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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

On the trail of Monet’s water lilies

Claude Monet, the pioneer of impressionism and one of the greatest masters of modern art liked painting plein air, that is to say outdoors to capture natural light and colours, in his own garden. His most famous works are the pieces of the series of 250 large paintings entitled Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies).

Monet lived in the picturesque little French town of Giverny for 43 years, from 1883 until his death, where he surrounded himself with amazing objects, beautiful paintings and a magnificent garden. The walls of the rooms were adorned with exquisite Japanese woodcuts, and the doors opened onto a colourful garden with Oriental inspirations, which the painter simply called his greatest masterpiece.

Right in the middle of that masterpiece, there was a little artificial pond framed by flowers and crossed by a Japanese wooden bridge. The pond, with its whimsical floating water lilies, soon became one of Monet’s favourite themes.

In the Water Lilies series, Monet placed the emphasis on momentary impressions, the play of light and colours, and capturing the boundary between air and water.

To depict the curious effects of light, the painter used a rich palette, starting from pastel pinks through pale blues all the way to deep purples and bright greens. Monet often painted the reflections of clouds and trees as well, lending depth to the paintings and offering unusual glimpses of his garden.

The approximately 250 pieces were created during the last 30 years of Monet’s life. He painted his last Water Lilies piece in 1926, the year of his death. Compared with the rest of the series, the late pieces are dominated by warmer colours, and the paintings are more muddled and darker, probably the result of the artist’s ailing eyesight.

Today, paintings from Monet’s Water Lilies series can be seen all around the world, but the most famous exhibition is at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, where the most celebrated paintings of one of the greatest impressionists can be viewed on specially constructed curved walls.

Images: Wikimedia Commons
Further information: My Modern Met

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