[photo of a Monet painting as drawn by John Singer Sargent in his letter to Monet / from NPR]
Claude Monet's letters sold for $1.7 million yesterday at Artcurial, much more than the $600,000 expected. There were about a thousand in the collection. Some went to private collectors, while others went to the Musee d'Orsay, which recently also acquired Monet's Wind Effect, Series of The Poplars. Michel Cornebois, Monet's only living direct descendent, gave the letters to the French auction house.
The letters, which date between 1874 and 1926, include those actually written by Monet himself, as well as some that were written to him by friends and collegues. Among the letters are those Monet wrote to contemporary artists--Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir--and to writer Guy de Maupassant, according to various sources. Moreover, in some of the letters, Monet drew little illustrations, and one included a photograph Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, better known as Nadar, took of the painter.
Some of these letters were previously unreleased, and now have the potential to improve our knowledge of Monet and the Impressionist movement. We can garner the thought processes the artists have and their influence on each other through these types of letters. The Mercury News has a great article about the importance of these letters, that quotes sculptor Auguste Rodin--whose letter to Monet, in which he mentions his seminal work The Thinker, sold to an American for $19,560--as telling Monet about his "admiration for the artist who helped me understand light, the clouds, the sea and the cathedrals.''
While your voyeuristic eyes may not get to see the letters anytime soon, you can see how Monet's relationship with other artists influenced their work through the Americans in Paris exhibit at the Met, that runs through January 28, 2007. There you will discover that Willard Metcalf's Poppy Field (1886) not only echoes Monet's Poppies, Near Argenteuil (1873), but on the back of the painting, he wrote, "La Maison de Claude Monet Giverny," testament to the time Metcalf spent at Monet's home. Similarly, Theodore Robinson spent time in Giverny with Monet, where he painted The Old Mill (ca. 1892). John Singer Sargent even has a painting entitled Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood (1885). If you want to see paintings by Monet himself, the museum has an impressive permanent collection.