USA, museum auctions impressionist masterpiece by Monet. Estimated at $18-25 million

The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City is offering for sale a Claude Monet work, the Limetz Mill. The work will go up for auction at Christie's, with an estimate of 18-25 million euros. Proceeds will be used to support other acquisitions.

From one of the most important U.S. museums to the art market. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City has announced the sale of a Claude Monet painting, Mill in Limetz, an 1888 work that was donated in 1986 to the institution by collector Ethel B. Atha. It was a partial gift, however, in the sense that the museum does not hold full ownership of the painting, so much so that the sale was decided, following the passing of Atha’s daughter Ethelyn Atha Chase, in consultation with the collector’s family. The Nelson-Atkins Museum has thus contracted with Christie ’s, and the auction will take place in May. The estimate is $18-25 million, and the museum’s share of the proceeds from the sale will be used to support future acquisitions. The sale is possible because in the United States there is the institution of deaccessioning, which allows museums to sell works from their collections subject to certain conditions, for example, if the proceeds will be used to improve the collection.

The work has an illustrious provenance since it was the artist himself who sold it in 1891 to dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who kept it until 1902 before selling it to collector Lucien Sauphar. It was then purchased in 1941 by Joseph Samuel Atha and his wife Ethel Bonita, and has remained in the family collections ever since. The history of the Atha collection in Kansas City began in 1908 when Frank Perry Atha expanded the operations of the Folger Coffee Company in the Midwest. They were also patrons of the arts and collected French Impressionist paintings, British and American silver, and American modernism. Since 1982, the family has also maintained support of an annual lecture series by distinguished art historians. In October 2023, the most recent speaker was Dr. André Dombrowski of the University of Pennsylvania, who spoke on “Instants, Moments, Hours: How Monet Paints Time.”

The work has always been on regular display at the museum since 2008 and is one of five Monet paintings in the Nelson-Atkins collection. In fact, a historic painting from 1873-1874, Boulevard des Capucines, thus dating from the period marking the birth of Impressionism, a painting with Water Lilies, from 1915-1926, and two snowy landscapes, both made in 1875, can be seen at the museum. In addition, a local Kansas City collector has granted the museum a long-term loan of a view of Monet’s church in Vétheuil , dated 1881, ensuring that the artist’s works from the 1880s will continue to be available to visitors.

Claude Monet, Limetz Mill (1888; oil on canvas, 93.3 x 73.7 cm; Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)
Claude Monet, Mill at Limetz (1888; oil on canvas, 93.3 x 73.7 cm; Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)

The Mill at Limetz is one of only two paintings the artist made in the summer of 1888 that feature this view of the grain mill at Limetz on the Epte River, about a mile away from the artist’s home in Giverny. Its counterpart was recently sold at auction last fall.

“We are very grateful to the Atha family for their generosity, which has allowed us to share this wonderful Monet with our community many years,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director and Ceo of Nelson-Atkins. “Although we pursued the possibility of acquiring the remaining family share, in the end this was not possible. However, while we will miss this beautiful work, this sale is also an opportunity for the museum to create the Joseph S. and Ethel B. Atha Art Acquisition Endowment with the proceeds from the auction, which will allow us to acquire art to honor the family forever, and continue to expand and refine our exceptional collection.”

“We knew this day might come because of the fractional ownership of the painting, but we are fortunate to have such a strong Impressionist collection, in part as a result of the generosity of many donors, particularly Marion and Henry Bloch, whose support continues through the Bloch Family Foundation,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, senior curator of European art. "While we have enjoyed sharing Mill in Limetz with countless visitors for nearly four decades, we look forward to adding new works to the collection as a result of the Atha family’s support of the museum."

Imogen Kerr, co-chair of Christie’s 20th century evening auctions , points out, "Christie’s is honored to present Limetz Mill this spring as the highlight of our 20th century evening auctions, and we are especially excited to announce it just days before the exact date in April that marks the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris. Monet’s influence and impact over the past 150 years has been monumental, with work that categorically redefined the course of art history. It has been a real pleasure to collaborate with Julián Zugazagoitia and his team at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art along with the heirs of Ethel B. Atha, and we look forward to presenting this stunning painting to our clients this spring."

USA, museum auctions impressionist masterpiece by Monet. Estimated at $18-25 million
USA, museum auctions impressionist masterpiece by Monet. Estimated at $18-25 million

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