July 8 Art Minute: Claude Monet, “Water Lilies”

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Water Lilies, an oil painting by Claude Monet

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Water Lilies. Oil on canvas, about 1922. 79 in. by 84 in. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey. Gallery 35

Claude Monet’s paintings of his water garden at Giverny were a culmination of his desire to capture the temporary effects of nature. “These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession,” wrote Monet in 1908. By 1914, Monet’s obsession had developed into a project for a circular installation of large-scale water lily paintings, conceived as a gift to France. This project, which occupied Monet for the rest of his life, was completed shortly before his death in 1926. He executed over 60 paintings and studies of his lily pond (destroying a number more) in all types of light and weather. Ultimately, 22 of the large panels were installed in two oval rooms of the Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris.

Plants, water, and sky seem to merge in Toledo’s evocative Water Lilies. Its disorienting lack of horizon line or spatial depth, and its bold brushstrokes and shifting colors, make this painting appear almost abstract. This painting seems to be a study for, or an unfinished version of, one of the three panels of the composition Morning.

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