A scene of the auction room.
Photo: Sotheby’s

Claude Monet Haystack Painting Sells for Record-Breaking $110.7 Million at Sotheby’s

The famed 1890 work sets a record for the artist and for an Impressionist work overall

A stunning haystack landscape from 1890 by Claude Monet sold for $110.7 million at the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in New York on Tuesday, soaring above its estimate of $55 million and setting a new world record not only for the artist but for an Impressionist work.

Hitting the block early as the eighth lot in the 55-lot evening sale, the work inspired an intense bidding war between six bidders that lasted around ten minutes. It was finally sold to an unidentified woman in the back of the room to applause from the audience. Overall, the auction brought in $349.9 million worth of sales with 91 percent sold. Two-thirds of the lots were being offered at auction for the first time, and 40 of the 50 lots sold for over $1 million.

Monet’s record-breaking Meules (Haystacks), 1890. Photo: Sotheby’s

The dazzling, light-filled landscape titled Meules (Haystacks) (1890) is one of just 25 works from the artist’s historically significant 1890–91 series and one of only eight remaining in private hands. (The other 17 versions can be found in institutions around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Australia, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Art Institute of Chicago.)

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Featuring a large stack of hay in the left foreground while a bright sun burns from behind, the work is a dazzling kaleidoscope of brushy reds, pinks, purples, and greens. The piece boasts remarkable provenance, first sold by Monet’s legendary Paris gallerist, Paul Durand-Ruel, to the major Chicago collectors and philanthropists Potter and Berthe Palmer, and it remained in the family until 1986, when it was sold for $2.5 million at Christie’s. The artist’s previous auction record of $84.7 million was achieved for one of his water lilies.

Gustave Caillebotte’s depiction of 19th-century Paris in La Rue Halevy, Vue du Sixième Étage (1878). Photo: Sotheby’s

The sale overall was buoyant, kicking off with a bronze sculpture by Jean Arp titled Figure-Germe Dite “L’Apres-midinette,” which sold for $800,000, on an estimate of $400,000–$600,000. Other impressive sales included Gustave Caillebotte’s depiction of 19th-century Paris in La Rue Halevy, Vue du Sixième Étage from 1878, which sold to the same buyer of the record Monet for $13.9 million, way above its estimate of $6 million to $8 million. Chaim Soutine’s La Femme en Rouge from 1923–24, a portrait of a striking woman in a hat, sold for $11 million on a $6 million to $8 million estimate.

There were seven works by Pablo Picasso on offer, including two striking portraits. Femme au Chien (1962), of the artist’s wife, Jacqueline Roque, sold via phone for $54.9 million (with an estimate of $25 million to $30 million) after a bidding war between David Nahmad, Sotheby’s chairman Lisa Dennison, and senior vice president Grégoire Billault on the phones. It marks the highest price for a 1960s work by Picasso and reveals market interest in the artist’s late works. Another Picasso portrait, Mousquetaire à la Pipe, from 1968, sold to a telephone bidder for $20.8 million, with an estimate of $20 million to $30 million. Works by Picasso sold through the night, with the seven works fetching $92 million.

Pablo Picasso, Femme au Chien, 1962. Photo: Sotheby’s

With Latin American art now incorporated into Impressionist and modern art, Joaquin Torres Garcia’s Construccion en Blanco was a highlight, establishing a new world auction record for the artist when it sold for $3.4 million.

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A surprising misfire on the night was the monumental 20-foot canvas by titan of French Academic painting William Bouguereau La Jeunesse de Bacchus (1884), which was slated to be a star of the sale after generating much buzz in the new Shohei Shigematsu–designed galleries on the lower floor. The cinematic work had an estimate of $25 million to $35 million but was called in at $18 million, failing to sell. The auctioneer said it was the first time such a classic painting was included in the Impressionist evening sale. First presented at the Paris Salon of 1884, it remained in the artist’s collection until his death, passing through generations of his descendants.

After the Sotheby’s sale last night, and Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale on Monday evening, with works by Paul Cézanne and a Vincent van Gogh as the top sellers, the week continues with the contemporary auctions. Wednesday night, Christie’s will offer Jeff Koons’s once-controversial sculpture Rabbit, which is slated to sell for up to $70 million, and Robert Rauschenberg’s important 1964 silk-screen painting, Buffalo II. Thursday night, Sotheby’s will offer as its top lot an abstract painting from 1960 by Mark Rothko.

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