An art historian has proved there is more than one way to research a missing painting after he found a lost Monet via a Google search.
Richard Thomson, Watson Gordon professor of fine art at Edinburgh University, believed Monet’s ‘Effet de Brouillard’ (1872), a depiction of the artist’s rural retreat at Argenteuil, would be a perfect addition to his new exhibition ‘Monet & Architecture’ at London’s National Gallery. Besides being listed as in a private collection together with a postage stamp-sized image of the painting in Monet’s definitive catalogue of works, its whereabouts remained unknown.
Art historians had made no mention of the sale of the work for £412,000 by Christie’s in 2007. The auction house had purchased it from an anonymous vendor in New York in 1989. Even the Christie’s auction catalogue was short on clues. It detailed just three exhibitions at which the painting had been displayed: a possible 1874 exhibition in London and two 1895 exhibitions in Boston and New York. Galerie Durand-Ruel was recorded as having bought the painting from Monet in Paris in 1873.
At this point, someone in Thomson’s position might have been expected to delve deep into dusty museum archives to find some trace of the painting. Thomson told the Observer he had “done [his] time buried away in archives and libraries”. To find Monet’s missing work, he resorted to more modern methods of investigation. “Every now and then one has to use other options”, the art historian explained.
A Google search revealed that ‘Effet de Brouillard’ had recently been sold in America by a dealer from New Orleans. The dealer put Thomson in touch with the paintings’ new owners who agreed to lend it for display in ‘Monet & Architecture’, which opens in April 2018. “It’s a picture that’s been off the beaten track, off the radar, and we’re going to have it in the show. Its whereabouts weren’t known… It’s exciting”, Thomson said.
How does an art historian go about tracking down missing masterpieces? When a collection of treasures from a Gothic castle in the English countryside is scattered throughout the world where do you begin to find them? Boodle Hatfield in conjunction with Strawberry Hill House is about to take you on this journey of art discovery. Watch this space for more clues as we go on the hunt for the lost treasures of Strawberry Hill.