Monet’s ‘Meules à Giverny’ Is Coming to Sotheby’s for the 150th Anniversary of Impressionism

The haystack painting was one of the French artist's first works to come to the U.S.

Painting depicting large haystack in middle of green tree-lined field
Claude Monet, Meules à Giverny, (1893). Courtesy Sotheby's

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, the 19th-century art style defined by strong brushstrokes and ordinary subjects in open-air settings. To mark the occasion, Sotheby's is auctioning one of Claude Monet’s atmospheric haystacks—a favored motif of the artist and an iconic image in the art movement.

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Painted in 1893, Monet’s Meules à Giverny will be sold next month with an estimate above $30 million. “With his haystacks, the revolutionary ideas and techniques that initially defined Impressionism are expertly employed during a moment of significant transformation for Monet,” said Allegra Bettini, head of Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction, in a statement.

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Despite its widespread significance, Impressionism was initially derided by French audiences. After an exhibition of Monet’s 1872 painting Impression, Sunrise, critic Louis Leroy described it as an unfinished “impression”—an insult that would evolve into the movement’s formal name. Monet was a central figure in the first-ever Impressionist exhibition, staged in Paris on April 15, 1874, with work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot and others.

The rise of Impressionism in the United States

United States audiences were more receptive to the revolutionary painting style. American collectors, first exposed to Monet’s work in 1866 when a painting of his was included in an exhibition at New York’s Derby Gallery, became key supporters of the artist. Monet’s Meules à Giverny was one of his first works to enter the U.S. when it was brought over by its owner, landscape painter Dwight Blaney, in 1895 and subsequently displayed at the MFA in Boston and the Copley Society.

Haystacks would fascinate Monet for years as he embarked on a lifetime of serialized works. As he did with the water lilies surrounding his home in Giverny and France’s Seine River, the artist repeatedly painted the large haystacks that dotted the landscapes of rural France in differing lights and changing seasons. “I am working very hard, struggling with a series of different effects (haystacks), but at this season the sun sets so fast I cannot follow it,” wrote Monet in a letter to critic Gustave Geoffrey. “The more I continue the more I see that a great deal of work is necessary in order to succeed in rendering what I see.”

Monet’s series today stand as some of his most successful and lauded work. His 1890 Meules, another haystack painting, achieved $110.7 million at Sotheby’s in 2019, setting both a record for Monet and for the most expensive Impressionist piece sold at auction. His subsequent top three auction figures are all from his haystack and water lilies series.

Painting depicting bullfight ring surrounded by red stadium
Pablo Picasso, Courses de taureaux, (1901). Courtesy Sotheby's

Meules à Giverny has for decades been in the same private collection, one that will auction off additional Monet works, an early Pablo Picasso painting and work by fellow Impressionists Camille Pissarro and Childe Hassam. Monet’s 1887 Bennecourt, which was acquired by artist John Singer Sargent shortly after its creation, has an estimate of $6 to $8 million, while Pablo Picasso’s depiction of a Spanish bullfight in the 1901 Courses de taureaux is expected to fetch between $5 million and $7 million.

Works from the collection will be exhibited in New York before starring in Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction on May 15. “This impressive collection, anchored by Monet’s Meules à Giverney, serves as a captivating entry point into the pioneering spirit of Impressionism,” said Benjamin Doller, Sotheby’s chairman of Americas, in a statement. “It invites viewers to embark on a journey tracing the evolution of the movement, from its inception during Camille Pissarro’s formative Pontoise period, through its influence across the United States, to its ultimate emergence as a global artistic phenomenon.”

Monet’s ‘Meules à Giverny’ Is Coming to Sotheby’s for the 150th Anniversary of Impressionism