The National Gallery of Canada has been loaned a multi-million dollar painting by beloved Impressionist painter Claude Monet. The moody Le Pont de bois, created in 1872, was given to the gallery on a long-term loan by an art lover who wishes to remain anonymous, The Ottawa Citizen said.
It becomes the sixth Monet at the National Gallery, which has the largest public collection of Monet’s works in Canada.
Le Pont de bois was just sold in June at Sotheby’s art auction in London for $9.6 million U.S. News reports don’t identify the buyer, but a bidding war boosted the price above original estimates of its worth of between $6.1-$9.2 million.
A bidder from India and a Chinese-speaking client competed for the painting before it was scooped up by a Sotheby’s staffer representing an unnamed client, according to bloomberg.com.
Nearly $10 million may seem like a lot, but Monet’s work can command much more. Another Monet at the same auction, Le Palais Contarini from 1908, sold for $30.8 million U.S. after a four-way bidding war.
Officials at the gallery said Le Pont de bois will complement the other works by Monet, which include four paintings in the permanent collection dating from around 1884 to 1903, and another private work from 1896, Rain, Pourville, which is on loan.
“We are delighted to see a picture of such quality enter a Canadian collection,” said National Gallery of Canada Director, Marc Mayer, in a statement. “Thanks to this generous loan, we are honoured to make it available for the public to enjoy over the next decade. Le Pont de bois is an outstanding early work by one of the world’s most beloved painters. For the period of this loan, this painting will fill an important gap in the story Canada’s national collection can tell about the transition from Realism to Impressionism.”
Le Pont de bois’s first owner was Edouard Manet, another famous French painter from the same era. The work was eventually obtained by collector and philanthropist Gustav Rau, whose estate sold it at the Sotheby’s auction in June to benefit UNICEF.
The bridge in the painting is from Argenteuil, where Monet lived between 1871 and 1878.
It’s a symbol of an important historical event, the National Gallery notes in its summary of the painting. “Just months prior to Monet’s painting, the bridge was destroyed by retreating French troops in the Franco-Prussian War. The conflict had affected Monet and his family directly; they had moved to London in 1870 in order to evade the combat. The bridge’s reconstruction shortly after the crushing defeat stood as a testament to France’s will to rebuild in the face of adversity.”
The painting is also a “picture of modern life,” showing workers travelling between Paris and their homes in Argenteuil.
Le Pont de bois is on display next to another work of a bridge by Monet acquired in 1914, when the artist was still alive, called Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in a Fog (1903). Together, the paintings demonstrate “the development of Monet’s practice between the early 1870s to the first years of the twentieth century,” said the gallery’s statement.