1. 2021 News Items
As the world starts to return to normal, museums are unveiling ambitious plans for 2021 exhibitions.
Christie's New York achieved over $1 billion in sales this month, largely down to huge prices paid for impressionist and post-impressionist works. The star attraction, van Gogh's Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès, sold for $71.3 m. In addition, Cezanne's L'Estaque aux toits rouges went for $55.3m, Caillebotte's Jeune homme à sa fenêtre fetched $53m, and Monet's Le bassin d'Argenteuil achieved $27.8m.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has acquired Frederic Bazille's Portrait of Renoir from 1867. Painted three years before Bazille's untimely death in the Franco-Prussian war, this is an important work for two reasons: Bazille only produced a small body of work in his short life, with new pieces rarely coming onto the market; and, similarly, there are only a small number of portraits and pictures of Renoir in his 20s - he cuts a rather dashing and thoughtful figure!
On 21 September 2021, Maureen Gibbon published her most recent book on impressionism: The Lost Diary of Edouard Manet. Published by WW Norton Company, this 336-page read charts the last three years of Manet's life - as he paints the Bar at the Folies Bergere and eventually dies from syphilis.
On 4 September 2021, Basel's Kunstmuseum launched its latest temporary exhibition: Camille Pissarro - The Studio of Modernism. On display until 21 January 2022, the exhibition contains over 200 works (with over 100 paintings). Its highlights include Les Glaneuses (1889) (The Gatherers, painted using the pointillist technique and depicting women harvesting wheat).
A clumsy attempt to steal Claude Monet's Voorzaan and Westerhem from the Zaans Museum in the Netherlands was foiled: two men managed to get the painting out of the museum, but dropped the canvas and fled on a motorbike after they were challenged by a brave passer-by.
London's Courtauld Gallery has announced that it will re-open, following a four-year refurbishment project, in November 2021. The £57 million project, funded by the luxury goods multinational LVMH, Ukrainian billionaire Leonard Blavatnik and the National Lottery, will provide a fitting exhibition space for works such as Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergere.
The second series of Great Paintings of the Western World (made by the UK's Channel 5) started on 11 June 2021. Dedicated to Monet's Water Lilies, and in particular the huge canvasses found in Paris' Musee de l'Orangerie, this 55 minute treat is available to stream for free. Hosted by political commentator and art-lover Andrew Marr, this is a compelling watch.
Christie's renamed 20th and 21st Century Sale (replacing the previous 'Impressionist and Modern Art' and 'Post-War and Contemporary Art' categories), held on 13 May 2021, was a blockbuster. New records were set for 15 artists, with Picasso's Femme assise pres d'une fenetre fetching $103 million.
The impressionists did well too. Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard (1899-1903) fetched a whopping $48,450,000.
Not to be outdone, Sothebys sold a version of Monet's Le Bassin Aux Nympheas for $70.4 million a few days later. Painted between 1917-19, and one of Monet's most abstract works, this work is also enormous: it has a width of over two metres!
The National Gallery of Victoria has announced a major exhibition of Australian impressionism to be shown alongside 100 masterpieces from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
Local artists such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Clara Southern will feature alongside titans of the movement like Monet, Manet and Renoir.
Amongst the most famous works on display will be Monet's Poppy Fields and Grand Canal, Venice, and Renoir's Dance at Bougival. The exhibition runs from 4 June to 3 October 2021.
Meanwhile, Sotheby's Paris will be auctioning a little known Van Gogh work of Montmartre. Painted in 1887, Scene de rue a Montmartre was painted when Van Gogh was learning from the impressionists in Paris.
It post-dates the earthy tones of van Gogh's early works such as the Potato Eaters, but has none of the swirly expressionism of his later paintings produced in the south of France.
The work is expected to reach up to $10 million when sold on 25 March 2021.
2. 2020 News Items
Covid-19 has dampened demand for impressionist work at auctions and delayed a number of exhibitions.
But things are starting to open up again; and many museums have improved their online resources.
The Courtauld Institute in London announced on 20 December 2020 that it has received a £10 million donation from Ukrainian oligarch Leonard Blavatnik. The funds will be used to complete the Courtauld's renovation of its Somerset House galleries.
