Responding to Monet’s Water Lilies

Monet_the water-lily pond

Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, 1919. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 78 7/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

This is not my first time seeing Monet’s famous water lilies. I remember going to the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris as a child—first with my father, later with my grandparents. At the Orangerie, the water lilies hang in a circular room, towering over you as you sit in the middle of the room. It almost seems as if you’re sitting in the middle of the pond.

When I saw the water lilies for the first time, my eyesight was like that of a hawk. Now, the colors come together in a blur; I can hardly discern where the green from the water lilies ends and where the green of the pond begins. The shapes and the strokes melt away. When I was a child, I could see each stroke from across the room. Like Monet, my eyesight grows worse. Like Monet, my vision blurs. If I were to paint, like Monet my paintings would become more and more abstract.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern

Monet’s Inverted Landscape

Monet_the water-lily pond

Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, 1919. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 78 7/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Visitors have enjoyed the “wall of Monet” in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection, on which three stunning works by the artist are displayed side by side. In 1883, Claude Monet moved to the village of Giverny, France, and set out to convert his home into a source of inspiration for his art. A passionate gardener, he transformed his property into an idealized landscape that expressed his interests in Eastern culture and ideals. Here, as in many of his later works, Monet gives equal attention to the trees, plants, sky, and water, creating an abstract amalgamation of tone and shadow. He also inverts the right-side-up orientation of the traditional landscape: the viewer looks down into the sky, which is reflected in water that acts as a mirror.

Paint What You Sense: Monet in Vétheuil

Monet_landscape on ile-saint-martin

Claude Monet, En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin, 1881. Oil on canvas, 28 13/16 x 23 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Bright and warm, Claude Monet’s En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin (on view in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection) depicts a nearly perfect day. Monet painted this scene in Vétheuil, a small village forty miles west of Paris, where he lived with his wife and two children, as well as the family of his patron, Ernest Hoschedé. In settling in Vétheuil, Monet hoped to find not only creative inspiration, but also imagery that could be translated into salable pictures that would replenish his dwindling financial resources. Filling the canvas with loosely applied dashes of brightly hued paint, Monet captured light and atmosphere—a goal shared by his fellow French Impressionists. One of the original members of that group of avant-garde painters, Monet painted what he sensed, not just what he saw.