Claude Monet’s Water Lilies: Not Always so Beloved

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Claude Monet’s Water Lilies: Not Always so Beloved
Claude Monet’s monumental paintings of water lilies were fueled by grief, obsession, and the horrors of the Second World War. The artist’s obsession with his garden at Giverny and in particular, his water garden, began in the late 1890s and continued almost unabated until his death in 1926 at the age of 86. He had discovered the pretty village of Giverny in Normandy while on a train ride and had immediately determined to rent a house there where he moved with his family in 1883. By then, Monet’s living arrangements were not just unusual, but highly unconventional. His eventual purchase of the house in Giverny had been partially financed from prior sales of some of his paintings to the art collector and critic Ernest Hoschedé. Water lilies in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny. (C) Pierre-Étienne Nataf, CC BY-SA 3.0 Ernest Hoschedé was an extremely wealthy department store magnate in Paris, who had collected an impressive collection of Impressionist art including works by Degas, Pissarro and Sisley, but Monet had remained his favorite artist, and the two families soon became close friends. Monet was married to an already ailing Camille and had two sons, Jean and Michel. Hoschedé had a very attractive wife, Alice, and six children. Belgian-born Alice Raingo was also from a wealthy family, and as well as the couple owning the Chateau de Rottembourg at Montgeron, southeast of Paris, they owned a fine house in Paris at 64, Rue de Lisbonne in the eighth arrondissement. Portrait of Claude Monet by Carolus-Duran. (C) Public Domain By 1877, Hoschedé’s wildly extravagant lifestyle had lead to his bankruptcy and he lost everything, including his entire art collection that was auctioned off in 1878 for a fraction of its value. Hoschedé had even attempted to run off to Belgium to escape his debtors. Monet was swift to offer support, and invited the Hoschedé family to move in with him and Camille and his two sons in Vétheuil and later into a bigger house in La Roche-Guyon. In the meantime, Hoschedé had found work at the newspaper Le Voltaire and was often in Paris, away from Alice. After Camille died in 1879, the families continued to live together at Poissy and then finally at Giverny. And here, of course, is where the story gets murky. Art historians question whether at the least one, if not two, of Alice’s children were in fact Monet’s. There seems little doubt that Monet’s affair with Alice had been ongoing long before Hoschedé’s death in 1891.

Lead photo credit : Claude Monet - Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge (C) Unknown, Public Domain

More in Art, exhibition, gardens, Giverny, Impressionist art, Monet, painting

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After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.


  • Hazel Smith
    2021-07-02 06:04:33
    Hazel Smith
    Wonderful article Marilyn. I loved the waterlilies at L'Orangerie and in person!


    • Marilyn Brouwer
      2021-07-03 07:56:34
      Marilyn Brouwer
      Me too, Hazel! Finally managed to get to Giverny before lockdown and visiting L'Orangerie at 9 am just when it opens is a great chance to see Water Lilies before it gets too crowded. Hope you are surviving the heat in Canada and that one day we'll actually meet up in Paris!