Lot 28
  • 28

Claude Monet

12,000,000 - 18,000,000 USD
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  • Claude Monet
  • Sous les peupliers
  • Signed Claude Monet and dated 87 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 28 ¾ by 36 ¼ in.
  • 73 by 92 cm


Bertha & Potter Palmer, Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago (acquired as a gift from the above in 1922 and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., New York, March 2, 1944, lot 59)

Thomas J. Watson, New York (acquired at the above sale)

Private Collection, Switzerland

J. Barry Donahue Fine Arts, Inc., Litchfield

Acquired from the above in 1998


(possibly) Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Monet-Rodin, 1899, no. 144

Tokyo, Wildenstein Gallery, La Joie de vivre au tournant du siecle, 1991, no. 5, illustrated in color in the catalogue


The Art Institute of Chicago, ed., Handbook of Paintings and Drawings,Chicago, 1922, no. 834, p. 68

M.C., "Monet in the Art Institute," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, XIX, no. 2, Chicago, February 1925, p. 19

Oscar Reuterswärd, Monet, En konstnärshistorik, Stockholm, 1948, illustrated p. 280

Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, no. 1136, illustrated p. 93

R.T. Dunn, The Monet-Rodin Exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1889 (Ph.D. dissertation), Northwestern University, Chicago, 1978, no. 144, pp. 80 & 250

Claude Monet-Auguste Rodin, Centenaire de l'exposition de 1889 (exhibition catalogue), Musée Rodin, Paris, 1989, no. 144, illustrated p. 99

Marianne Alphant, Claude Monet, Une vie dans le paysage, Paris, 1993, illustrated p. 372

Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Cologne, 1996, no. 1136, illustrated in color p. 429


Very good condition. Original canvas. The work has been strip lined thinly on the edges for support. Some faint craquelure. Under UV light, very minor retouching along the extreme edges of the canvas and a very thin line and spots in the upper right corner. The colors are vibrant and the surface is stable.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Monet’s Sous les Peupliers is amongst the finest evocations of the French countryside the artist committed to canvas during the 1880s. Its extraordinarily rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushwork and areas of thickly applied paint, exemplifies the technical virtuosity Monet had achieved by the end of the decade. The idyllic agrarian subject matter of this work encapsulates the central focus of Monet’s œuvre towards the end of the 19th Century; he divorced himself from painting urban scenes and the banlieue of Paris and devoted himself fully to his beloved countryside, with it majestic avenues of poplar trees, canals and wheat fields.

Painted in 1887, the present work was executed during a period of respite from extensive travelling. The previous year Monet undertook painting campaigns to Holland and Brittany, but had also finally established a permanent studio at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. The surrounding fields and meadows of the district became the focus of much of his output whilst at home and, unusually, contain a number of figures identifiable as members of his extended family. The idyllic rural compositions Monet executed in the Eure offer a vision of pastoral contentment; the fecundity of France and its vibrant seasons are benevolently portrayed in the Impressionist style. However, they also present a contrast to the more spectacular and unusual sights that Monet strove to paint further abroad.  Paul Hayes Tucker has speculated that by travelling throughout France in the 1880s Monet was attempting to decentralise Impressionism which for the most part had been based in Paris. ‘When queried in 1880 about his defection [from the Impressionists], he asserted, 'I am still an Impressionist and will always remain one.' Unlike his some of his former colleagues such as Pissarro who experimented with the pointillist techniques of the Post-Impressionists, Monet staunchly maintained that belief. Indeed, he put it into practice in an unprecedented way, traveling extensively during the decade to paint some of the most spectacular and varied sites in all of France, from the black, ocean-pounded coast of Belle Isle in the Atlantic south of Brittany to the verdant shores of Antibes on the Mediterranean. The places he chose had dramatically different geological formations, weather conditions, lighting effects, and temperature ranges. They also possessed strikingly different moods, mythologies, associations, and appeals” (P. H. Tucker, Monet in the '90s. The Series Paintings, New Haven & London, 1989, pp. 18-19).

The present work is closely related to a small group of canvases painted during the summer of 1887 (W. 1131-1135).  In his biography of Monet’s life, Charles Stuckey quotes Monet, stating that during July and August he worked on “figures out-of-doors the way I understand them, done like landscapes. It is an old dream that plagues me and I would love to carry it to realisation one time” (the artist quoted in Claude Monet: 1840-1926 (exhibition catalogue), The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995, p. 215). Stuckey suggests that the impetus for painting figures might have come from seeing Berthe Morisot figure studies. One of the works Monet executed, Dans le Marais de Giverny, Suzanne lisant et Blach poignant (now in the Los Angeles Museum of Art), shares the intimate, domestic scope of Morisot’s work. Whilst the present work and its counterpart, Soleil les Poupliers, effet de soleil (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart), present a panoramic view of the fields at Les Essarts with the figures as part of the landscape itself. This area in the commune of Limetz, nestled between the two branches of the river Epte (a tributary of the Seine) became a favourite painting spot and recurs throughout his work of the following decade, most notably in the Meules and Peupliers series.

The first owners of the present work were Potter and Bertha Palmer of Chicago, whose vast collection of contemporary art reflected their recently acquired fortune. Between 1891 and 1893 Mr and Mrs Potter Palmer acquired thirty-three paintings by Monet from Durand-Ruel. In The Ultimate Trophy Philip Hook wrote about this extraordinary couple: ‘Mr Potter Palmer was the richest man in Chicago. He was a property developer who built hotels […]. At home in the Palmer residence there was a vast Louis XVI salon and all sorts of glamorous accoutrements. Mrs Potter Palmer was the unchallenged queen of Chicago social life. Advised by Mary Cassatt, Mrs Potter Palmer went to visit Monet in Giverny in 1891 and bought a painting from him. Many more followed. […] The Potter Palmer collection ended up in The Art Institute of Chicago and is the main reason why that museum is so rich in Impressionism’ (P. Hook, The Ultimate Trophy: How the Impressionist Painting Conquered the World, London, 2010, p. 74-75). The present work was included in the Palmer’s generous gift to the Art Institute and remained in the museum’s possession until it was sold in 1944. Sous les Peupliers has remained in the United States ever since and is a remarkable testament to the pioneering tastes of the American collectors who supported Impressionism from its infancy.