19th Century art – Top 10 sales


This week our fortnightly series of auction rankings – highlighting key trends in the art market – takes a look at 2018’s best results for 19th century masterpieces.

In 2018 Christie’s was the clear leader on the highly lucrative segment of 19th century masterpieces, hammering 9 of the year’s top 10 auction results. Half of these were recorded the same day – 5 May 2018 – during Christie’s exceptional Rockefeller Collection sale in New York which received massive ‘global’ promotion via a mobile exhibition for several months prior to the sale.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 84 687 500 Nymphéas en fleur 08/05/2018 Christie’s New York
2 Vincent VAN GOGH (1853-1890) 39 687 500 Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy) 15/05/2018 Christie’s New York
3 Paul GAUGUIN (1848-1903) 35 187 500 La Vague 08/05/2018 Christie’s New York
4 Georges Pierre SEURAT (1859-1891) 34 062 500 La rade de Grandcamp (Le port de Grandcamp) 08/05/2018 Christie’s New York
5 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 32 960 961 La Gare Saint-Lazare, vue extérieure 20/06/2018 Christie’s Londres
6 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 32 937 500 Extérieur de la gare Saint-Lazare, effet de soleil 08/05/2018 Christie’s New York
7 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 31 812 500 Le bassin aux nymphéas 11/11/2018 Christie’s New York
8 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 20 550 000 Matinée sur la Seine 14/05/2018 Sotheby’s New York
9 Paul GAUGUIN (1848-1903) 19 437 500 Fleurs dans un vase 08/05/2018 Christie’s New York
10 Auguste RODIN (1840-1917) 16 634 673 Baiser, moyen modèle
20/06/2018 Christie’s Londres
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That Sale of the Century (to quote Christie’s), succeeded in attracting the world’s wealthiest art buyers and generated several major new records, including one for Impressionism’s figurehead Claude Monet when his Nymphéas en fleur (Water Lilies in Bloom) sold for $84.7 million. Monet, who accounts for no less than five results in this ranking, remains unquestionably the most sought-after artist of the 19th century… and the most expensive. In 2018, his works generated $356.9 million, giving him third place in our global ranking of artists by annual auction turnover.

During the same sale, a rare work by George Seurat La rade de Grandcamp – fetched the artist’s second best-ever results at $34 million (4th in this Top 10), just a million behind his record for Paysage, l’île de la Grande Jatte (1884) in 1999 at Sotheby’s New York. Paul Gauguin, whose works are now incredibly rare and highly sought-after on the secondary market, also featured prominently in the Rockefeller collection with two exceptional canvases: La Vague and Fleurs dans un vase. The two paintings generated $54.6 million.

While these exceptional results were primarily due to the prestige of the artists, their provenance was clearly an additional boost to the results obtained. Most of these works had not been seen on the market for 30 to 50 years, which is particularly long and increasingly rare in the auction world.

The good result for Vincent Van Gogh, second in this Top 10, was however not hammered during the Rockefeller sale. On 15 May Christie’s hammered $39.6 million for his Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle St-Paul de Mausole (1889), a canvas purchased for $15.9 million in 2012. The added value – $23.7 million in just six years – illustrates a growing demand for 19th century masterpieces. Prices are rising rapidly for good quality works from this period, even if they are not considered masterpieces.