Before the auction, Olivier Camu, Christie's director and head of Impressionist and Modern Art, described it as "the greatest of Claude Monet's water-lily pictures to be offered at auction in Europe".
It was the star lot of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale that also featured works by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Renoir, Degas and Henry Moore.
The sale was initially expected to fetch £90 million but - as has become familiar in auction rooms this summer - that was set to be easily exceeded.
Art has the bulging purses of the super rich wide open. Many pieces, including a Henry Moore sculpture sold in London, are fetching prices belying the world's current economic strife. The water lily painting sold has the platinum attributes of having been one of four signed and dated by the artist in 1919. Monet painted up to his death in 1926. A beautiful pastel work , Danseuese a la Barre from the mighty Edgar Degas was not a shabby purchase at 13.5 million pounds or $28 million US.
Little did Claude Monet envision these sums of lucre for the work he painted while at home in the French countryside of Giverny. In 1966, his heirs made the French Academy of Fine Arts the recipients of Monet's home where the famed water lily pond took French impressionism soaring. It is now part of the renowned Institut de France. Since 1980 it has been open to the public and is well worth the visit. Monet, friend of Renoir and Manet, has Japanese woodcuts on display that demonstrate a versatility and his dismissal or disdain of conventional wisdom of art at the time. (Photo Monet from 1899)
Helena Newman, the vice-chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department, said yesterday: “People’s choices are now being driven by image rather than the artist’s name. We’ve never seen a period where the bidding showed such a range of tastes.
“They want to look at their pieces, enjoy them and show them off. Colour and strong bold compositions are grabbing them and these are the sort of collectors for whom the estimate price is just a starting point.”
Bold, early 20th-century paintings with “wallpower” have been smashing records in New York and London. They include Weidende Pferde III by Marc, which sold for £12.3 million in London, £4 million above the estimate; Munch’s Girl on a Bridge, which sold for $30.8 million (£15.6 million); and Lyonel Feininger’s Jesuits III, which raised $23.2 million. There have also been new records for Monet and Rodin in the same period.
(Art: Raoul Dufy, Le Havre)
Derek Fell brings another delightful and detailed view of what inspired Monet. His book, The Magic of Monet's Garden: His Planting and Color Harmonies demonstrate how the abundant water lily pond and other areas of his home and its landscape were such inspirations.