An “iconic work” by Impressionist master Claude Monet, which has been in the same family for more than 70 years, is expected to sell for at least £24 million ($30 million) next month.
Waterloo Bridge, Effet de Brume is one of 41 paintings by Monet depicting the bridge over the Thames. In terms of capturing light and atmosphere, this painting “is what he aspired to – it’s a masterpiece of the body of work,” said Keith Gill, head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s in London, which is selling the work.
It was painted when Monet was staying at the Savoy Hotel, in a room with a balcony overlooking Waterloo and Charing Cross bridges and the Houses of Parliament. He painted all three views repeatedly, often putting the canvases aside for days while waiting for the right atmosphere.
“The light or the weather changes or the fog clears and it can take a week for that effect to appear again. When that’s the case, he finds the right canvas and starts working on it again, refining and refining it,” Gil said.
“The pictures in the London series are probably some of the most iconic views he painted. There’s a considerable cachet around them.” The high price reflects the booming art market amid the looming global recession. Earlier this month, Monet’s painting Le Parlement, Soleil Couchant (The Parliament Buildings at Sunset) sold for $76 million (£60 million) in New York.
“The Waterloo Bridge pictures have always been considered the most impressionistic series within this group. It’s all about color and light and atmosphere.
“Monet could not find this changing light and atmosphere anywhere else in the world. He painted in southern France, he painted on the Normandy coast. But in London he reaches the peak of his Impressionist talent.”
Paintings of Waterloo Bridge are rarely auctioned, Gil said. Twenty-six of the 41 are owned by museums and “at least another five or ten will probably never be sold because of the nature of the private collections they are in.”
The work, signed by Claude Monet and dated 1904, was initially owned by the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. After passing through several important collections, it was acquired by the Bulova watch company in New York in 1951 and passed on in the family. It has been on loan from the Kunstmuseum Basel for 10 years.
Gill said he expects stiff competition for the work. “This iconic work has everything our collectors are looking for today,” he said.