Claude Monet (1840-1926) Saule pleureur, oil on canvas, 51 3/8 x 43 3/8 in. (130.5 x 110.2 cm.) Painted in 1918 – 1919. Estimate: HK$95,000,000 – 135,000,000/ US$12,200,000 – 18,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2022.
Monet reacted to the onset of unrest in Europe in 1914 with an outpouring of creativity, culminating in a period now known as the great final flowering of his career. During this period, the artist embarked on a series of ten paintings depicting a majestic weeping willow lining the artist’s famous lily pond in Giverny, which itself was the subject of the famed and monumental Grandes décorations, later donated to the nation of France to celebrate victory in the First World War. The Weeping Willow series has been described as some of Monet’s most direct and poignant works of the time, and it had been Monet’s intention that one from this great series would too join the gift to the nation. Saule pleureur remains arguably one of the best works in the series, and is one of only five from the series in private ownership.
Exceptional for its all-consuming emotive intensity, the painting is executed with forceful brushstrokes in pulsating hues. Its hero is the giant willow tree, soaring upwards to the entire height of the enormous canvas, its tumbling foliage falling like a shimmering cascade of water from above. The regal strength and quiet dignity of the tree trunk is balanced in contrast with the tranquility and ethereality of the lily pond in the lower right corner, infused with the suppressed but pulsating energy in the air and glimmering light through the falling leaves from the great boughs of the tree. In sum, Saule pleureur is a dramatically beautiful work of genius, as well as a record of an important chapter in history. Even more poignantly, this is Monet’s manifestation of his faith in the redeeming power of resilience, hope, and optimism.
Elaine Holt, Deputy Chairman and International Director, Christie’s Asia Pacific, commented, “During the First World War, Monet decided to remain in Giverny with his canvasses and continued working resolutely. The artist honed in on the motif of the weeping willow, depicting it with intense colours and feverish brushwork. As such, Saule pleureur became a symbol of hope, resilience and defiance, and will always be linked to its historical roots of the War. Just as importantly however, it also signifies a pivotal moment in the history of art."