Curator, Ann Temkin: This triptych of three mural sized panels was part of a series of Water Lilies paintings that Monet made in the last decade of his life.
He decided that he was going to embark on a project of what he called grand decoration, or large decorations. And he thought of these as panels that would line a room or a couple of rooms that were curving. The galleries would have no edges and no corners, just like the water in the lily pond or the sky has no edges or corners.
In early Impressionism you had these views of nature where you were out looking at a seaside or looking at a field and there were kind of markers of location that you could understand here I am as a person. Here's the view that the painter is portraying for me. With the water lily panels, he's changed it completely so that rather than you being larger than the view that you're looking at on an easel–sized canvas. You're just right in the face of those water lilies and the surface of the water with the clouds reflected from above. You become lost in this expanse of water and of light that is unique in modern art.
Monet had failing eyesight in the last decade of his life, and the palette of these and the blurriness of the representation were even criticized as being nothing more than the result of him not being able to see so well.
These stayed in his studio in Giverny for more than 20 years after his death in 1926.