One of Claude Monet’s famous Haystacks series works has sold for US$97 million at auction.

Monet’s glowing masterpiece ‘Meules’ (grainstacks) sold in New York on Tuesday night in what auctioneer Sotheby’s called a record for an impressionist painting. With the buyer’s premium, an extra fee charged by the auctioneer, the painting has cost its new owner US$110.7 million (A$159.7 million).

The painting is one of a series which Monet painted, all showing haystacks in the field at the back of his house in Giverny, near Paris, between 1889 and 1891. The paintings show the changes in light and colour with season, time of day and weather, and the huge variations this can create with even a simple subject.

This member of the series stands out for its colouring, wildly vivid even at 128 years of age.

The haystack series was an instant hit when exhibited in 1891, according to art historian Paul Hayes Tucker, and marked the start of Monet’s rise in reputation. His new-found ability to command prices for his paintings allowed Monet to buy the Giverny house and start construction of a waterlily pond which he would later make even more famous than the haystacks.

According to Sotheby’s, six bidders battled over ownership of the work for more than eight minutes. At one stage auctioneer Harry Dalmeny interjected: “The longer you spend buying it, the longer you’ll spend enjoying it.” Neither the seller nor the winning buyer was identified.

The sale followed the sale of another haystack painting for US$81.4 million including buyer’s fees in 2016.
The Scottish National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Paris’s Musee d’Orsay and the Art Institute of Chicago all own paintings in the series.

Images of most of Monet’s paintings are collected online. Warning: don’t look if you’re working and like art, because you may lose yourself for hours.