Huguette M. Clark Family Treasures to be Auctioned at Christie’s

Notable artwork from the estate of the late Huguette M. Clark—whose Bellosguardo Estate in Montecito was donated to the people of Santa Barbara as a center for “the fostering and promotion of the arts” and is in the process of being developed—will be presented at Christie’s New York beginning early next month.

According to a release from Christie’s, “Four masterworks by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be presented in the evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s New York on May 6, followed by a dedicated sale titled An American Dynasty: The Clark Family Treasures on June 18. Highlights of the collection will be shared with the public through a series of preview exhibitions around the globe in the coming weeks, beginning with an unveiling of the Impressionist and Modern works at Christie’s London that runs through February 4, 2014. The total collection is expected to realize in excess of $50 million.”

Among the pieces up for auction May 6 are:

Nymphéas by Claude Monet, courtesy Christie's

Nymphéas by Claude Monet, courtesy Christie’s

Nymphéas by Claude Monet | Estimate: $25,000,000-35,000,000

Huguette Clark purchased Claude Monet’s Nymphéas in 1930 in New York from the Durand-Ruel Galleries, whose Paris branch had jointly acquired the work with the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune directly from the artist ten years earlier. A splendid example of the artist’s pre-eminent theme – his beloved lily pond at Giverny – Clark’s Nymphéas was painted in 1907, during an intense creative period in Monet’s career. The artist had enjoyed a celebrated career in Paris as the leading artist of the Impressionist movement when he moved with his family to the small farming community of Giverny in 1883 and began working on the elaborate gardens that would inspire him for the last two decades of his life. Between 1905 and 1908, Monet worked feverishly to complete more than 60 increasingly abstract views of the pond, equivalent to about one every three weeks. The painting is distinguished by its strong color contrasts, aggressive brushwork, and novel vertical format. One contemporary critic enthused about the Nymphéas series, “There is no other living artist who could have given us these marvelous effects of light and shadow, this glorious feast of color.” Since entering the collection of Huguette Clark, the present Nymphéas has remained out of the public eye. The international tour in anticipation of the May auction will be the first time the painting is publicly exhibited since 1926.


Jeunes filles jouant au volant by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie's

Jeunes filles jouant au volant by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie’s

Jeunes filles jouant au volant by Pierre-Auguste Renoir| Estimate: $10,000,000-15,000,000

Renoir painted Jeunes filles jouant au volant circa 1887, after a three-year period of intense questioning of Impressionist methods and experimentation with his own techniques. Renoir reintroduced traditional notions of draftsmanship into his art. Seeking to give the human form a more monumental presence, he focused increasingly on contour, which he used to silhouette his figures sharply against the background. Jeunes filles jouant au volant is among the most complex compositions from this period of Renoir’s work, depicting five contemporary female figures playing a racquet sport in a rural landscape. The result is an intentional hybrid of timelessness and modernity, the idyllic and the everyday, which gives the painting its particular power.


Chrysanthèmes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie's

Chrysanthèmes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie’s

Chrysanthèmes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir| Estimate: $3,500,000-5,500,000

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Chrysanthèmes was purchased in November 1929 by Huguette Clark and her mother, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, just two weeks after the Wall Street Crash that would begin the Great Depression. The painting, executed circa 1876-1880, is one of five large-scale paintings of chrysanthemums that Renoir produced by 1884. In the early 1880s, Renoir painted a sequence of elaborate floral compositions that number among the boldest and most fully resolved still-lifes of the artist’s career. Renoir relished the opportunity to depict still-lifes, as they allowed him to paint more freely and develop his techniques. While part of the appeal of chrysanthemums for Renoir was surely practical (the flowers are hardy and do not wilt easily), they also carried a potent iconographic significance. Chrysanthemums had strong associations with East Asia in the artist’s day, and Renoir, being well aware of the vogue for japonisme, may have chosen this particular flower to heighten the appeal of his paintings to collectors.


Femme à l’ombrelle by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie's

Femme à l’ombrelle by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Christie’s

Femme à l’ombrelle by Pierre-Auguste Renoir| Estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000

Renoir’s Femme à l’ombrelle was painted in 1873, a critical point in both the artist’s career and in the history of the Impressionist movement; this was the same year Renoir helped found the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc., a group which later came to be known as the Impressionists. Throughout the 1870s, one of Renoir’s favorite subjects was the contemporary young woman in a secluded garden oasis, often holding a parasol, a crucial accoutrement for the bourgeois woman. Few of his sitters, however, have the arresting presence of the young woman in Femme à l’ombrelle, who may in fact be Monet’s wife, Camille. In addition to having an art historical significance, the work also has noteworthy provenance, having first been owned by Erwin Davis, one of the pioneering collectors of Impressionism in the United States.

For more information about the auction click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on April 15, 2014.