CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
"Nymphéas", oil on canvas, painted in 1905
34 ¾x 38 ¾in. (89.5 x 99.5 cm.)
October 18, 2012, source: Christie’s New York
Monet’s views of his beloved lily pond at Giverny are perhaps the most admired and influential paintings of the early modern era. He had already enjoyed a celebrated career in Paris as the leading artist of the Impressionist movement when he moved with his family to the small farming community of Giverny in 1883 and began working on the elaborate gardens that would fascinate and inspire him for the last two decades of his life.
The first owner of the Nymphéas featured in the sale was the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel himself, who later sold the work to the prominent American collectors Charles B. Alexander and Harriet Crocker, daughter of railroad magnate Charles Crocker. It was acquired by Ethel Strong Allen and Herbert Allen Sr. in 1979 and remained out of the public eye until 1998, when Mrs. Allen generously loaned the work to the critically acclaimed exhibition Monet in the 20th Century organized by London’s Royal Academy of Arts and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
The work featured in the upcoming sale dates from 1905, the year Monet began his most intensive work on a dazzling array of paintings of the lily pond at the heart of his garden. Working feverishly, he would complete more than 60 increasingly abstract views of the pond between 1905 and 1908, or about one every three weeks. The best works of the series – including this one– were selected for his 1909 exhibition at Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, which proved to be an unprecedented commercial and critical success for Monet. Raved one critic at the time, “There is no other living artist who could have given us these marvelous effects of light and shadow, this glorious feast of color.”
“The sheer beauty of the paintings in the Nymphéas series make us forget that in 1905, these works were a radical departure from all traditional notions of landscape painting. Monet had traded his ordered views of the lily pond and its distant banks for close-up, destabilized depictions of the water surface itself — a decision that allowed him to introduce a near-infinite variety of shifting forms and plays of light into his paintings. This daring move established Monet beyond any doubt as the most innovative landscape painter of his day,” noted Brooke Lampley, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s New York.