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Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series is arguably the most iconic and celebrated imagery of the Impressionist movement. The legendary French artist painted each colorful scene en plein air—or “outside”—resulting in stunning compositions that capture ponds and floating flora in natural light. Today, the collection of 250 large-scale oil paintings is showcased in museums and galleries around the world. However, one painting from the series has reappeared for public auction. The work, titled Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, is due to feature as the highlight of Sotheby’s New York Impressionist and Modern Art evening on May 12, where it is expected to fetch $40 million.
Part of Monet's celebrated Grandes Decorations series, the artist painted Le Bassin aux Nymphéas at his home in Giverny between 1917 and 1919, during the last decade of his life. The water lily pond was the defining motif during the end of Monet’s career, and the way he depicted it was groundbreaking at the time. The artist captured the water's surface and its reflections with dabbled, abstract-like paint strokes which allowed it to bridge the gap between Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism.
Previous works from the series commanded top prices in auction. In 2008, one work sold at Christie’s for $80.5 million; and in 2018, another painting from the David Rockefeller collection sold at Christie’s for $84 million. If Le Bassin aux Nymphéas reaches its $40 million estimate at Sotheby’s, it will be among the top 10 works by Monet ever to be sold at auction.
Le Bassin aux Nymphéas was previously part of a collection belonging to Hollywood and Broadway producer Ray Stark and his wife Fran. He purchased the work 17 years ago, during a Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale, for $16.8 million, against an estimate of $9 million. The famous work will go on view in Taipei from April 26, before returning to Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries for exhibition by appointment beginning May 1. The work will then undergo auction on May 12, 2021.
Learn more about Le Bassin aux Nymphéas and Sotheby’s upcoming auction below.