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Nymphéas
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Nymphéas
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Nymphéas

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About the item

Monet’s famous lily pond in his garden at Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major later works, paintings whose significance in the development of modern art is now fully recognised. The theme of waterlilies, that became not only Monet’s most celebrated series of paintings, but possibly one of the most iconic images of the Impressionist movement, dominated the artist’s work over several decades, recording the changes in his style and his constant pictorial innovations. The present example, which dates from circa 1914-17, is among the most monumental of the Nymphéas series. Its scale and power are testament to Monet’s enduring vision and creativity in his mature years.\nBy 1890, Monet had become financially successful enough to buy the house and a large garden at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. With enormous vigour and determination, he swiftly set about transforming the gardens and creating a large pond, in which waterlilies gradually matured (figs. 1 & 2). Once the garden was designed according to the artist’s vision, it offered a boundless source of inspiration, and provided the major themes that dominated the last three decades of Monet’s career. Towards the end of his life, he told a visitor to his studio: "It took me some time to understand my water lilies. I planted them purely for pleasure; I grew them with no thought of painting them. A landscape takes more than a day to get under your skin. And then, all at once I had the revelation – how wonderful my pond was – and reached for my palette. I’ve hardly had any other subject since that moment" (quoted in Stephan Koja, Claude Monet (exhibition catalogue), Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 146).\nOnce discovered, the subject of waterlilies offered a wealth of inspiration that Monet went on to explore for several decades. His carefully designed garden presented the artist with a micro-cosmos in which he could observe and paint the changes in weather, season and time of day, as well as the ever-changing colours and patterns. John House wrote: "The water garden in a sense bypassed Monet’s long searches of earlier years for a suitable subject to paint. Designed and constantly supervised by the artist himself, and tended by several gardeners, it offered him a motif that was at the same time natural and at his own command - nature re-designed by a temperament. Once again Monet stressed that his real subject when he painted was the light and weather" (J. House, Monet: Nature into Art, Newhaven, 1986, p. 31).\nIn 1914, Monet began to conceive of his Grandes Décorations (fig. 3), a sequence of monumental paintings of the gardens that would take his depictions of the waterlily pond in a dramatic new direction. The artist envisaged an environment in which the viewer would be completely surrounded by the paintings. He wrote: "The temptation came to me to use this water-lily theme for the decoration of a drawing room: carried along the length of the walls, enveloping the entire interior with its unity, it would produce the illusion of an endless whole, of a watery surface with no horizon and no shore; nerves exhausted by work would relax there, following the restful example of those still waters, […] a refuge of peaceful meditation in the middle of a flowering aquarium" (quoted in Claude Roger-Marx, "Les Nymphéas de Monet", in Le Cri de Paris, Paris, 23rd May 1909).\nIn the present work, Monet’s primary interest is in depicting the effects of light on the surface of the pond and on the waterlilies themselves and the play of shadows and modulations of light that the weather creates. Moving away from a more realistic depiction of the waterlily pond that characterised his earlier work (figs. 4 & 5), in the present painting Monet’s focus is entirely on the water surface. Eliminating the illusion of depth and perspective, he levels the surface of the pond with the floating waterlilies and a reflection in the water of elements which are outside the painting’s scope. The horizon line and edges of the pond, visible in earlier versions, disappear in the later works (fig. 6), and the surface of the canvas becomes a two-dimensional pattern, acquiring a spatial continuity in which all parts of the composition are treated with equal importance. Colour becomes disassociated from the object from which it originated and, applied in free, fluid brushstrokes, colour itself becomes the object of the painting, reaching an almost abstract quality. In the later part of his career, it was Monet’s intention to depict atmosphere and colour rather than to record a specific scene; working towards this goal, he reached a level of abstraction that was to play a profound role on the development of later twentieth century art.\n\nFig. 1, The waterlily pond at Giverny\nFig. 2, Monet in his garden at Giverny, 1905\nFig. 3, Monet’s Grandes décorations in the artist’s studio at Giverny\nFig. 4, Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1903, oil on canvas, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton\nFig. 5, Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1905, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston\nFig. 6, Claude Monet, Nymphéas, circa 1914-17, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan, Paris\nStamped Claude Monet (upper left)
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Claude Monet

dimensions

150 by 200cm.

exhibition

New York, World House Galleries, The Struggle for New Form, 1957, no. 59 Saint Louis, City Art Museum and Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Claude Monet, 1957, no. 90, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from circa 1916-26) Palm Beach, Society of Four Arts, Claude Monet, 1958, no. 23 Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Aldrich Collection, 1959, no. 36, illustrated in the catalogue New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles, County Museum, Claude Monet, Seasons and Moments, 1960, no. 111 (as dating from circa 1918) Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Bonnard. Œuvres tardives, 1977, no. 23 (as dating from 1918-21) Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art, Monet, 1981, no. 4

literature

William C. Seitz, Claude Monet, London, 1960, p. 155, illustrated in colour (as dating from circa 1918) Denis Rouart, Jean-Dominique Rey and Robert Maillard, Monet Nymphéas, ou les miroirs du temps, Paris, 1972, p. 170, illustrated (as dating from circa 1918-21) Jean-Jacques Lévêque, Monet, Paris, 1980, p. 130, illustrated in colour Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, 1899-1926, Lausanne and Paris, 1985, vol. IV, p. 255, no. 1792, illustrated Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. IV, p. 845, no. 1792, illustrated in colour

provenance

Michel Monet, Giverny Katia Granoff, Paris (1955) M. Knoedler & Co., New York Larry L. Aldrich, New York (1956; sale: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 30th October 1963, lot 33) Mr and Mrs George Farkas, New York (purchased at the above sale) Galerie Beyeler, Basel Private Collection, Switzerland (1973) Galerie Beyeler, Basel (1977) Acquired by the present owner in 1998

signedDate

Stamped Claude Monet (upper left)

time_period

Painted circa 1914-17.

creator_nationality_dates

1840 - 1926


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

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