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“Water Lilies” by Claude Monet (Honolulu Museum of Art)

Claude Monet - Water Lilies

“Water Lilies” by Claude Monet

In “Water Lilies,” Claude Monet depicts his water-lily pond, from his garden in Giverny. Monet captured the continually changing qualities of light, color, water, sky, and lilies by dissolving all the elements in what he expressed as:

“the refuge of peaceful meditation in the center of a flowering aquarium.”

Claude Monet painted nearly 250 paintings in his series of “Water Lilies.”  The paintings depict Monet’s flower garden at his home, which was the primary focus of Monet’s artistic endeavors during the last thirty years of his life. Monet painted many of his later works while suffering from cataracts.

This painting belongs to the last of three series of works depicting the play of light on the pond. With loose, curving lines and tightly knitted strokes of color, Monet captured a moment in time in the life of the ever-changing reflective body of water. His “Water Lilies” series of paintings can be found in many museums across the globe.

Oscar-Claude Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, “Soleil Levant” or “Impression, Sunrise,” which was exhibited in 1874. Monet adopted a method of painting in which he painted the same scene many times to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Monet is known for having produced a series of paintings, all versions of the same subject and perspective. Examples include his series of the “Valley of the Creuse” series and his famous series of “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” paintings.

From 1883 Monet lived in Giverny, where at his home, he developed a garden landscape that included the lily ponds that would become the subjects of his best-known works. In 1899 he began painting the water lilies, first with a Japanese bridge as a central feature, and later in the series of large-scale paintings, with the water lilies as the main feature. This series occupied him for the last 20 years of his life.

Claude Monet Timeline

  • 1840 – Monet is born in Paris, France.
  • 1845 – Monet’s family move to the Normandy region of France, where he grows up.
  • 1856 – Monet takes painting lessons, including painting en Plein air (outdoors).
  • 1861 – Drafted into the military and spends two years in Africa. After becoming sick, he was sent home to recover.
  • 1862 – Studies under Charles Gleyre in Paris. Becomes friends with Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, and Frédéric Bazille.
  • 1870 – Marries Camille Doncieux in Paris.
  • 1870 – Monet travels to England and explores paintings by John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Meets Pissarro.
  • 1871 – Monet travels to the Netherlands and explores Dutch painters.
  • 1871 – Moves to Argenteuil, France, where he lives until 1878.
  • 1872 – Painted Impression, Sunrise the painting that gives Impressionism its name.
  • 1874 – First Impressionists exhibition.
  • 1879 – Monet’s first wife, Camille Monet, dies.
  • 1890 – Monet purchases land in Giverny and begins developing his garden. He begins painting the Haystacks series.
  • 1892 – Monet marries Alice Hoschedé. He starts painting the Rouen Cathedral series.
  • 1897 – Starts paints Water Lilies series.
  • 1900 – Begins Houses of Parliament series.
  • 1908 – Travels to Venice and paints Venice.
  • 1911 – Monet’s second wife, Alice, dies.
  • 1916 – Monet begins painting his large Water Lilies and his panorama paintings and triptychs.
  • 1926 – Monet dies of lung cancer at the age of 86.

Water Lilies

  • Title:             Water Lilies
  • Artist:           Claude Monet
  • Year:             1917/19
  • Medium:      Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 39 1/4 x 79 1/8 in (99.7 x 201 cm)
  • Museum:      Honolulu Museum of Art

Claude Monet

Claude Monet – Interesting Facts

  • Monet was Paris-born but was raised on the Normandy Coast.
  • Monet began drawing as a young boy, sketching his teachers and neighbors.
  • Monet had an estranged relationship with his father. His father did not support his artistic passion and was unwilling to help him financially.
  • In 1858, Monet met Eugène Boudin. Boudin became his mentor and encouraged him to paint “en plain air.”
  • In 1861, Monet was drafted into the army and join the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry, he served in Algeria, a territory that was then controlled by France.
  • Monet lived in Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878, where he was drawn to the natural beauty, and he painted 170 canvases during his time in Argenteuil.
  • For the year of the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Monet painted the Argenteuil Bridge seven times.
  • Japanese art fascinated Monet, attending a Japanese exhibition in the 1890s. He amassed a collection of more than 200 Japanese prints over the years.
  • France’s traditional art institutions were not fans of the Monet’s style. The saw his style as “casual” and “incomplete.”
  • His style focused on perception, capturing outdoor scenes by using rapid brush strokes.
  • In his late 20s, Monet was depressed and struggling to support himself and his family financially, Monet jumped off a bridge in 1868. Fortunately, he survived his fall.
  • Monet destroyed hundreds of his works due to bouts of frustration and self-doubt.
  • Monet was baptized Catholic, but he went on to become an atheist.
  • Monet disliked traditional art schools. So he became a student of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre. It was here that Monet met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley.
  • With the younger artists,  Monet explored new approaches to art like distinctive brush strokes and accurate depiction of light and unusual visual angles.
  • Outdoor painting was critical in developing his style. He created a series of pictures where he explored the effects of rain, mist, smoke, and steam on landscapes and objects.
  • The term “Impressionism” was used as a derogatory label in a critical review of artists who used the Impressionists style; it was borrowed from Monet’s painting title called “Impression: Sunrise.”
  • Monet claimed that he titled the painting Impression, Sunrise, due to his hazy painting style in his depiction of the subject.
  • In his most famous series of twenty-six views of Rouen Cathedral, he broke tradition and cropped the Cathedral views, so that only a portion of the facade is seen on the canvas.
  • Monet’s favorite model was his first wife, Camille Doncieux. She appeared in around 32 paintings.
  • Monet’s second wife, Alice Hoschedé, was irrationally jealous of his first wife, who had died.
  • Monet suffered from cataracts in his later years.
  • In 1883, Monet moved to the small village in Giverny and spent ten years building the water garden, where he painted perhaps his most famous works.
  • As Monet’s garden expanded, he hired six gardeners to tend to it.
  • One gardener’s job was to paddle a boat onto the pond each morning, washing and dusting each lily pad.
  • Monet’s series of Water Lilies consists of about 250 oil paintings, which were painted during the last thirty years of his life.
  • Monet’s famous Japanese bridge over his Giverny pond remains to this day at his home in Giverny.
  • For the last 25 years of his life, Monet painted the water lilies in a series of paintings that water lilies in different light and textures.
  • In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer at the age of 86.
  • Monet is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.
  • In 1980, his former home in Giverny was opened to tourists to see his gardens, woodcut prints, and souvenirs.
  • Monet’s Giverny garden, bedroom, studio, and blue sitting-room are open for tours.

A Tour of the Honolulu Museum of Art


  • Monet painted nearly 250 paintings of “Water Lilies.” How many have you seen?
  • Is painting on one subject, 250 times, obsession or commitment?
  • What can we learn from an artist who persists into his mid 80’s to work and create, while suffering from cataracts?


“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand
as if it were necessary to understand when it is simply necessary to love.”

– Claude Monet


Photo Credit: 1) Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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