Claude Monet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • Introduction


    Born only two days apart in 1840, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin were more than close contemporaries, going on to become two of the most significant artists working in their respective disciplines during this important period. As well as showing together at several group exhibitions, including their notable joint retrospective in 1889 during the Exposition Universelle, they also greatly admired and even collected one another’s work. Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction is honoured to present two works by these great Modern masters thus reuniting the artists again and for the first time in Asia.


    “I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”— Claude Monet


    Painted in 1883, the year Claude Monet moved to his beloved house and gardens in Giverny, Pavots dans un vase de Chine is a strikingly elegant expression of the painterly techniques and dominant themes of nature and the everyday that preoccupied the Impressionist master throughout his long career. Although more renowned as an en plein air landscape painter, Monet turned to the subject of still life intermittently throughout his life, to great success. These more closely focussed studio pieces provide fascinating insight into the consolidation and expansion of his ambitious outdoor experiments, evident in the present work where the artist applies the same careful attention to the ‘ephemeral changes of atmosphere and light that are the very essence of painting’. i


    Vividly evoked in a brilliant palette and characteristically rapid yet precise brushstrokes, the titular poppies are rendered with a striking freshness and vitality, as if plucked directly by the artist from his idyllic garden sanctuary. In a touching visual echo, the dominant pinks and greens of the composition directly recall the house at Giverny, particularly its iconic shutters and the pink walls, the colours of which were selected by Monet himself.



    Claude Monet in his garden at Giverny, 1925, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris



    Like its sister work, Vase au Pavots, which now resides in the permanent collection of the Museum Boijams von Beuningen in Rotterdam, Pavots dans un vase de Chine features the distinctive Oriental poppies planted by Monet at Giverny. As well as referring back to one of Monet’s most iconic and widely reproduced images, the 1873 Les Coquelicots: environs d’Argenteuil - now held as part of the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris -  these poppy paintings are also directly related to a unique commission from the most important and influential dealer of Impressionist art: the critic Paul Durand-Ruel.




    Claude Monet and Paul Durand-Ruel: An Important Commission


    Charming, lusciously painted, and often quite novel in terms of their organisation as decorative groups, these pictures were of a kind that came easily to Monet.
    Paul Hayes Tucker 


    An early advocate of Impressionist art, Durand-Ruel was hugely influential in establishing the international reputation and commercial success of its key proponents. Having first met Monet in London in the early 1870s, he began to exhibit the then unknown artist, mounting the first self-consciously Impressionist exhibitions in London in 1882 and 1883. As Daniel Wildenstein details it in his catalogue raisonné of Monet’s work, it was in these years that Durand-Ruel first approached Monet with a large personal commission that would occupy him for the next few years. Received as early as 1882, the original project soon evolved into a substantial body of work: thirty-six canvases of flowers and fruit specifically designed to decorate the six doors of the large drawing-room of Paul Durand-Ruel’s apartment at no. 35, Rue de Rome, Paris.


    With progress slower than expected, Monet continued the work after moving to Giverny, with Durand-Ruel encouraging the artist by sending vases, presumably like the one included in the present work. Absorbing the artist during this period, the bulk of the commission, including the striking larger panels, was completed in the summer and autumn of 1883, the same year that Pavots dans un vase de Chine was painted.



    Left: The Door Panels of Durand-Ruel’s drawing room painted by Monet between 1882 and 1885
    Right: Detail of the present work


    Echoing the distinctive tall and narrow format of the two upper panels of one of the most memorable doors, the present work depicts five long-stemmed poppies arranged in a Chinese vase, their naturally elongated form lending itself to the delicate verticality of the composition. When considered in this context, it is certainly possible to read Pavot dans un vase de Chine as belonging to a broader series of cut poppies from this period, highlighting the artist’s much-famed tendency towards seriality, repetition, and variation in his work.