Started in 2019, the renovation was due to be nearing a conclusion but has been delayed by Covid-related issues. It will see the Courtauld's small but extremely high quality collection of impressionist works displayed in new galleries.
Those works include Renoir's La Loge, one of Cezanne's five Card Players, Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergeres and a small version of Dejeuner sur l'herbe, and van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
Boston MFA double-header
The first exhibition places 12 of Cezanne's paintings (five from the MFA, the others from private collections) alongside works of Cezanne's contemporaries (including Renoir, Manet, Degas, Pissarro and Morisot). Of the works on display, the most famous is Cezanne's still-life Fruit and Jug on a Table.
The second, to commemorate the MFA's 150th anniversary, puts the museum's 35 Monet oil paintings side-by-side. They include works from Monet's Haystacks, Rouen Cathedral and Venice series.
Both exhibitions are open until 28 February 2021.
Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale, held on 6 October, had only a few impressionist pieces. But they included a simple Cezanne still-life painted with watercolour and gouache called 'Nature morte avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier'.
It fetched a remarkable $28,650,000, which is in line with prices paid for Cezanne's still-lifes over the past five years, and demonstrates that Covid-19 has not dulled the top-end market for impressionist works.
This sale capped Christie's 20 Century Week, which amassed a whopping $387 million of sales. The demand was driven by Christie's embracing social media: 280,000 people tuned into the auctions through Christie's website, YouTube, Facebook and other channels.
Sotheby's New York's Impressionism and Modern Art Evening Sale on 28 October 2020 has a number of stand-out pieces. They include:
- Claude Monet's Les Iles a Port-Villez (pictured), at a $2.5-3.5 million estimate.
- Camille Pissarro's Femme a la Brouette, at a $1.5-2.5 million estimate.
- Vincent van Gogh's Fleurs Dans un Verre, with an estimate $14-18 million.
Vans and MoMA
You may be forgiven for thinking that footwear brand Vans has little in common with impressionism.
But Vans has teamed up with MoMA to produce a range of special edition products inspired by Salvador Dali, Vasily Kandinsky and Claude Monet. The Monet shoes, hoodie and cap feature a print from his Water Lilies.
Polish film about a stolen Monet
Claude Monet's Beach in Pourville was stolen from the National Museum in Poznan, Poland, in April 2000. The theft was audacious: the thief stole the painting in plain view on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
It went like this: the thief applied for a permit to sketch in the museum, pretending to be an art student; when the gallery attendant left the gallery, he cut a portion of the painting away from its frame; and after this paint-staking exercise had been completed, he replaced the Monet with a serviceable forgery. He then walked out with the Monet canvas in his backpack.
The Polish-language film, called Tarapaty 2, is a teen detective movie in which young detectives and their dog go on a search for the painting. But the truth is probably more remarkable!
Learn more by checking out our impressionist thefts page.
Show me the Monet
Banky's 2005 work Show me the Monet, a painting of Monet's Japanese Bridge at Giverny with shopping trolleys and a traffic cone dumped in the pond, was sold be Sotheby's on 21 October.
The work had an estimate of £3-5 million, and was toured internationally before going on sale in a live-streamed auction from the company's London and Paris auction rooms.
The auction turned into an eight-minute bidding battle between five collectors determined to secure the piece. The winning bid of £7.55 million equates to $9.8 million -- the second highest price ever paid for a Banksy work (the highest price was the $12 million paid for Devolved Parliament, a painting of monkeys sitting in the House of Commons).
Impressionism and Christmas
British up-market department store John Lewis launched its festive decoration themes in early October. They include 'Impressionism', which is said to be a "cool and wintery theme that works particularly well in rural settings ....
Monet and Chicago
On 5 September 2020, the Art Institute of Chicago opens its exhibition Monet and Chicago. Showing 70 Monet canvasses, including the Institute's own holding of 33 paintings, the exhibition charts how Monet's work was enthusiastically embraced by the Chicago elite from the early 1890s. This was in large part thanks to the efforts of Monet's main dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Works on display include several versions of Haystacks and Monet's Water Lilies, together with Bordighera, Gare St-Lazare, Pourville and the Houses of Parliament.
