The Story and Inspiration Behind Claude Monet’s Iconic ‘Water Lilies’ Series

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

As the primary pioneer of Impressionism and a Modern Art master, Claude Monet is known for his distinctive style and iconic oeuvre. With an interest in capturing the fleeting effects of light on his subjects, the French artist often opted to paint en plein air—or “outside”—in his picturesque garden. Renowned for its Japanese influences, this manicured plot featured weeping willow trees, seasonal flowers, and, most famously, a network of water lilies.

For 30 years, the aging artist would focus on the floating flora, culminating in Les Nymphéas (“The Water Lilies”), a series of around 250 large-scale oil paintings. Today, these pieces are among his most well-known work, and are showcased in museums, galleries, and collections around the world.

Monet's Garden at Giverny

From 1883 until his death 43 years later, Monet lived in idyllic Giverny, France.

Monet's House

Here, he surrounded himself with beauty, as evident in his home's sunny interiors, the collection of Japanese woodblock prints that hung on his walls, and the oriental-inspired gardens he constructed steps from his front door—a colorful creation he famously called his “most beautiful masterpiece.”

At the center of this “masterpiece” is a man-made pond that is framed by flowers and adorned with a Japanese bridge. This pool quickly became one of Monet's favorite subjects, with its whimsical water lily covering consistently stealing the show.

Claude Monet Garden

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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