    Monet and the Still Life Tradition


    Monet’s exploration of this subject include some of the most lavish still lifes produced by the Impressionist group, and some of the most radical challenges to a long-standing still-life tradition.
    John House 


    Produced during a period of upheaval and change for the artist before settling into the critical and commercial success enjoyed during his later years in Giverny, it is notable that Monet focussed more intensively on still-life composition in the 1870s and 1880s than during any other period of his career. During the famous Impressionist exhibitions of the 1870s, Monet presented several of these floral compositions to the public, which in fact proved to be more commercially relaible than his landscapes during these years. Executed towards the end of this period and on the cusp of the artist’s immersion in his Nymphéas series, Pavots dans un vase de Chine demonstrates Monet’s confidence and mastery of Impressionist principles. His successful distillation of these techniques into the still life genre highlights the various challenges that the artist posed to such painterly conventions, and points to the vital role that still life played in the Impressionist movement and beyond. Testifying to the present work’s importance to the artist himself, as well as to broader discussions of Impressionist aesthetics, Monet kept the work in his own, private collection for many years, eventually lending it to the prestigious Galerie Bernheim Jeune in Paris in 1907 for an important group exhibition on still-life. 



    Left: Pierre August Renoir, Moss-Roses, circa 1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
    Right: Odilon Redon, Bouquet of Flowers, circa 1905, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


    Monet’s name is, of course, synonymous with Impressionism itself, and the present work records the masterful diversity of brushwork and sensitivity to the effects of light and atmosphere that his work is most renowned for. With a background of soft, loose marks made up of a dazzling variety of rose pinks, Verdigris greens, blues and flesh tones, Monet creates a dramatic, shifting ground for the slim vase and the delicate extensions of the poppy stems to sit within. While the dominant still life tradition, exemplified by the likes of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, emphasised the solid realism of the objects and the environment that they sat within, Monet’s still-lifes, like those of his contemporary Pierre Auguste Renoir, instead trained their eye on the recording of fleeting impressions, and of the shifting play of light and movement.


    Rendered with remarkable economy and lightness of touch, the present work is particularly innovative, prefiguring the heightened palette and textured brushwork of Odilon Redon’s Symbolist canvases, and the tremendously expressive sense of drawing and line captured in Vincent Van Gogh’s celebrated still lifes. Reinvigorating the genre for the 20th Century, Monet laid the foundations for contemporary approaches of the subject pioneered by the likes of David Hockney.



    Left: Vincent Van Gogh, Irises, 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    Right: David Hockney, Bridlington Violets, 1989
    Lot 21 - Phillips in associaiton with Poly Auction Evening Sale, 30 November 2021
    Estimate HK$ 10,000,000 - 15,000,000 / US$ 1,280,000 - 1,920,000
    © David Hockney


    Collector’s Digest 


    One of the leading artists of the Impressionist movement, Monet’s work is widely understood as foundational to the development of 20th Century art, and his still-lifes occupied a special place in his practice.


    The early 1880s represented an intensification of Monet’s engagement with the genre and he painted nearly 80 still-lifes during this period, including the 36 works produced for the Durand-Ruel commission.


    As well as a sister-work Vase au Pavots, which now forms part of the permanent collection of the Boimans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, the ‘vase de Chine’ displayed here also appears in Deux vase de Chrysanthèmes from 1888.



    Notable Still-Lifes by Claude Monet

  • i Claude Monet, quoted in Chares F. Stuckey, Monet: A Retrospective, New York, 1985, p. 266

    • Provenance

      Maxime Blum, Paris
      Sotheby's, London, 25 November 1959, lot 72
      Private Collection, United Kingdom
      William Beadleston, Inc., New York
      Private Collection, Pennsylvania
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, Fleurs et natures mortes, 14 - 30 November 1907, no. 51 (hitherto unconfirmed, as listed in Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc. catalogue raisonné)
      London, Gimpel Fils, Claude Monet, November 1950, no. 3
      Paris, Galerie Framond, Palettes de Fleur, 1954 (titled as Bouquet de Pavots)
      Paris, Galerie Romanet, La Fleur Coupée, 1955, no. 72

    • Literature

      Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, vie et oeurve vol. II, Geneva, 1979, p. 112 (illustrated, p. 113)
      Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 849, p. 318 (illustrated p. 316)


Pavots dans un vase de Chine

stamped 'Certifie authentique M. Monet' on the reverse
oil on canvas
100 x 61 cm. (39 3/8 x 24 in.)
Painted in 1883, this work will be included in the forthcoming Monet Digital Catalogue Raisonné currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

Full Cataloguing

HK$9,500,000 - 15,000,000 

Sold for HK$13,560,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021