In 1914, Claude Monet began again. The French artist, whose brightly colored and sketchily rendered landscapes galvanized the Impressionists in the 1870s, had painted infrequently since the death of his wife, Alice Hoschedé Monet, in 1911. But following several years of mourning, he embarked on a new project that would occupy him until his death in 1926: large-scale paintings of the water-lily pond in his garden at Giverny, a village northwest of Paris where he had bought a home in 1890. “I’ve started work again,” he wrote in a letter to his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, in June 1914, “and you know I don’t do things by halves.”1

Agapanthus (1914–26) was made in this period of renewed spirits and restless experimentation. Like Monet’s earlier representations of rivers, fields, and beaches, the painting centers on an aspect of the natural world that he had studied carefully—in this case, a variety of perennial plant in his garden noted for its thick leaves, slender stems, and bell-shaped blooms in purple, blue, and white. The canvas was taller than the artist himself—an indication of his growing ambitions. After many years of picturing the pond at Giverny, Monet now envisioned an ensemble that he referred to as his “Grande Décoration”: mural-sized paintings of “water, water-lilies, plants, spread over a huge surface.”2

Each of these elements is present in the monumental Water Lilies (1914–26). Made up of three canvases, each twice as large as Agapanthus, the composition portrays a liquid landscape in which plants, flowers, and trees mingle with their reflections while enveloping the viewer. With loose brushwork, soft forms, and an ever-shifting palette, Monet blurs the boundaries between land and water, garden and pond—and even representation and abstraction. Across the panels, sweeping strokes that range in hue from brilliant green to deep red to pale pink conjure rippling water and reflected clouds, lush grasses, and buoyant lily pads. Yet the same strokes also dissolve into seemingly subject-less streaks, patches, and whirls of paint, a reason that Monet became a source of interest to mid-century abstract artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Joan Mitchell.

To create Water Lilies and related compositions, Monet worked in an enormous, light-filled studio that he had built at Giverny specifically to accommodate them. (Although he preferred working outdoors, the unwieldy size of these paintings made doing so impossible.) In the studio, the artist moved between a number of interrelated canvases over the course of days, weeks, and years, applying layer upon layer of carefully selected pigments with long-handled brushes. In the meantime, outside the studio, the world was changing rapidly. In August 1914, as Monet returned to painting, France entered World War I. Painting, the artist wrote to an acquaintance early in 1915, “is the only way to avoid thinking of these troubled times. All the same I sometimes feel ashamed that I am devoting myself to artistic pursuits while so many of our people are suffering and dying for us,” he admitted. “It’s true that fretting never did any good. So I’m pursuing my idea of the Grande Décoration.”3 Soon, though, this project would become a tribute to his country’s 1918 victory in the war. At the encouragement of his close friend Georges Clemenceau, then prime minister of France, Monet agreed to give his “Grande Décoration” to the state. In 1927, 22 of the panels were installed in immersive oval-shaped rooms at the Musée de l’Orangerie, where they remain today.

For some critics, Monet’s late paintings of Giverny constituted a stark rupture with his previous art. In works like The Japanese Footbridge (c. 1920–22), thick, tangled blazes of red, orange, and yellow were even considered a symptom of failing vision.4 Nonetheless, the artist himself considered his landscapes from this period a continuation of his decades-long effort to represent the wider world as it appeared to him. “No, I’m not a great painter,” he wrote to the critic Gustave Geffroy. “I only know that I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature and that most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel, I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they exist that is.”5


  1. Claude Monet to Paul Durand-Ruel, in Monet by Himself: Paintings, Drawings, Pastels, Letters, ed. Richard Kendall (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1989), 247.

  2. Monet to Raymond Koechlin, in Monet by Himself, 249.

  3. Ibid.

  4. See George T.M. Shackleford, Monet: The Late Years (New Haven: Yale University Press/Kimbell Art Museum and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2019), 183-187.

  5. Monet to Gustave Geffroy, in Monet by Himself, 245.

Wikipedia entry
Introduction
Oscar-Claude Monet (UK: , US: , French: [klod mɔnɛ]; 14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a French painter and founder of impressionist painting who is seen as a key precursor to modernism, especially in his attempts to paint nature as he perceived it. During his long career, he was the most consistent and prolific practitioner of impressionism's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein air (outdoor) landscape painting. The term "Impressionism" is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant, exhibited in the 1874 ("exhibition of rejects") initiated by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon. Monet was raised in Le Havre, Normandy, and became interested in the outdoors and drawing from an early age. Although his mother, Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, supported his ambitions to be a painter, his father, Claude-Adolphe, disapproved and wanted him to pursue a career in business. He was very close to his mother, but she died in January 1857 when he was sixteen years old, and he was sent to live with his childless, widowed but wealthy aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre. He went on to study at the Académie Suisse, and under the academic history painter Charles Gleyre, where he was a classmate of Auguste Renoir. His early works include landscapes, seascapes, and portraits, but attracted little attention. A key early influence was Eugène Boudin who introduced him to the concept of plein air painting. From 1883, Monet lived in Giverny, also in northern France, where he purchased a house and property and began a vast landscaping project, including a water-lily pond. His ambition to document the French countryside led to a method of painting the same scene many times so as to capture the changing of light and passing of the seasons. Among the best known examples are his series of haystacks (1890–91), paintings of the Rouen Cathedral (1894) and the paintings of water lilies in his garden in Giverny that occupied him continuously for the last 20 years of his life. Frequently exhibited and successful during his lifetime, his fame and popularity soared in the second half of the 20th century when he became one of the world's most famous painters and a source of inspiration for burgeoning groups of artists.
Wikidata
Q296
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Introduction
He was a successful caricaturist in his native Le Havre, but after studying plein-air landscape painting, he moved to Paris in 1859. He soon met future Impressionists Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Renoir and Monet began painting outdoors together in the late 1860s, laying the foundations of Impressionism. In 1874, with Pissarro and Edgar Degas, Monet helped organize the Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc., the formal name of the Impressionists' group. During the 1870s Monet developed his charateristic technique for rendering atmospheric outdoor light, using broken, rhythmic brushwork. Throughout his career, he remained loyal to the Impressionists' early goal of capturing the transitory effects of nature through direct observation. In 1890 he began creating paintings in series, depicting the same subject under various conditions and at different times of the day. His late pictures, made when he was half-blind, are shimmering pools of color almost totally devoid of form.
Nationality
French
Gender
Male
Roles
Artist, Caricaturist, Landscapist, Painter, Owner
Names
Claude Monet, Oscar-Claude Monet, Claude Oscar Monet, Klod Mone, Oscar Claude Monet, Claude-Oscar Monet, Claude Jean Monet, claude oscar monet, Cl. Monet, C. Monet, Monet, monet c., monet claude
Ulan
500019484
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License

Works

4 works online

Exhibitions

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].