Monet Haystack Fetches $81 Million

NEW YORK CITY.- A Claude Monet painting, "Meule," part of his famous grainstack series, sold at auction in New York Wednesday for 81.4 million dollars, a record for the French master, Christie's said.

The previous record was in June 2008. At the time, "Bassin aux nympheas" ("Water Lilies") took $ 80.4 million at a sale in London.

The final price, which includes fees and commission, crushed Christie's pre-sale estimate of $45 million.

The auction lasted nearly fifteen minutes, an unusual length for a sale of this format.

A woman in the room stayed in the running for some time before making a last offer of $53 million and leaving it to buyers being handled over the phone.

This painting, of just one haystack with a conical top, at twilight, is part of the series of grain stacks painted by Monet during the winter of 1890-1891 from his house in Giverny, Normandy.

It is one of the rare works in this series to still be in private hands, Christie's said.

Most of the others are in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the Art Institute of Chicago. This painting was acquired in September 1891 by the Knoedler & Co. art gallery, which brought it to the United States.

In recent years, prices for works by Monet or other celebrated Impressionists have shot through the roof.

Iconic Series

Haystacks is a title of a series of impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. The primary subjects of all of the paintings in the series are stacks of hay in the field after the harvest season.

The title refers primarily to a twenty-five canvas series (Wildenstein Index Number 1266-1290) begun in the end of summer of 1890 and continued through the following spring, using that year's harvest. Some use a broader definition of the title to refer to other paintings by Monet with this same theme.

The series is known for its thematic use of repetition to show differences in perception of light across various times of day, seasons, and types of weather. The subjects were painted in fields near Monet's home and gardens in Giverny, France.

The series is among Monet's most notable works. Although the largest collections of Monet's work is held in Paris at the Musée d'Orsay and Musée Marmottan Monet, other notable Monet collections are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, and at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Six of the twenty-five haystacks pieces in this series are currently housed at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Other museums that hold parts of this series in their collection include: the Getty Center in Los Angeles,[8] the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut (which also has one of five from the earlier 1888-9 harvest), the National Gallery of Scotland, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Kunsthaus Zürich, and the Shelburne Museum, Vermont.