Claude Monet was born in Paris in 1840. He is famous as a painter of landscapes that successfully depict light. He is also known as a master of Impressionism, having influenced numerous painters such as Van Gogh and Gauguin. He also loved Japan and owned many ukiyoe works.
From an early age, he was skilled enough to paint portraits and sell them. He met fellow painters such as Pissarro, Bazille, and Renoir, and popularized Impressionism.
Claude Monet's masterpiece is "Water Lilies." It is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings. He painted the motif of the pond and the water lilies growing there in the water garden in Giverny, France. These paintings were created during the 30 years leading up to Monet's final years.
What was it about the water lilies that fascinated him so much that he spent nearly half of his life painting them? Let us look back at some of his paintings, "Water Lilies."
What is Serial Work?
A serial work is a series of paintings on the same theme. Monet created the same work in the same place at different times and seasons.
This work is called "Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer)". As the name suggests, this work was created in the summer.
This is a work called "Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun)".
Both were painted in the same place, but in different seasons. Monet's paintings are not only seasonal, but he also uses light well in his works, for example, by changing the colors in the morning and at night.
For this reason, Monet is sometimes called the "painter of light."
1st Series of "Water Lilies"
Monet's water lilies are divided into two series: the first series until ~1900 and the second series from then on.
The first series is characterized by a motif of his garden with a Japanese-style bridge, a pond, and weeping willows with changing light.
Although Monet often depicted large cutouts of landscapes, he also produced works such as this one depicting a portion of water lilies.
Monet painted many gardens that he was inspired to create by Ukiyoe. From the drum bridge and willow trees to the water lilies blooming on the surface of the water, he is known to have been obsessed with gardening and painting gardens. He is said to have put particular effort into painting this work.
This is a work depicting a view of Nihonbashi bridge in the evening. It is what is called a series of paintings.
Even though it is the same landscape, Monet has richly expressed both day and night with his prodigious sense of color.
This is the actual landscape that Monet painted. It is almost identical to the landscape in Monet's work.
2nd Series of "Water Lilies"
In the second series, Monet did not paint the drum bridge, but instead painted Lilies floating on the water and the sky over the water.
This work is one of Monet's many acclaimed water lilies. The use of blue and green colors skillfully depicts weeping willows on the surface of the water.
The yellow thing on the surface of the water is probably sunlight. This work has a different atmosphere from the previous one.
Monet is said to have created more than 80 works based on the motif of water lilies in the second series. It is said that some people can sense Monet's state of mind and physical condition at that time from the water lilies.
His Last Masterpiece, a Large Decorative Painting
Around the end of the 19th century, Monet had the idea of creating a large decorative painting in which one room would be filled with a huge canvas of "Water Lilies."
However, he suffered from poor eyesight due to cataracts. It is said that at one point he was unable to distinguish the colors of the paints. At the same time, the death of his son and other misfortunes left him in no condition to create.
Monet was in despair. Later, thanks in part to eye surgery, his eyes recovered and he managed to resume his work. He devoted the rest of his life to this great decorative painting.
This is the great decorative painting of Water Lilies.
It consists of eight works on 22 panels. The horizontal length of these works is said to be 91 meters when all of them are connected.
He was 80 years old when he created these works. It is too amazing that he could complete such a large work of art while suffering from illness.
The works are now kept at the Musée de l'Orangerie. This museum was built in 1927 in response to Monet's request to create a bright, panoramic exhibition room that would allow natural light to shine through, in order to depict his series of water lilies.
However, before it was completed, Monet died of pulmonary sclerosis.
Symbolizing Monet's wishes, the museum is bright with natural light.
How was it?
The more one learns about "Water Lilies," the more profound the work becomes. Monet's work proved that it is possible to realize "color = light" and influenced the art world in the latter half of the 20th century.
The Impressionist influence that Monet brought to the world continues to spread regardless of time and country.
Check out these Impressionist works by Japanese contemporary artists.