reach records that defy the global economic downturn.

"Le Bassin aux Nymphéas" is part of a collection painted by Claude Monet dated 1919.

“Le Bassin aux Nymphéas” is part of a collection painted by Claude Monet dated 1919.

The painting “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” or “Water Lily Pond,” was sold by Christie’s for $80,451,178 including buyer’s premium, making it the most expensive work of art sold by the auction house in Europe.

It was part of a four-work collection of water lily paintings that Monet put up for sale during his lifetime. He saw the oil paintings of his water garden as a cumulative work in progress, and rarely sold them.

The four large-scale paintings of Monet’s water lily garden were signed and dated by the artist in 1919. One of the other paintings is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, while another was sold at auction in 1992 for $12.1 million and is in a private collection. The final painting in the series was cut into two before World War II.

The one sold Tuesday was bought in a 1971 New York auction for $320,000. It has not been publicly exhibited since.

The bold brushstrokes in the painting are characteristic of Monet’s later works, especially his “Grandes décorations,” a 22-panel work of water lily paintings that was installed in Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris five months after Monet’s death in 1926.

Monet created his water garden in Giverny, France, by rerouting a river. He selected different hybrids of water lilies in an effort to get as many different colored flowers as possible, deliberately creating the garden as a motif for his paintings.

Tuesday’s auction kicks off a week of major modern-art sales at Christie’s and its rival Sotheby’s, as the international market continues to set records despite global economic troubles.

The Christie’s auction also features a rare pastel work by French impressionist Edgar Degas showing two ballet dancers. It is expected to fetch $8 million to $12 million


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