On 14 May, the Met sold a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at Sotheby's for £1.83 million, a work that had been in the museum's collection since 1971.
At Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 14 May , the Met quietly deaccessioned a Renoir landscape from its prodigious collection for $2.3 million (£1.83 mil), above its estimate of $1.2-1.8 million (£950,000 to £1.43 mil). The painting, titled La Promenande au Bord de la Mer (Le Bois de la Chaise Noirmoutier) which translates to 'The Walk to the Edge of the Sea (The Chair Forest, Noirmoutier),' was painted in 1892 at Noirmoutier, an island just off the northwestern coast of France.
An Impressionist alongside Monet and Pissarro, Renoir originally studied at the École des Beaux Arts and submitted works to the Salon beginning in 1864. Throughout his life, his subjects and styles transformed, often influenced by his extensive travels across Europe and northern Africa. After a period of focusing on classically inspired scenes and nudes, he returned to landscapes and the tenets of Impressionism while on a trip to the French Atlantic coast in the early 1890s.
In La Promenade, Renoir's characteristic soft brushstrokes and lush illuminated colour create a dreamy vision of an island summer afternoon, as two women with parasols and two children stroll through the forest. Sunlight delicately filters through the trees and a ribbon of blue sea peeks in on the horizon.
The painting was acquired by the artist's Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel later that year and was transferred to the U.S. in 1897 where it circulated in various private collections. In 1970, it was purchased by Milena Jurzykowski, widow of Alfred Jurzykowski, the founder of a major auto company in Brazil. The following year, Jurzykowski gifted the painting to the Met, where it remained in the museum's collection for almost 50 years.
The museum deaccessioned the painting at Sotheby's to benefit its European paintings acquisition fund, following suit of other major American museums. Earlier this year, MoMA sold a Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting for $5 million (£3.98 mil) at Sotheby's in February, as well as a rare Picasso drawing at Christie's France for $320,000 (£255,000) in March.
And during Sotheby's Post-war and Contemporary sale on 16 May, an untitled Mark Rothko Colour Field painting, a deaccession from SFMoMA, headlined the auction, bringing in $50 million (£40 mil). As museums across the US rethink their art historical canons, more of their enormous collections (most of which cannot be displayed because of lack of space) will likely continue to appear at auction.