The Price of Pricelessness.

This Claude Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies (1905) was sold at Christie’s New York last week,on Nov. 7, for $43,762,500. Yes, that’s 43 million, seven-hundred sixty-two thousand, five hundred dollars. This is of great interest to me because I just happen to be working on the “Monet” chapter of my Damn Garden Book (sketch, below, in progress):

All the ladies in this picture are versions of me.

Now, if you’ve read my book Le Road Trip you’ll know that I was not really thrilled with my last to Monet’s garden at Giverny — it was crowded and overgrown (in my opinion) and I was in a bad mood. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the garden from several previous visits and it is those memories that I am trying to communicate. Also, hey — it’s GIVERNY. What garden memoirist can get away with writing a Damn Garden Book without including GIVERNY???    Here’s my illustration of the view from Monet’s bedroom window (a view he was particularly fond of):

Yeah, I know. I’m really crappy at painting flower gardens. Truth to tell, I’m not that crazy about flower gardens, and it shows.

I would much rather gaze at the Japanese maple tree in my front yard than at Monet’s waterlilies, to tell the truth, especially at this time of year:

And the Japanese dogwood tree on the patio is no slouch in the spectacular foliage department either:

If you look real hard you can see Bibs eating his breakfast from his pink bowl in the background, on the left.

Oh! Frost on Fall leaves is ten times more poetic than dew on a rose petal!

And I can tell you: there is nothing at Giverny to compare to the awesomeness of the American Elm tree near my house on Long Island:

I’ve never been tempted to pick a single flower on any of my visits to Giverny, but when it comes to a hundred-year old American Elm…

Here I am putting my crutches to good use to nab me an American Elm leaf to paint. (This photo was taken by my friend Melinda last month — my knee injury is healing just fine and I only use crutches now for whacking at stuff that is annoyingly out of reach.)

Even my dear husband, the Great and Wonderful Top Cat, knows better than to bring me roses. When he wants to be romantic, this is what he brings me:

This is what I love! A bouquet of beautiful fall leaves! My Top Cat gets me, he really does.

Monet had his obsession with the waterlilies  (he painted 250 canvases of his water garden at Giverny from 1899 until his death in 1926) and I have my obsession with Fall leaves:

One of the pages I am most proud of in my book Le Road Trip is page 56:

I am proud to be the first person to have calculated the going rate of a Monet waterlily painting down to the square inch, which was at that time  $23,319.00.

I think this is valuable information in quantifying pricelessness, in that a Monet painting might be so astronomically/mind bogglingly expensive to buy (see above, $43,762,500) that it might as well be priceless, but nothing is truly priceless. Remember, I used to be the Faberge expert for the same Christie’s New York auction house that sold this latest Monet, and I used to put price tags on all kinds of priceless stuff.

When I wrote Le Road Trip, the going rate for a Monet waterlily painting was based on the June 2008 sale at Christie’s London of a 1919 painting that sold for $80,451,178. Yes, that’s 80 million four hundred fifty-one thousand and change. And yes, that’s the record for a Monet at auction.

However, that Monet was big, 40 ” x 80″ , and the one that sold last week for $43,762,500 was about half that size at 35″ x 39″,  so:

The new going rate for a Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies is $32,060.4 per square inch.

And you are in luck! Because the going rate for a painting of my beloved Fall leaves is FREE — which is well and truly PRICELESS — and today I announce the winners of my 2012 Fall Leave Give Away:

Actual leaf not included.

This priceless painting goes to Nadine!    Nadine, send me an email at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and we will discuss shipping etc!

And the winner of this priceless painting:

… is Bobbi!   Bobbi, please see above.

I wish I could send all you dear readers a Fall leaf painting in appreciation for you all, but I would go broke if I handed out priceless paintings every week. I’m no Monet, after all! (Oh, wait. Even if he were alive Monet doesn’t get the millions… Jeeze. Being a famous artist as just as lucrative as being a priceless one.)

And now I have to quit painting Fall leaves so I can figure out how to paint a damn flower garden. See you next Friday — when I hope to have painted a less ugly Giverny..


13 Comments, RSS

  1. LOVE the 1st drawing you say is in process!
    Love when you do a drawing and then color in just one area…so airy and witty.
    The key to visiting Giverny may be to go during the week.
    Never on the weekend!!

  2. Mary

    Love the JAPANESE Maple in your yard. Beautiful.
    Congrats to two winners. The best thing is, we can ALL go out and get us some real fall leaves to contemplate. Your paintings are wonderful.