Postdam: Museum Barberini
The new permanent collection of impressionist works at Postdam's Museum Barberini opens to the public on 7 September 2020. This is really big news:
- The Museum Barberini is the brainchild of German software billionaire Hasso Plattner. It opened in 2017 but has so far been mainly noted for its temporary exhibitions.
- Meanwhile, Plattner has steadily been growing his impressionist collection. The highlight is undoubtedly the version of Haystacks (Meules) purchased by Plattner in May 2019 for $110.7 million. But other masterpieces include a version of Monet's Poplars, Renoir's The Pear Tree, Cezanne's Forest Interior, a version of Pissarro's Boulevard Montmartre, and Signac's The Port at Sunset.
- The whole collection has been donated to the Barberini, housed in a palace built by Frederick the Great in the late 18th century. It is arguably Europe's best impressionist collection outside of Paris.
BBC commissions 60-minute Monet show
This autumn will see the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) launch Art on the BBC, with a four-part series focusing on Dali, Van Gogh, Monet and Turner. The show on Van Gogh will focus on how his mental health influenced his work, whilst the Claude Monet episode will address "how his commercial success has blinded us to [Monet's] revolutionary talent". Show times TBA.
On 15 August 2020, the National Gallery in London announced that it will hold an exhibition entitled Impressionist Decorations: the Birth of Modern Decor from September 2011 to January 2022. Though a long way off, this is something to look forward to (hopefully once the world has got back on its feet after Covid).
In total, the exhibition will include 80 pieces of art from Monet, Manet, Degas, Morisot, Renoir and Caillebotte, including decorative panels painted by Monet of Water Lilies and Manet's Spring.
On 7 August 2020, the first major London exhibition post-lockdown opens its doors. The Royal Academy's Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection promises to be a cracker.
The controversial Gaugin's bold subject matter, such as Tahitian Woman, is on display next to more conventional impressionist fare such as Manet's Basket of Pears, Sisley's Barges from Berry, and Pissarro's Morning Sun in the Rue St-Honore.
The collection was originally put together by Danish insurance magnate Wilhelm Hansen. He used to show the Manet work after dinner parties, explaining to guests that it:
"Is an extra dessert after the ice cream."
The RA's exhibition runs until 18 October 2020, and tickets are £17 (but are extremely limited and currently sold out -- you need to get on the email list to find out when more tickets will be released).
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts remains closed, but it has enhanced its online offering for Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression. You can now see picture galleries, Monet-inspired music, and videos on Monet and the Boston collectors (and how they travelled to France to buy Monet's works--one couple purchased a version of Haystacks whilst on their honeymoon!).
Meanwhile, in Kent, England, rock star Sir Bob Geldolf has submitted a planning application seeking permission to create a water-lily pond inspired by Monet's pond at Giverny.
The US National Gallery of Art in Washington re-opened on Monday 20 July, but requires face masks to be worn and social distancing. It is the latest museum to re-open its doors following Covid shutdown. Visitors can check out a van Gogh self-portrait, a version of Monet's Japanese Footbridge, Cezanne's The Peppermint Bottle and Manet's The Railway.
The Washington Post published a fascinating article on Manet's The Dead Toreador on 15 July 2020. It includes the observation
Part of the reason Manet is regarded as the father of modernism is that his paintings uncovered fault lines that were fresh at the time but keep getting wider. “The Dead Toreador” is a fine example ...
The Normandie Impressionniste 2020, a festival of over 50 impressionist exhibitions, has now started and will run until 4 November 2020. The exhibitions include Francois Depeaux, The Man with 500 Paintings, at the Rouen Fine Arts Museum featuring works by Monet, Renoir and Sisley. The most famous painting on display is Monet's Rue St-Denis (pictured).
Museums are starting to re-open after Covid lockdown:
- The Mississippi Museum of Art, for instance, welcomes members again from 1 July and the general public from 8 July (first responders and essential workers go free). The Museum has also said that their Van Gogh, Monet, Degas & Their Times exhibition will re-open on 8 July (with its run extended until 10 January 2021).
- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' exhibition entitled Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism opens on 4 July 2020. Works by Monet, Morisot, Signac, Pissarro and Seurat are on display.
