Famous Friday // Water Lilies

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Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 200 x 426 cm, oil on canvas, 1915-26. Location: St. Louis Art Museum

I think that it’s so cool that SLAM has the centerpiece of one of Monet’s triptychs from his famous water lilies series (the other two pieces can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). Known as the Agapanthus Triptych, these three paintings were united briefly in 2011 at the Nelson-Atkins, in 2012 at SLAM, and then in 2015 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the triptych together, but I have spent some time admiring the central piece located at SLAM.

Visually, we see clumps of water lilies floating atop a blue and violet toned waterscape. Towards the bottom of the canvas the blues and purples begin to transform into greens and yellows. The painting itself is massive, and meant to be displayed with the other portions of the triptych so that the viewer could be fully enveloped into the watery landscape.

This is a familiar scene to us as Monet has painted over 250 different works of his backyard in Giverny, France. Each painting is different, and focuses on a distinct portion of his massive garden in each work. He also experimented with painting during different time of day, which is why much of his works from the series look vastly different. Monet focused on painting his outdoor garden for nearly the last 30 years of his life as cataracts were interfering with his vision. The garden itself was grown by Monet, himself, as well as several hired gardeners. Together they worked for years to control the garden in order to mimic a Japanese scene.

Today, these works in Monet’s Water Lilies series can be sold for more than $50 million and greatly contributed to not only the impressionism movement at the time, but also modern art.

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