Water Lilies by Monet

Navigate across the iconic impressionist painting and discover its incredible details

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"My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects and I still very much regret having caused the naming of a group whose majority had nothing impressionist about it."

Here, Claude Monet is referring to his work "Impression, Sunrise," painted at Le Havre in 1872 and exhibited in 1874 at the famous exhibition of the Impressionists at the studio of the photographer Nadar.

On that occasion, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote, "Claude Monet loves water and it is his special gift to portray its mobility and transparency, be it sea or river, gray and monotonous, or colored by the sky."

Indeed, of all the themes in his paintings, this would be the most enduring, right up to his very last series, which was dedicated to the water lilies growing on the pond in his garden at Giverny. An early example can be seen at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern Art) in Rome. It would seem that the initial idea for this garden, which today is one of the most famous in the world, came to him during his journey to Bordighera with Pierre Auguste Renoir in 1883, and again the following year.

The first series of 8 paintings of water lilies, which includes the one in the Galleria Nazionale, was a small-format test of a major project which would only be completed after his death, with the relocation of huge canvasses to the Orangerie. In 1914 Monet retrieved these "old attempts" from a storeroom, as shown in a photo which depicts him in the studio with this painting. The novelty lies in the absence of earth and sky: only light and color are reflected in the water.

"This will bring howls from the enemies of blue and pink because it is exactly that brilliance, that entrancing light that I am so particular about reproducing. Those who have not seen this country [Bordighera], or have not seen it properly, I am sure will shout about improbability even though I am certainly well below the tones: everything is iridescent, shimmering." C. Monet, 1883

Ninfee rosa by Claude MonetLa Galleria Nazionale

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