Home / Art / Art HistoryThe Story and Inspiration Behind Claude Monet’s Iconic ‘Water Lilies’ Series

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

The Water Lilies Series

Monet’s depictions of the aquatic flowering plants capture artistic impressions of his beloved backyard. Emphasizing the effects of light, these paintings are rendered in a rich color palette ranging from pastel pinks and baby blues to deep purples and bright greens.

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Water-Lily Pond’ (c.1915–1926) (Photo: Chichu Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons)

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

Water-Lilies (1914-1917) (Photo: Toledo Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons)

Additionally—much like the artist’s entire body of work—some of these paintings are figurative, while others are much more abstract.

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Nympheas’ (1897–1898) (Photo: LACMA via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-1923}})

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Wisteria’ (1925) (Photo: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag via Wikimedia Commons)

Often, the artist strategically included reflections of trees and clouds on the surface of the water, cleverly creating a sense of depth and offering an unusual glimpse at the rest of his garden.

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Water-Lilies’ (1907) (Photo: Bridgestone Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons)

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Water-Lilies’ (1907) (Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston via Wikimedia Commons)

Made up of approximately 250 pieces, this collection was created during the last 30 years of Monet’s life. His last Les Nymphéas paintings were produced in 1926, the year of his death. Compared to his earlier works, his later pieces appear more muddled, darker, and warmer in color—an aesthetic widely believed to be due to the artist’s failing eyesight.

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘The Water Lily Pond’ (c. 1917-1919) (Photo: Albertina, Vienna – The Batliner Collection via Wikimedia Commons)

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Les Nymphéas’ (c. 1920-1926) (Photo: The Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-1923}})

Claude Monet Water Lilies Monet Lilies Giverny

‘Water Lilies’ (c. 1914-1926) (Photo: Wiki Art)

The Legacy of Les Nymphéas

Today, Monet’s Water Lilies can be seen at esteemed sites across the globe. Most famously, they are exhibited on the specially-constructed, curved walls of Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. “According to Claude Monet’s own suggestion, the eight compositions were set out in the two consecutive oval rooms,” the museum’s website states. “The painter wanted visitors to be able to immerse themselves completely in the painting and to forget about the outside world.”

L'ORANGERIE

Additionally, these popular pieces can be found in other world-famous museums, including New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, which houses the largest collection of work by the artist.

His home and gardens are also open to the public, inviting admirers of Monet’s signature series to see the blooms behind the beautiful canvases.

Monet's Garden

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