Art from the Rockerfeller collection sell for a record £475million

Monet, Monet, MONEY! Masterpieces from the Rockerfeller collection sell for a record £475million including a £59m Matisse and an £84m Picasso

  • Many of the world’s leading art collectors have flown to Christie’s in New York 
  • Collection was built up by billionaire banker David Rockefeller and wife Peggy 
  • Tuesday’s top lot was Picasso’s Fillete a la Corbeille which fetched £84.8 million 

Here are just some of the masterpieces from the fabled Rockefeller art collection, which is smashing sales records.

Tuesday saw the most money made from a private collection sale in one day at £475 million — some £120 million more than the previous record.

Many of the world’s leading art collectors flew to Christie’s in New York for the three-day auction.

The collection was built up over a lifetime by banker billionaire David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy. The paintings were displayed in their homes and their children grew up surrounded by the masterpieces.

Before Mr Rockefeller died last year aged 101, he said: ‘Eventually, all these objects will go out into the world and will again be available to other caretakers who, hopefully, will derive the same satisfaction and joy from them as we have.’ 

Tuesday’s top lot was Picasso’s Fillette a la Corbeille Fleurie (1905), which had an estimate of £73.5 million, but fetched £84.6 million.

Proceeds of the sale are going to charities supported by the couple.

The Nymphéas series, 1914-17, was part of the culmination of these works and the most ambitious undertaking of his career

Estimated: £36.9m

Sold: £62.5m 

During the last two decades of his career, Claude Monet devoted himself to painting the water-lily pond at his home in rural Giverny.

The Nymphéas series, 1914-17, was part of the culmination of these works and the most ambitious undertaking of his career: 22 mural-sized canvases completed just months before his death.

Monet did not exhibit any of these compositions during his lifetime. In comparison to his early work, Nymphéas en Fleur was painted with loose, expressive strokes and was much more daring in colour and composition.

Georges Seurat’s La Rade de Grandcamp, 1885, is a key work of the early Neo-Impressionist movement

Estimated: 29.5m

Sold: £25m 

Georges Seurat’s La Rade de Grandcamp, 1885, is a key work of the early Neo-Impressionist movement. It is one of a group of six paintings completed that year in which the artist first expressed his ideas on light, colour and optics in painting.

It depicts a regatta in the small fishing commune of Grandchamp on the Normanday coast. The Rockefellers acquired it from the Beatty collection in 1955. David described it as their ‘introduction to the pointillist style’.

The Odalisque Couchée Aux Magnolias is considered one of the greatest Henri Matisse works to come to the market

Estimated: £51.6m

Sold: £59.4m 

The Odalisque Couchée Aux Magnolias is considered one of the greatest Henri Matisse works to come to the market.

It was painted in Nice in 1923, when he was said to be at the height of his powers.

It has been described by experts as a ‘completely new way of painting’, as Matisse gave the boldly coloured background of the work much greater weight. It features his favourite model, Henriette Darricarrère, a ballerina who is said to have used her training to pose for up to ten hours at a time.

The Rockefellers — who acquired the painting in 1958 — hung it in a prime position in the living room of their palatial home in New York state.

Its sale set a new auction record for the French master. 

Created in 1888, Paul Gauguin’s La Vague — The Wave — depicts a beach scene in Brittany

Estimated: £13.7m

Sold: £26m  

Created in 1888, Paul Gauguin’s La Vague — The Wave — depicts a beach scene in Brittany.

The unnatural red colour of the sand in the work is an early example of the French artist’s experimentation with colour, for which he became renowned.

Two young women are fleeing the incoming wave as it crashes over rocks, which is thought to be a sexual innuendo.

Rockefeller, who bought the painting in 1966, recalled: ‘Peggy was very much taken with it.’

It was hung in the library of the couple’s Manhattan townhouse.

In a letter to his brother, Theo, van Gogh called it his finest, most personally definitive work to date

Estimated: £1.5m

Sold: £2.7m 

This piece by Vincent van Gogh is signed, titled and dated ‘Vincent planteuse de betteraves — Juin’.

It was drawn with black chalk on paper in Nuenen in the southern Netherlands in 1885.

During this summer, van Gogh studied the human figure by drawing farm workers, before pursuing more ambitious figural studies.

In a letter to his brother, Theo, van Gogh called it his finest, most personally definitive work to date.

However, Theo was critical of its execution, content and effect.

Painted in 1905, this Pablo Picasso work, Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie, was bought the same year by collector Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo

Estimated: £73.5m

Sold: £84.6m 

Painted in 1905, this Pablo Picasso work, Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie, was bought the same year by collector Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo.

Their purchase, along with two other so-called Rose Period paintings, is credited with jump-starting the Spanish artist’s career.

It is said to portray the themes with which Picasso would wrestle all his life — love, sex, beauty, tenderness and violence. The model was a teenage flower seller who also posed for Modigliani and Van Dongen.

It remained in the Stein collection until 1968, when it was bought by the Rockefellers for less than $1 million. It had pride of place in the library of their 65th Street New York home.

Its anonymous sale on Tuesday made it the second most expensive Picasso to sell at auction, after the £132 million Les Femmes d’Alger (version ‘O’) in 2015. 

Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877, is a series of 12 paintings depicting Paris-Saint-Lazare station

Estimated: £22m

Sold: £25m 

Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877, is a series of 12 paintings depicting Paris-Saint-Lazare station.

It was to be his last and most ambitious attempt to tackle the contradictions of modern life, before he turned to pure landscape.

A unifying feature in all 12 is the thick clouds of steam and smoke — showing the force of industrialisation.

The Rockefellers bought Extérieur de la gare Saint-Lazare, effet de soleil in 1958. It was once in the collection of Leigh Block, who David knew from his days as a trustee of the University of Chicago.

This panorama of the idyllic banks of the River Seine, called La Seine à Lavacourt, was painted by Claude Monet from his riverside garden in the summer of 1879

Estimated: £5.9m

Sold: £11.7m 

This panorama of the idyllic banks of the River Seine, called La Seine à Lavacourt, was painted by Claude Monet from his riverside garden in the summer of 1879.

He set up an easel at his garden gate in Vétheuil, a commune in the north-western suburbs of Paris.

Monet had moved to the rural enclave the previous year aged 37 — and this piece is thought to reveal his contentment in his new, idyllic environment.

Shortly after finishing it, Monet’s wife, Camille, died. He escaped his grief by painting more river views. This canvas was the first Monet purchased by the Rockefellers.

This 1862 painting, Tiger Playing with a Tortoise, is a famous example of his work, demonstrating an agitated brushwork and a vividness of colour that is a classic hallmark of the painter

Estimated: £5.1m

Sold: £7.3m 

One of the last great Romantics, Eugene Delacroix was fascinated by tigers and would study them at Paris’s Jardin des Plantes zoo.

This 1862 painting, Tiger Playing with a Tortoise, is a famous example of his work, demonstrating an agitated brushwork and a vividness of colour that is a classic hallmark of the painter.

It is said to mark the beginning of modernity.

Rockefeller said of his 1966 acquisition: ‘It makes one recognise what an outstanding painter Delacroix was.’

The painting was given a wall to itself on the third floor of the couple’s Upper East Side townhouse. 

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