PARIS Pierre-Auguste Renoir wrote to his friend Claude Monet to share his joys and pains, from the birth of a child to the suffering of his final years. Auguste Rodin praised Monet's art for helping him understand light, the clouds and the sea.
More than 1,000 letters to Monet from his friends and admirers will be auctioned Wednesday in Paris. Many are by Monet's fellow impressionist painters including Renoir, Edouard Manet, Paul Cezanne, Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley and Mary Cassatt offering an intimate glimpse into a close circle of artists.
Monet carefully preserved the letters until his death in 1926 at age 86, and they became a family treasure, passed down through the generations. The artist's great-grandson Michel Cornebois has turned them over to the Artcurial auction house, which expects the sale to bring in more than $650,000.
Jacques Brinon / Associated Press
A 1899 photograph
of painter Claude Monet
by Paul Nadar is seen
at auction house
Artcurial in Paris,
Friday, December 8.
The collection includes previously unreleased letters, as well as a few photographs and some jottings by Monet himself. Pierre Assouline, who wrote about the impressionists in a biography of Monet's art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, called the collection "a mosaic portrait of a great artist."
For decades, we have read, analyzed and dissected Monet's letters to dealers, artists, writers," Assouline said in an introduction to the collection. "At last, we have the response."
The letters from Durand-Ruel, for example, show his constant support for the artist despite his financial difficulties. In one 1885 letter, Durand-Ruel wrote with humor of his plans to go to New York to help build enthusiasm for Monet's work in the United States.
Renoir wrote of his children's births and illnesses, described his artistic projects and consoled Monet about the deaths of friends and family. In his final years, Renoir suffered debilitating arthritis, and his handwriting was a mere faint scrawl.
Letter from Cezanne
to Claude Monet
November 1, 1894
Auction: 13,565 Euros
"We have to revolutionize this country of millionaires, and try to become millionaires ourselves," he wrote. "We're not at that point yet, but everyone needs to start somewhere."
Many of the letters from Monet's fellow painters show their fascination and admiration for his work. Monet was at the center of the impressionist circle, and his painting, "Impression, Sunrise," gave the movement its name.
"The friendship of a great man is a gift from the gods," Cezanne wrote to Monet in 1894. In 1897, the sculptor Rodin told Monet of his "admiration for the artist who helped me understand light, the clouds, the sea and the cathedrals."
The letters between Renoir and Monet are especially rich, showing the close bond
of two artists who met in their early 20s and remained friends for a lifetime.
Five years before he died in 1919, Renoir wrote his old friend: "I often think of you, and as I grow older, I think of our youth. It helps me get through the present times."
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Note: The 1898 Nadar photo of Monet and 1894 letter of Cezanne to Monet appeared
in Angela Doland's "Letter to Monet to be auctioned" in San Francisco Chronicle,
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006, Datebook Section. However, this article is not available online
at www.sfgate.com. The San Jose Mercury News newspaper article "Letters to Monet
reflect his status as a pioneer" (Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, page 3E) did not have any photos.
Their online version had Monet's photo but did not include Cezanne's 1894 letter.
The image of Cezanne's 1894 letter was obtained from
Artcurial Auction House in Paris.
The prices realized and enlargement of some 70 letters may also be viewed at