One of Claude Monet’s iconic depictions of France’s Seine River is hitting the auction block next month. The 1897 Matinée sur la Seine, temps net, was created by the French artist as he began to embrace his transformative practice of serializing motifs.
The painting last appeared at auction in 1978 when it was acquired for $330,000 by a U.S. collector. Now, it will lead Christie’s 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale with an estimate of between £12 million ($15 million) and £18 million ($23 million).
The work’s auction coincides with the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, an artistic movement often attributed to Monet. It takes its name from his 1873 work Impression, Sunrise and is characterized by visual brush strokes and an emphasis on the changing nature of light.
Both can be seen in the artist’s Matinée sur la Seine or “Mornings on the Seine” series. The sequence of more than twenty works depicts how the rising sun changes one of the river’s small inlets. As the artist himself once said, “Others paint a bridge, a house, a boat… I want to paint the air in which the bridge, the house, and the boat are to be found—the beauty of the air around them, and that is nothing less than the impossible.”
How Monet created his Seine series
While he previously dabbled with the practice of repeatedly painting the same subject, Monet first began to take the technique seriously in the late 1880s. His serialized pieces, including those of water lilies and haystacks, are now some of the artist’s most renowned works.
He began his Seine works in 1896 and completed the sequence the following summer, beginning his days in the early hours of the morning in a studio boat on the river. With multiple canvases slotted into grooves on his boat, he turned his attention to different pieces as the light changed.
In Matinée sur la Seine, temps net, a bright and clear sky is reflected in the river’s calm water. “In the morning mist, these two realms meld together, focusing the viewer on the sensation of the scene unfolding before them,” said Michelle McMullan, co-head of the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, in a statement.
Other works from the artist’s Matinée sur la Seine series have fetched seven-figure sums at auction, with one selling for $23 million at Christie’s in 2017 and another realizing $20.5 million at Sotheby’s the following year. But Matinée sur la Seine, temps net has remained largely hidden from public view in the past few decades, having last appeared during the 1990 exhibition Monet in the ’90s: The Series Paintings, which toured at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago and London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Ahead of its March 7 sale date, the work will be displayed in New York, Hong Kong and London.