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A Thoroughly Modern Monet Bridges The Old and The New at Christie's New York
Claude Monet, Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil. © Christie's Images Ltd. 2008.

NEW YORK.- Christie’s International is delighted to announce the sale of Claude Monet’s Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil, one of the greatest Impressionist pictures left in private hands. Painted in 1873, Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil is a rare and luminous masterpiece of high Impressionist style and a hugely significant work in Monet’s oeuvre. The work will be sold during Christie’s New York Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale on May 6. The picture may break the world auction record for the most well-known and sought-after Impressionist painter.

Guy Bennett, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s Americas, says: “This is the truly exceptional Impressionist picture the market has been waiting for. Appearing at auction for the first time in a generation, and with a highly compelling subject matter, this masterpiece by Monet will provide a cornerstone of our May Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art. Comprising all the elements of a great Impressionist work, the picture will attract both private and institutional collectors. Its sale will be a great moment for the market and will provide a sturdy barometer for works that truly are the best of the best.”

Argenteuil was a picturesque suburban town just outside Paris and its surroundings provided this central motif for Impressionism. In the early 1870s, Monet, Renoir and Sisley all painted in the town, giving rise to its status as the locus classicus of Impressionism. At that time, it had become a center for pleasure-boating by the affluent Parisian middle classes, and the sailing boats in the picture allude to this new status. Monet rented a house in the town, close to where this picture was painted.

The painting is full of the novelty and drama of Monet’s fascination with modernity and art. The scene is dominated by the railroad bridge, spanning the image from left to right and stretching the already elongated horizontal canvas. Although monumental and industrial, the bridge is not an unwanted, obtrusive element in the composition, but is seemingly admired by the bystanders on the left bank.

A testimony to modern engineering, the bridge at Argenteuil, with the two trains running over it, the boats passing underneath, and the men on the footpath, provide motifs that celebration the arrival of the modern, of progress and of man’s ability to shape the future. The work conveys an idealistic view of the calm union of the old and the new, the rural and the industrial, of work and of pleasure. It is a painting that speaks of the new challenges and hopes of a society embracing the modern with confidence and optimism. Auction: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale May 6, 2008. Viewing: Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries, New York May 2 – 6.

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