Rare works by French master Monet have sold for $50 million at auction

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Written by Hannah Ryan, CNN

Several early works by Claude Monet, one of the most famous Impressionist painters in the world, are being put up for sale by UK auction house Sotheby’s with a combined estimate of $50 million.

The five paintings, which together depict the French master’s transition to abstract expressionism over a period of fifteen years, will be auctioned in London in March, according to Sotheby’s.

The works all date from before 1900 – meaning they give a glimpse of the artist’s development and style before he painted the most famous pieces from his ‘Water Lilies’ series in the early 20th century.

“By charting the progression towards his magnificent water lily paintings, these five stunning works brilliantly articulate Monet’s story as the father of modern art,” said Helena Newman, Chair of Sotheby’s Europe and Global Head of Impressionist and Modern Art.

‘Les Demoiselles de Giverny’, estimated to be worth between £15 and 20 million ($25-27 million), depicts one of the Parisian painter’s best-known and most recurring motifs – heaps of grain, or ‘meulettes’, which appear looser than the finished ones Haystacks, which Sotheby’s says can be found in his other works.

“Les Demoiselles de Giverny” is the most valuable work of the five Monet paintings that go on sale in March Credit: Sotheby’s

It is the highest valued of the five works in the collection.

Another of the paintings, an 1897 canvas entirely populated with flowers entitled “Massif de chrysanthèmes,” could be seen as a precursor to Monet’s most famous works from the “Water Lilies” series, according to Sotheby’s in a press release. In fact, his first water lily pictures date from the very same year that he took these close-up photographs of flowers.

Sotheby’s said that “Massif de chrysanthèmes” was most likely inspired by legendary Japanese printmaker Hokusai – who created the famous “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” – since Monet owned and was fascinated by his “Large Flowers” pieces to the point that Japanese prints adorned its walls.

“Glaçons, environs de Bennecourt” shares some of the same motifs and styles as the French Impressionist’s later “Water Lilies” paintings Credit: Sotheby’s

“Glaçons, environs de Bennecourt,” included in the collection, also demonstrates Monet’s path to the later water lily paintings, according to the auction house. This painting conveys the effect of heavy snow and frost on the Seine, and the artist’s depiction of the ice on the river’s surface is not dissimilar to the depiction of flowers on the water in the works he began some years later, Sotheby’s noted.

The paintings will be on display at Sotheby’s galleries in New York, Hong Kong, Taipei and London ahead of the March 2 sale.

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