Works from this esteemed collection were sold in New York in November 2017, with Vincent van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ as a highlight, sold for $81,312,500, the second highest price achieved for a work by the artist at auction.
The present work, La Gare Saint-Lazare, Vue extérieure, depicts the busy railway station which had been modernised and extended in the late 1860s. By 1870, the Gare Saint-Lazare was handling over 13 million passengers a year and had become a major transit point for the vibrant city. The modern age of steam trains, iron railway bridges and extensive public transport was perfectly captured in this remarkable series of Monet’s steam-filled, atmospheric impressionist masterpieces.
La Gare Saint-Lazare, Vue extérieure (1877) comes from the collection of Nancy Lee and Perry Bass, the Texan couple credited with transforming Fort Worth. "It is one of the most important paintings by Monet to be sold in London in the past 20 years," Keith Gill, Christie’s Head of the Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale, says.
Of the 12 works Monet executed in 1877, three still remain in private hands, and nine are in public institutions: the Fogg Art Museum, part of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery, London; the Musée Marmottan and the Musée d’Orsay, both in Paris. Two of these museum works are currently on show in London’s National Gallery exhibition, Monet & Architecture (until 29 July 2018), a pioneering show that examines Monet’s career through the lens of the architecture that he painted. La Gare Saint-Lazare, Vue extérieure was recently on loan to the Kimbel Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
While the works in the group differ in size, viewpoint and handling, the series marks the first occasion whereby the artist committed himself to the pursuit of a single subject through a long sequence of variations. In the Gare Saint-Lazare series Monet depicted the station from a variety of different positions, at different times of day and in different atmospheric conditions. This would come to be one of the defining aspects of Monet’s practice for the rest of his career. In April 1877, Monet included several of his recently painted Gare Saint-Lazare canvases in the Third Impressionist Exhibition.
Keith Gill, Christie’s Head of the Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale
In La Gare Saint-Lazare, Vue extérieure, Monet has moved outside the covered interior area of the Gare Saint-Lazare, into the midst of the platforms; the railway track weaving a dynamic, serpentine path through the foreground of the scene, as two trains move through the bustling station. One emerges from beneath the Pont de l’Europe made famous by Monet’s illustrious impressionist counterpart Gustave Caillebotte.
The combination of loose, staccato brushstrokes with the areas of more refined capturing of the architectural detail, steam and people, the structure of this newly constructed beacon of modernity appears as a vivid and rapidly executed scene of modern life. The architecture and atmosphere create a painting that has become an icon of its time.
Left: Claude Monet. Gare Saint-Lazare (detail)
Let us remind you, on 8 May 2018 at Christie’s New York sale of the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection, Claude Monet’s "Nymphéas en fleur" was sold for $84.7mln, setting a new record for the Impressionist artist.
The previous record was set in the same salesroom back in November of 2016, when the artist’s Meule (1891) made $81.4 million (about $84.2 million when adjusting for inflation) against an on-request estimate of around $45 million.
Left: Claude Monet. "Nymphéas en fleur" (1917)
Title illustration: Christie’s official site