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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Monet masterpiece sells for £10m
Claude Monet - Meules, Derniers Rayons de Soleil
Haystacks, Last Rays of Sun being hung at Sotheby's
A mystery bidder has paid more than £10m for a masterpiece by the French impressionist Claude Monet.

The painting Haystacks: Last Rays of the Sun, which has never before left France and was last seen in public in 1895, was sold for £10,123,500 after a frantic three-way bidding war at Sotheby's in London.

At Christie's on Monday, Matinée sur la Seine, près de Giverny, sold for £3.2m at auction.

Art market expert Godfrey Barker said of Haystacks: "It's a fabulous picture which plays a beautiful trick of the sun silhouetted behind the haystack which gives it that tremendous intensity right at the centre of the picture."

Nazis

At the same auction a less well-known Monet, but one with a dramatic history, sold for £3,743,500.

Nympheas by Claude Monet
Monet's Nympheas fetched $22.5m (£15.6m) in 1999
The painting of a sunny Sunday afternoon in a Paris park - Au Parc Monceau - was once owned by a Jewish family who were forced by the Nazis to sell the painting.

It had belonged to Ludwig Kainer, a painter, illustrator and set designer who worked for the Ballet Russes and the Berlin opera, before one of a number of "Jew auctions".

Having discovered the provenance of the work its owner has agreed to share the proceeds of its sale with Kainer's descendants.

"There's a lot more information that's now available in terms of archives and looking up old auction catalogues from the 1930s that one might not necessarily have had access to 10 years ago," said Helena Newman of Sotheby's.

Star lot

"So from the point of view of the heirs it's very fortunate that this painting has come to light now," she added.

Matinee sur la Seine
Matinée sur la Seine, 1896, shows Epte and Seine rivers

"There's a bit more Monet around than you'd expect because he's so expensive that museums can't afford to buy him, so there's quite a lot of splendid pictures still washing about in private hands," said Mr Barker.

Claude Oscar Monet was a painter who intently studied the fleeting effects of light on the natural world.

He was born in Paris on 14 November 1840, but spent most of his childhood in Le Havre, Northern France.

It was a feature of his work that he would paint a particular subject in a variety of weather conditions or times of day or year.

He famously did this with the waterlilies in his garden at Giverny, the Haystacks, Rouen cathedral and even the Houses of Parliament in London.

His Haystacks were painted between 1890-1891 and the series of 23 canvases are now recognised as one of the most important landmarks in modern art.

Monet's painting Impression, Sunrise also gave the Impressionists their name and earned Monet his "father of the impressionists" title.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It's one of the top auctions of the year"
Helena Newman of Sotheby's
"It's been a great moment of unveiling for both art historians and potential collectors"
See also:

26 Jun 01 | Arts
Monet art sale raises millions
09 Nov 99 | Americas
Monet waterlilies fetch $22.5m
19 Apr 99 | Entertainment
Monet show leaves big impression
25 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Shining light in Monet's shadow
22 Jan 99 | Join The Debate
Wallpaper your desktop with Monet
20 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Monet's kindred spirit
16 Jan 99 | Entertainment
The colour of Monet
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