“Water Lilies” – Famous Paintings by Claude Monet

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Claude Monet was born in Paris on 14th November 1840. As one of the founders of the Impressionist Movement, he was constantly scrutinised by the art critics of the day.

Claude MonetAlthough Monet exhibitions today draw large crowds of both art critics and art lovers alike; this was not always the case.

Whether through misunderstanding or lack of knowledge; many would not appreciate his work till many years later. This however did not deter Monet. Although other Impressionist painters abandoned the movement; Monet remained true right up until his death. In fact he reworked some of his most famous paintings “Water Lilies” right up until his death on 5th December 1926.

Impressionism concentrated on light and atmosphere. This suited Monet’s preferred style of painting. For he loved to express in his painting the delights of sunlight, reflected water and sea breezes. Many of his paintings were also painted outside and the shimmering luminous colours are evident in the paintings so many of us admire and love. This was all new to the people of his day.

From the first to the final “Water Lilies”; we can see the vast beauty of the reflections through the changing seasons. Impressionism at its finest.

Water Lilies” have been discussed, debated and talked about by art critics and art lovers since they were first viewed. The many variations in colour and light are expressed as only Monet could. He was inspired by his surroundings and was at a contented place in his life. Having moved to Giverny, his art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel was selling Monet’s paintings with increased success.

Claude Monet Water Lilies

Claude Monet Water Lilies

Claude Monet was also the first of the Impressionists to sell his works outside his own country. This was indeed a great accomplishment and demonstrated his growing popularity; especially in the United States of America.

And Monet was doing what he loved: painting those controlled nature scenes. This is evident with his “Water Lilies” and his other familiar scenes of the pond and Japanese bridge that were also painted at Giverny.

“Water Lilies” are various shades and hues; from when Monet first painted them till the final stroke of that brush in his later years. The reddish hue of earlier editions of “Water Lilies” were the result of cataracts. The cataracts not only affected his sight but also his ability to distinguish colour. This was not obvious to Monet until after his later works and the successful removal of those cataracts in 1915. “Water Lilies” then became much bluer in nature.

Interestingly, for all the talk of colour in his work; Monet used a limited palette. By 1886 he had not only banished browns and earth colours from his paintings, he had also ceased from using black. Monet states in 1905: “The point is to know how to use the colours, the choice of which is, when all’s said and done, a matter of habit. Anyway, I use flake white, cadmium yellow, vermillion, deep madder, cobalt blue, emerald green and that’s all”. However others have said that Monet did use a few more colours and about 9 were identified, including black which was only used before 1886.

As Monet loved to paint multiple works of the same or similar scenes; we now have preserved for posterity and for all to enjoy; a series of his most famous works “Water Lilies” being displayed in many galleries around the world. From paintings that can be easily hung on a wall, to the large trilogy of “Water Lilies”; all display Monet’s love for light, reflections and colour.

“Water Lilies” was not only some of his earlier series works; they were also his final works. He was commissioned by the French Government and managed to complete a set of mural paintings of “Water Lilies” before his death. This meant he was still painting at the grand old age of 83years! He truly loved his art and many of us can appreciate both the artist and the works of art that have been lovingly kept and restored for all now to enjoy.

Having had the privilege of viewing many of Monet’s paintings when they were exhibited in London some years ago; I can only attest to the fact that they are a revelation in light and atmosphere. The enormity of some of these paintings also demonstrated to me, a true artist at work and in love with his craft. He never tired of not only painting but of redoing the works he had begun.

I later learnt that Monet was so committed to his art and being true to his chosen art form; that he even built a studio in his garden. This was for the purpose of being able to continually paint, regardless of the weather! In time he had a second studio built and there were skylights added to aid with lighting. As is seen in his series paintings, Monet loved to express both light and weather conditions. Here at Giverny he had both his beloved gardens and also many subjects to admire and paint on canvas. A perfect setting for Claude Monet to produce his famous series: “Water Lilies”.

This article is the first in a series: Famous Painter: Famous Painting

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