History of Water Liliesnext

Water Lilies  
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   Figure 1
  Figure 1. Detail. Magnified approximately twenty times, of the center panel showing residual starch-based facing adhesive
The conservators hoped to investigate the previous treatment history of the Water Lilies triptych before its acquisition by the Museum. They were careful to explain the relationship between their project and the previous conservators' work, so that the MoMA team would advance the last treatment. Researching the Museum's records, Eugena Ordonez was able to establish much of the physical history of the paintings. The Museum's triptych was in Monet's studio when he died and stayed there until 1947 in the care of Blanche Moschedé, Monet's stepdaughter. After Moschedé died, Michel Monet, the artist's son, sold the paintings to the art dealer Katia Granoff, who in turn sold them to the Museum. In December 1958 the paintings were sent to New York from Paris. The condition reports before their shipment and after their arrival detail the history of damage to the paintings and indicate their fragility. Besides generally weak edges, which had been reinforced with strip linings on two panels, tears and even some streaks from bird droppings were noted. Some of the damage had apparently occurred in World War II during a bombardment when the Giverny studio skylights shattered and shreds of glass punctured the canvases. The panels had also undergone some restoration before coming to the Museum. Some tears had been repaired and losses inpainted. Upon arrival it was noted that further damage had occurred during shipment, specifically abrasion of the surface and cleaving of the paint film.

The treatment of the paintings, begun in September 1959, involved steps to consolidate the paint film, which, the condition report states, "was powdering off." This consolidation was achieved by lining the painting to a new linen support with a wax-resin adhesive and then attaching the reinforced painting to new stretchers. Before the painting was lined, the earlier repairs were corrected and a facing of Japanese tissue was applied, with a starch-based adhesive, to the surface of the panels to further consolidate the paint. When this "facing" was removed, the conservators reported in 1959, "a great deal of dirt came away." At that time the conservators were also able to uncover original paint in areas where they removed "excess repaint." The treatment was brought to a close in October and November with texturing of areas of loss, inpainting, and the application of a coating of synthetic resin varnish to the panels.


©2004 The Museum of Modern Art, New York