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Waterlilies

Waterlilies

Monet’s Waterlilies is now back in its familiar place in the Berry Wing of European Art. It spent the past several months in Italy, as part of the exhibition Around Monet: The Landscape from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century. Stop by the museum and welcome it home!

Monet’s painting is one of hundreds he did of his lush garden and lily pond surrounding his home in Giverny, some 30 miles outside Paris.  After moving there in 1886 he gradually added plantings carefully designed so that some portions would be in bloom nearly year round.  As his fame and popularity grew, he was able to acquire an additional strip of land in 1893 where he dammed a creek to make a pond.  These gardens and the lily pond became the primary focus of his art for the last 40 years of his life.

Today it is sometimes hard to appreciate how radical the waterlily paintings were when Monet painted them.  The pond and the lilies floating on it are seen from close to the water’s surface.  While we instinctively know the water is parallel to the earth as it recedes away from us, we just as quickly accept Monet’s depiction of it on the vertical plane of the canvas.  And, as he did consistently throughout his remarkably productive career, Monet records with paint his careful observation of nature at differing times of day, here the reflections of trees and sky on the water’s surface.  Commenting on Monet’s keen powers of observation, fellow Impressionist Paul Cézanne said, “Monet is only an eye, but what an eye!”

More about Waterlilies on our What Is a Masterpiece? interactive site

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
French
Waterlilies, 1903
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. Joseph Rubin
1953.11