When most people think of Claude Monet’s art, they think of one of his paintings of water lilies – perhaps his famous Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies:
Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies
And rightly so. Monet’s series of water lily paintings was created at the height of his career, a time when his work was both prolific and masterful. It was when he lived at Giverny, a village in northern France on the banks of the River Seine. The idyllic countryside, and Monet’s own lovingly maintained gardens, served as models for some of his best works.
To honor the anniversary of Monet’s death on December 5, 1926, we look at some of the most beautiful paintings from his time at Giverny.
Irises in Monet’s Gardens
Irises in Monet’s Garden (1900) is one of many paintings that reproduce the riot of color in the artist’s gardens. As one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, Monet painted with visible brushstrokes and with keen attention to light, with color taking precedence over perfection of line. This resulted in gloriously colorful paintings, which, when viewed closely, can look like nothing more than a soup of color and line. But as you step back, they resolve into faithful – if hazy – depictions of their subjects.
Poppy Field in a Hollow Near Giverny
Poppy Field in a Hollow Near Giverny (1885) includes an unusual amount of dark color for Monet’s work. He famously shunned the color black and believed that it shouldn’t be used at all by impressionists. But when he did require a dark color to be true to his subject, he mixed other colors to create something close to – but not quite – black.
Giverny in Springtime
Giverny in Springtime (1900) better illustrates Monet’s preferred light colors. In his own words, “The most important thing is to know how to use the colors. Their choice is a matter of habit. In short, I use white lead, cadmium yellow, vermilion, madder, cobalt blue, chrome green. That's all.”
Branch of the Seine Near Giverny
Branch of the Seine Near Giverny (1897) depicts a subject Monet would return to many times over the years: the River Seine as it flowed near his home. He painted it at all times of day, with boats on its waters or buildings in the background, or – as in this work – simply the river and its forested banks.
Haystacks (Sunset) (1891) is an example of another of Monet’s favorite subjects, one on which he did a renowned series of works. During 1890 and 1891, Monet returned again and again to the fields surrounding his home to paint haystacks in a variety of light and weather conditions. The result was 25 paintings which, on the most basic level, might seem rather similar – their subjects certainly don’t vary much beyond whether one or two haystacks are pictured. But viewed together, the paintings demonstrate Monet’s ability to capture nuance and detail – as well as his persistence. Each painting represented such specific light conditions that he could sometimes only work on one for a few minutes a day, while the light was exactly perfect. He would return to the scene for a brief flurry of work each day over the course of weeks or months.
The House Seen from the Rose Garden
The House Seen from the Rose Garden (1924) is a classic example of Monet’s later work – painted in a period when cataracts affected his vision and perception of color. He underwent an operation that restored his sight, but left him seeing mostly reds and yellows out of one eye and mostly blues and greens out of the other. He would paint with one eye closed, and the result would reflect which eye he chose.
No look at Monet’s Giverny work would be complete without a water lilies painting. This Water Lilies (1916) is one of approximately 250 impressions of the ponds in the artist’s gardens. Though Monet painted many subjects while at Giverny, the water lilies were far and away his most frequent and celebrated inspirations. And they’ve deeply moved everyone from art experts to the “I don’t know art, but I know what I like” crowd.
And that would have been just fine with Monet. “People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand,” he once said, “when it's simply necessary to love.”