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  • Claude Monet
    Nov 14, 1840 - Dec 5, 1926
  • Water Lilies 17 - Claude Monet was a French painter, initiator, leader, and unswerving advocate of the Impressionist style. He is regarded as the archetypal Impressionist in that his devotion to the ideals of the movement was unwavering throughout his long career, and it is fitting that one of his pictures - Impression: Sunrise (Musée Marmottan, Paris; 1872) - gave the group his name.
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Water Lilies 17
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  • Water Lilies 17

  • Claude Monet
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  • 1904
    Oil on canvas

    In 1883, Monet, his second wife Alice Hoschede, and her eight kids moved to Giverny [GEE-ver-KNEE], a town about an hour outside Paris where he lived the rest of his life. “These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession. They are beyond the power of an old man, and I nevertheless want to succeed in rendering what I perceive…,” said Monet of his garden at Giverny, where he painted many versions of the The Water Lily Pond. An inspired gardener and a perfectionist, Monet designed his garden like he was changing the costume on a model or arranging a still-life—to look exactly as he wanted to paint it. He built an arched bridge based on Japanese designs across one section of the pond. He also got permission to control the incoming water flow, creating the right conditions to grow a new hybrid water lily that would be hardy enough for the French climate. He orchestrated color and plant arrangement (including irises and weeping willows) around the edge of his pond for the best reflections. He pruned dead water lily blossoms and even went so far as to trim the pads. He even paid to blacktop the road that crossed his property because he didn’t like the dust that settled on his plants.

    Monet would work on a painting for half an hour and as the light changed, he’d switch out the canvas he was working on for another, frantically trying to find the one that best matched what he was currently seeing. He complained, “It’s a continual torture to me!” Monet worked on a continuous series of water lily paintings from the late 1890s to 1910. About three hundred of his paintings are of his floral and water gardens. Ever self-critical, he was known to slash his paintings with a knife when he feared he had overworked them. Only four water lily paintings from 1904 survived his rampages—this painting is one of them.

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Other paintings by Claude Monet:

The Sailboat, Evening Effect
The Sailboat, Evening Effect
Argenteuil, Snow Scene at Argenteuil
Argenteuil, Snow Scene at Argenteuil
The Garden, Hollyhocks
The Garden, Hollyhocks
White Turkeys
White Turkeys
Claude MonetIn 1890 Monet had bought a strip of marshland across the road from his house and flower garden, through which flowed a tributary of the Epte. By diverting this stream, he began to construct a water-lily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. By 1900 this unique product of Monet's imagination (for his Impressionism had become more subjective) was in itself a major work of environmental art--an exotic lotus land within which he was to meditate and paint for more than 20 years. The first canvases of lilies, water, and the Japanese bridge were only about one yard square, but their unprecedented open composition, with the large blossoms and pads suspended as if in space, and the azure water in which clouds were reflected, implied an encompassing environment beyond the frame. This concept of embracing spatiality, new to the history of painting and only implicit in the first water-lily paintings, was expanded by 1925 into a cycle of huge murals to be installed in Paris in two 80-foot oval rooms in the Orangerie of the Tuileries. These were described in 1952 by the painter André Masson as "the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism." This crowning achievement of Monet's long, probing study of nature--his striving to render his impressions, as he said, "in the face of the most fugitive effects"--was not dedicated until after his death. The many large studies for the Orangerie murals, as well as other unprecedented and unique works painted in the water garden between 1916 and 1925, were almost unknown until the 1950s but are now distributed throughout the major private collections and museums of the world. Despite failing eyesight, Monet continued to paint almost until his death in 1926.