- The Musee D'Orsay re-opened its doors on 28 June, but numbers are to be restricted to 3,000 per day and visitors are required to wear face masks.
- London's museums re-opened on 4 July 2020, with the National Gallery offering priority access to members.
Meanwhile, Christie's has had to take severe costs cutting measures, merging its impressionism, modern and contemporary art departments into one. And a battle regarding the Nazi-era sale of Monet's Le Palais Ducal (with an estimated value of $30 million) is due to be heard in the courts of New York in September 2020.
The town of Southbury Connecticut is hosting an online Zoom talk on Claude Monet on 27 July 2020.
Finally, Monet's Giverny has come in 13th in a poll of the most beautiful villages in France.
On 1 June 2020 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is delivering an online course for children in grades 1-5 entitled Exploring Impressionism: The Art of Claude Monet.
Or take a virtual tour of Washington's National Gallery of Art at 7pm on 26 June 2020 (tickets cost $15).
On 9 June 2020, London's National Gallery announced that it had purchased The Drunkard, Zarauz by Joaquín Sorolla, using funds left by a private donation. The acquisition follows the National Gallery's hugely successful Sorolla exhibition held before Covid-19 lockdown started.
Speaking of Covid-19, Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny have re-opened. Locals are delighted: they can appreciate the gardens without the usual crowds!
Christie's is holding an Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 30 June, but the title is a bit misleading. The closest one gets to impressionism are works by Paul Signac and Pablo Picasso.
On 18 May 2020, Sotheby's held its first Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale Online. The results for impressionist pieces often exceeded expectations. Pissarro's Effect de Neige a Onsy sold for $560,000 (exceeding the top-end estimate of $350,000); Degas' Buste de Jeune Femme Presque Nue sold for $596,000 (estimate: $450,000); and Renoir's La Maison de la Poste sold for $200,000 (in the middle of its estimated range).
The UK's Guardian has produced this fun online art quiz, including a question about Claude Monet.
The Foundation Monet has launched an online tour of Monet's House in Giverny. Explore Monet's bedroom, his yellow kitchen adorned with Japanese art, and his blue-tiled kitchen.
The house is also home to about 40 of Monet's works (including from the Rouen Cathedral, Haystacks, Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament and Venice series) as well as works by other artists (Cezanne in particular).
Unfortunately, there is no virtual tour of the gardens (though you can check out some videos on The Foundation Monet's vimeo channel).
The Courtauld Institute is hosting a series of virtual mini-art festivals to help you get through lockdown. May 2020 sees evenings devoted to Women Artists, the Future of Art History and Art and Wellbeing.
The Shelbourne Museum in Vermont is also putting on daily art-related activities.
There's an online auction of autographs and writings (you can bid until 13 May 2020), with lots including an 8-page letter written by Claude Monet to his second wife, Alice, in 1901. It comments on the arrangements for Queen Victoria's funeral and Monet's meeting with writer Henry James.
In February 2020, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts marked its 150th anniversary. It selected 15 key works for the occasion, including one of Monet's Haystacks (or Grainstacks).
The Louvre-Lens museum, in the north of Paris, is holding an exhibition entitled Black Suns. It explores artists' use of the colour black. Edouard Manet, who unlike many of the impressionists loved using this colour, features heavily. The exhibition runs until 25 January 2021.
3. 2019 News Items
1 September 2019. The Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum's exhibition entitled Van Gogh and Sunflowers comes to an end. It explores Van Gogh's most famous motif, with 23 of the sunflowers on display.
11 August 2019. The Tate Britain's exhibition entitled Van Gogh and Britain comes to an end; it explores Van Gogh's three-year stay in London in his early 20s, including the haunting Visitors Exercising (painted in 1890 but depicting the Newgate jail seen by Van Gogh decades earlier).
19 May 2019. A luminous version of Monet's Haystacks sells at Christie's New York for a record $97m ($110.7m with fees).
20 January 2019. The London National Gallery's exhibition entitled Courtauld Impressionists: from Manet to Cezanne comes to an end. This show includes forty of the Courtauld gallery's most impressive masterpieces (which are able to be shown because the Courtauld is undergoing a major renovation project). My favourite work on display is Renoir's La Loge (The Theatre Box).