Claude Monet’s Nymphéas, temps gris (1907, estimate: £20,000,000-30,000,000) will be a highlight of Christie’s 20/21 London to Paris sale series and is the second major painting by the artist to be offered in London this season, presented within the 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale on 28 June.
Claude Monet’s depictions of the horticultural paradise that he designed and cultivated in Giverny stand among the greatest works of his career. Nymphéas, temps gris is one of a small series of Nymphéas that Monet painted in a moment of intense creativity in 1907. Here, Monet has employed a vertical format to capture the spectacular effects of late afternoon light upon his water lily pond. A long stream of light streaks through the height of the canvas, overlaid in places by clusters of lily pads.
Using a variety of painterly techniques, including gestural brushstrokes, rich impasto for the flowers, and myriad layers of colour in the watery areas, with this vertical format, Monet masterfully captured both the reflections of light on the surface of the pond and the changing hues in its depths. As a result, this canvas is filled with a majestic visual drama that sets this series apart from others of the same period.
Max Carter, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s New York: “Monet was the greatest Impressionist, the water lilies were his outstanding achievement and the 1909 exhibition of the best of the series at Durand-Ruel was arguably the most important show in his lifetime.
‘One has never seen anything like it,’ said one critic, while another likened it to the Sistine Chapel. Nymphéas, temps gris was included as one of the finest examples of the vertical format, more than half of which are in museums and has over the years kept the extraordinary company in the homes of Henri Canonne and the Onassis family. What an honor to offer this beautiful painting and to tell its story in London this June.”
“To capture the fleeting moment was Monet’s lifelong pursuit and the lily pond allowed him to experiment with the transitory effects of light on the surface of the water. By altering his viewpoint, and using the highly successful vertical format, he was not only able to portray the reflections but could also represent the changes taking place below the surface, resulting in powerfully abstract paintings that would go on to influence the generations of artists who followed. We are hugely honoured to present Nymphéas, temps gris, an example of this exceptionally rare format that Monet only utilised on 14 other occasions in his oeuvre within his career-defining water lily series.”Keith Gill, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s London
Of this rare series of 15 vertical Nymphéas of 1907, eight are now held in museum collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Artizon Museum, Tokyo. This work has a distinguished provenance and was initially acquired by the Parisian pharmaceutical magnate and devoted Monet collector, Henri Canonne. Canonne amassed a notable group of 15 Nymphéas, among other important works by the artist.
Nymphéas, temps gris was first shown in Monet’s exhibition, ‘Les Nymphéas: Séries de paysages d’eau’, which opened in Paris in May 1909. The 48 canvases, the most works he had ever exhibited in any 20th-century show, were met with rapturous acclaim. This was the first time that the public had seen Monet’s art since his seminal 1904 showing off his London works.
There was no doubt after this exhibition that Monet was the greatest living French artist. Many praised his ability to continually push the boundaries of his own art, and, as Nymphéas, temps gris attests, the artist had indeed taken his depiction of the landscape to new heights, attaining a level of abstraction that was entirely novel in his art thus far.