Hidden Unseen Monet Discovered

You can’t get something for nothing. Or can you? In the case of art gallery director Jonathan Greene, you absolutely can! When Green bought two early pastel studies by Claude Monet he had no clue that there was a third artwork hidden behind the others.

The director of London’s Richard Green Gallery bought the Monet’s at a Paris auction in 2014 for an undisclosed amount. After returning home, Green realized that he had three (not just two) original Monet’s. The surprise artwork was taped to the back of one of Green’s purchases.

Le Havre

Le Havre, la Jetee. This newly-discovered pastel was taped to another work by Monet bought at auction.

The first two artworks are studies of skies, dating from 1868. The pieces are from an early period in the artist’s career and depict Monet’s fascination with the changes of the natural world. The exploration of light and the natural transitions in the sky were treasure enough when it came to the two Monet pastels. The third work features the jetty and lighthouse at Le Havre in Normandy. The artist used a blue-tinted paper to accompany the sea-side scene that features the area where he grew up (and the subject of his first professional painting created when he was only 18).

All three pieces are rare and were not originally intended for sale. Monet initially painted these studies for himself, as he built and refined his skills and style. It’s thought that there are only 70 or 80 pastels by Monet in existence. The pastels on paper are so delicate that Green brought in conservator Jane McCausland to remove the tape when separating the newly found work from the other piece.

It’s likely that Monet painted these ‘en Plein air’ (outdoors) like the majority of his later works. While the sky pastels have an oil painting-like quality, the third surprise work has more of a drawing feel. The two pastels bought were given as a wedding present in 1924 to the granddaughter of the legendary art dealer (and ‘inventor’ of Impressionism) Paul Durand-Ruel, who has been credited as the man who created Monet’s career. The pieces stayed in the Durand-Ruel family until the recent Paris auction.

Not seen publicly before, the third Monet pastel will meet the art world at Masterpiece 2015 in London. Opening on June 25, the art fair is set to display pieces from more than 150 galleries around the world. The other two Monet works (the sky studies) will also be on display at Masterpiece 2015. Neither of these has been on display since 1928. The lot (of all three works) is listed for sale at a combined price of $2.2 million.

This is not the first time that valuable rare art has been found in unexpected places. And hopefully, it won’t be the last.

About the Author

Erica Loop has a BA in the history of art and architecture as well as film studies. She has worked for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Ms. Loop has taught studio-based art classes for children from toddlers to teens for the past decade along with writing freelance content across the web.