The thick surface of this panel indicates the prolonged duration of its making. Monet worked on this and other paintings over a period of several years, building up layers of paint as he altered and refined the compositions. This ethereal image features softly flowing passages of cloud reflections amid a tranquil surface punctuated by pink lilies. The notably delicate palette of this painting differentiates it from others and suggests a silvery light suffusing the pond's surface. Since the 1890s Monet had indulged a passion for exploring a single subject in extensive series that chronicle its changing appearance at various times of day and in different kinds of weather.
Curator, Ann Temkin: We're looking at a single panel of the Water Lilies, And if you look at that surface, where it's almost in some cases like a skin, what you begin to realize is that these are actually paintings that are built up of many, many, in fact probably countless layers of paint. And, what that shows you is that these were things that were made over the course of many months and in some cases, many years.
Monet had a lot of paintings going at once and he would nurture them, like the flowers in the garden, keeping them watered over the weeks and months that he spent with them. And so, the character of these becomes time, in a way. The paint that you're looking at is part of a story, much of which is invisible to you.
With the Impressionist canvases that Monet would have painted in the 1870s, for example, with just little strokes of paint, enunciating the outlines of a body or the field of poppies or a blue sky, you would have had a feeling of the artist at work in a very immediate way. By the time he was an older man, Monet wasn't interested in immediacy. He was interested in immortality and posterity, and the idea that life is short, but art is long. It slows you down. His painting would slow down, water slows us down in some ways, and he wanted to slow you down.