The Water Lily Paintings: Claude Monet’s Gift to the Nation

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The Water Lily Paintings: Claude Monet’s Gift to the Nation
A hundred years ago in Paris a piece of paper was signed which left us all a wonderful legacy. For in 1922 Claude Monet agreed to give the Nymphéas, the series of enormous paintings known collectively as The Water Lilies, to the French nation. Today they remain on display in the Orangerie, a museum in the Jardin des Tuileries, housed in two huge oval rooms specifically adapted to Monet’s own design. The “refuge for peaceful meditation” he wanted to create remains exactly that today and the story of it came about is uplifting and poignant in equal measure. Jardin des Tuileries by Dennis Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons “I am good for nothing,” wrote Monet, “other than painting and gardening” and these twin obsessions run right through his work, seen most especially in the many canvases he painted in his garden in Giverny. Monet rented the house there in 1883, later buying it, and was still living there when he died in 1926. He loved its orchard and the surrounding landscape, he adapted the barn to be his studio, and, above all, he devoted his energies to the garden. He devised the layout and the plantings, choosing “a flower palette to look at all year round, always present, but always changing,” as the critic Arsène Alexandre wrote after visiting. Monet’s Garden at Giverny, 1895, Wikimedia Commons In 1893 he bought a little extra land, a water meadow, enlarging it by another purchase a few years later, and created the pond, which is so familiar from his paintings, planting first white water lilies which grew locally and then buying imported ones to increase the color range. Soon, there were clusters of lily pads on the water and weeping willows, iris and bamboo growing around the edges, and it was into this idyll that he brought his easels, setting them all around the pond in order to paint the beauty he had created. For more than 30 years this was one of his main subjects, and he created at least 300 paintings of the pond, some 40 of which were on giant canvases. “These water landscapes,” he wrote in 1908, “have become an obsession.” Monet’s waterlily garden in Giverny, Creative Commons
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Lead photo credit : Claude Monet, Les Nymphéas, Soleil couchant, Creative Commons

More in Claude Monet, Iconic French Painter, Impressionist art, Monet, Musée de l’Orangerie, Nympheas by Monet, Water Lily

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.