    Also, glad to hear you are recovering from the game knee. When can you ditch the crutch, or do you just use it for security now? Is your leg still wrapped?
    We all care to hear the details.

  3. Cheryl Carr

    Vivian–I agree with ParisBreakfast (see above). The “pop” of the Monet on the rest of the black and white page is just poetic! Finish the sktech, but leave it b&w. Far more enertaining. Oh heck, it’s your book–you can do whatever you want!

  4. I still want to see Giverny..
    I can forego store bought roses any day..but not my garden’s forget-me-nots,peonies,foxglove and anemones:) to name a few.
    I am looking forward to your garden book.Even if I have to hit the G key on my keyboard many times for a to appear since my darling 7 yr old randson had a snack by it..:)see?
    That shot is priceless of you and the crutch..lad you are healing well..I seem to have pulled something in my calf last month and it’s slooow in getting better.

  5. nadine

    Yay! Thank you!!

    I’m sitting on my hotel balcony in Fort LAuderdale, Florida today and the sun is shining like it almost always does in the Sunshine State. The total and the surrounding stores, restaurants, bars, etc, are all gussied up for Christmas and it looks out of place in the sub-tropics. I NEEDED a dash of the temperate zone Fall to cheer me up.
    Thank you, thank you!!

  6. Jen

    I agree about frost on Autumn leaves…ah…autumn leaves…a beautiful tune.

    And having a Top Cat who knows what kind of treasures to bring home to the nest for you…now that’s priceless.

    Earlier this Fall I was helping a woman load boxes of unusual gourds and winter squash into the back of her car. I saw she had several baggies of colorful leaves. I asked her if she was a painter and of course she said, yes. I thought of you.

    I collected a whole purse-full of various leaves from the hill by our library a couple weeks ago. Maple, of course, but also some Gingko, which I love.

    Which is better: blue jay feathers or Autumn leaves?

  7. Nicole

    I too have collected several leaves with the intention of attempting to paint them – you are inspirational! And if you ever make it back to the left coast, I can recommend the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon. We went there last week, and even tho I’m not particularly a Garden person, this place would be quite lovely in summer.

  8. Bunny

    I love your painting of the garden! I know I have mentioned it before, you are lucky to have a TOP CAT around, it’s wonderful when you have that synchrnicity. My partner does many little things for me constantly,and it sure puts a little extra pep in my step, its a good feeling to know, somebody loves you.

    Your fall leaves are amazing, its hard to tell the paitings from the photos of the leaves.

    Thanks for your posts, they are part of my Friday ritual. Witty, informative, and REAL. Can’t find that just anywhere, these days.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and of course, hope all them kittens get a little taste of thanksgiving as well.

  9. Jeannie

    I wonder how much the estate at Giverny would cost to purchase. I would much rather have that, than the painting. I would paint leaves there.:) My hubby brought home leaves yesterday and I just sighed. He knows me so well. Happy Fall and I am relieved that you have found a good use for the crutches.

  10. Patricia

    I am surprised that you have any leaves on trees left after tropical storm Sandy roared thru (yes, we all KNOW it was really a hurricane but for insurance purposes it was just a really really really bad storm…).
    Love the leaves and am sad not to win one but I will console myself with your next book (so finish it quick).

  11. WHAHOO!! I am a winner! I love, love winning stuff. Thank you very much. I’ll be rich some day when I sell that painting for 43 million bucks. By the way, that shot of you with the crutches is priceless too. Merci Madame!

  12. Deborah

    By coincidence, I was in Chicago over the weekend, looking at Monet’s paintings of waterlilies at the Art Institute. I’ve visited Chicago dozens of times, and I’ve always loved its energy. I hadn’t been in 10 years, and something had changed — me: I preferred the outdoor stuff (pigeons, lake, river) to Monet’s paintings (except the Morning Mist on the River Seine one. I love, love, love that one still).

    I agree with others re: your painting of Monet’s waterlily painting. Love that only it is in color.

  13. How interesting. Today, I had an eye appointment where I shared my fear that I might have a cataract or something more serious, the doctor took me into another room to show me two Monet prints. One was painted while he had his cataract, the other without them. I had seen the fabulous collection at the Marmatton Monet in Paris so we chatted about the vast differences in his work. I came home and later, after the dilation wore off, read some more of Le Road T rip. Now I’ve searched out your blog. I hope to visit often. I hope you will drop by my Paris photoblog one day! I love seeing Paris througoh your words and illustrations!

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