The many variations of Claude Monet's Water Lilies are probably some of the most beloved works of the 20th century. Millions of people have made the pilgrimage to France to visit Monet's house in Giverny, where the gardens served as inspiration for hundreds of the artist's paintings. Monet purchased the house in 1890 and greatly expanded the water-lily pond at the bottom of the garden.
The MFAH version of Water Lilies, or Nymphéas in French, was part of a first concentrated campaign by Monet to capture the delicate blooms at different times of the day, under different atmospheric conditions. When, after much hesitation, he exhibited a suite of 48 water-lily paintings in 1909 at the Paris gallery of his art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, the series became an enormous financial, popular, and critical success. In conjunction with that exhibition, Monet was asked to define the essence of his art. "The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration," he said. "Perhaps my originality boils down to my capacity as a hypersensitive receptor, and to the expediency of a shorthand by means of which I project onto a canvas, as if onto a screen, impressions registered on my retina."