Updated: Apr 22
“One instant, one aspect of nature contains it all,” said Claude Monet, while referring to the water landscapes that he produced at his home in Giverny between 1897 and 1926. He replaced this work of his with his other contemporary works that he painted between the 1870s and 1890s with his single motif lilies. His focal point of this piece was Monet’s flower garden, which had a water garden with a pond and a Japanese footbridge.
This is a painting divided into sections and the first section he painted from 1897-99
included the pond, with all the plants, bridge, and trees divided by a fixed horizon but he became less concerned about the pictorial space as he continued. While he moved onto the third section, he dispensed the horizon of the painting and the pond altogether. Hence, he created a horizontal surface on a vertical
Here are 10 amazing facts about one of Monet’s most loved pieces of all time:
1. This is not a single painting:
Claude Monet painted around 250 paintings based on the water lilies he had in his pond in Giverny. He lived here for the last 40 years of his life! He had appreciated the value of working in a series for a very long time and his practice of the same subject again and again produced some of the best pieces of Impressionist Art: the effects of light and weather conditions that could have been registered as an aesthetic insight. These water lilies were the largest of all of Monet’s projects.
2. There is no end:
There are no horizons in this landscape. Nor is there any sense of scale and we can’t even see the edge of the pond! The water that there is in all the pieces and its surface is made up mostly of 2 elements: a reflection of the sky and the water lilies themselves. “The effect of this manner of composition is to offer a swathe of enigmatic reflections broken up with more definite ‘events’ of the water lilies”. As a viewer, your eyes might wander throughout the piece, looking to find an ending and a beginning!
3. Monet’s footbridge:
Claude Monet completed the setting of the pond despite his neighbors’ protest in 1899. On the pond, he made a quaint Japanese type bridge and he was very pleased as to how it turned out to be. He painted this structure 17 times in that very year and each of the 17 paintings showcases the bridge with different lighting and in different weathers.
4. Rise of the abstract expressionism resurrected interest in Monet’s water lilies:
These lilies were ignored for almost 20 years after Monet’s death with many of them sitting forgotten in his Giverny studio but curators rediscovered Monet in 1950s and by 1955, the Museum of Modern Art purchased their first of the water lilies series. And that is when they became one of the most popular pieces of this historic museum.
5. Some water lilies were lost in a fire:
A fire broke out at the Museum of Modern Art in 1958 wherein many paintings including six paintings were damaged and this included Georges-Pierre Seurat's and two of water lilies works. art lovers across the globe sent sympathy to the museum in the form of letters to the museum. The good news is that MoMA got another chance to own the water lilies and they acquired the massive water lilies triptych in 1959. Not only these, but even Monet himself also destroyed around 15 of the lily paintings out of anger and frustration.
6. Monet became a perfectionist during his last years:
He kept in mind his cruel critics and hence became very selective about which paintings he would sign and sell. Only four of his paintings made it to the grade in 1919. And one of those lucky few can today be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Arts, New York.
7. The Orangerie:
When Monet was 82 in 1922, he signed a contract that said that he will donate a large part of the lilies to the French government. They were to be displayed in redesigned rooms in the Orangerie museums in the center of Paris. Monet wished for them to be displayed in natural light, on plain walls, and with sparse interior décor.
Today there are 8 paintings at the Orangerie, hung up in two ova shaped rooms along the walls. This oval room gives its viewers a surrounding look with curving panoramic work.
8. Lose of vision:
Monet discovered that he has cataract at the age of 82. This deterioration of his eyesight was terrible and he wrote ‘I realized with terror that I could see nothing with my right eye...a specialist…told me that I had cataract and that the other eye was also slightly affected’. He also writes about the doctors telling that he would be able to see after the operation but eventually he had to undergo 3 different surgeries to correct his right eye.
The fiery reds and yellows that we see in the Japanese bridge’ water lilies, 1923 was because of the artists’ losing sight but due to the light and its composition, it gave a ‘startingly emotive effect’.
9. Last of the lilies:
By the time, he started working on the last set of the Lilies, he had gained commercial and critical success. This in turn gave Monet the freedom to design his own schedule to paint. He often came back to these pieces as he was not very happy with it and hence it caused him great difficulty.
10. Order forms the French government’:
The then Prime Minister of France; Clemenceau has always been a loyal supporter of Claude Monet’s work and he asked Monet to work on a bigger project in 1914. This was to become a formal state commission piece by 1916 and was these large canvases painted with water lilies on it. These were to be displayed together and these were what he was mainly occupied with until his death.
We all know Claude Monet as one the greatest painters to ever exist but what we don’t know is that he was a caricaturist in school when he was 15. We know Monet as a painter that captured light brilliantly but when he was 15, it was an artist named Eugene Boudin who inspired him to leave his caricatures behind and then taught him to paint outdoors where he studied light and weather, he is so popular for today. One of his other pieces led to the creation of the term ‘impressionism’.
There are so many fun and unknown facts about Claude Monet and his lilies that haven’t been covered but you can always read them up online.
Go ahead, read more about him then come back, re-read this blog, and fall in love with him and his pieces all over again!