The J. Paul Getty Museum paid more than $65 million for an Édouard Manet painting at auction Wednesday evening in New York, shattering the record price for the French artist’s work and acquiring what the museum said would be one of the top five paintings in its collection.
Though the Getty did not disclose how much it spent to acquire Manet’s 1881 “Spring (Le Printemps),” the auction house Christie’s confirmed that the winning bid, including buyer’s premium, was $65,125,000. The previous record for a Manet was $33.2 million, paid for “Self Portrait With a Palette” in London four years ago.
Manet intended “Spring” to be the first in a series of portraits expressing the four seasons through Parisian women, but the artist died in 1883 with only two completed: “Autumn” and “Spring.” The latter is an expression of the season through a portrait of Parisian actress Jeanne Demarsy, in floral print and gloves.
“Spring” was one of the “very small number of truly landmark masterpieces of the Impressionist period” that had remained in private hands, said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum. He said the Manet would become an iconic part of the museum’s Impressionist/Post-Impressionist gallery. “No artist in late-19th-century France is more important, and this is one of his finest paintings. It’s as simple as that.”
Manet painted “Spring” for his final Salon, the Paris art exhibition, in 1882, when the artist was at the height of his powers, Potts said by phone Wednesday night.
“He represents one of the pivotal moments in our history – the subjects he chooses and the way he paints them. He has one eye on the great tradition of the past, but he’s also radically novel and adventurous about what he sees in the future.”
Bidding is anonymous, but Potts said the Getty had expected more competition from private individuals than other museums. “Spring” measures 29 inches by 20 inches, which puts the purchase price at $112,284.48 per square inch.
The acquisition joins the Getty’s other Manets, including “Portrait of Madame Brunet” (1860-63), “The Rue Mosnier With Flags” (1878), “Bullfight” (1865) and “Portrait of Julien de la Rochenoire” (1882).
“Spring” will be immediately transported to Los Angeles, and Potts said he hoped it would go on public view “within weeks.”