As one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, Claude Monet’s work is characterized by small brush strokes and everyday subject matter.
Monet’s passion for horticulture heavily influenced his work, and he painted many of his works outdoors, or “en plein air”. This passion is evident in his later works, including his most famous series of paintings, Water Lilies.
Inspiration for the Water Lilies series came from his home in Giverny, France, which Monet purchased in 1893. He lovingly transformed his land into a lavish garden, paying particular attention to the natural pond, growing water lilies and installing a wooden footbridge.
Monet began the series of around 250 oil paintings in 1903 and they became his biggest artistic focus in the last 30 years of his life: he featured his garden at various times during the day and through the changing seasons. The earlier works in the series centered on the wooden footbridge, but Monet later shifted his focus to the water lilies.
Interestingly, Monet painted many pieces after cataracts affected his eyesight. Many believe that his altered vision resulted in the soft red tone found in his early Water Lilies paintings. Following surgery to remove the cataracts in 1923, Monet used blue hues, and even color corrected some of his earlier works.
Sales of Monet’s Water Lilies have appeared in headlines in recent years: in 2007, Nympheas sold for £18.5 million—around $30 million—at Sotheby’s Auction House in London. In 2008, the largest of Monet’s Water Lilies, Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas, sold for just over £40 million (around $66 million) at Christie’s, making it the most expensive Impressionist painting sold to date.
See them for yourself
Paintings from Monet’s Water Lilies series are currently on display in museums globally, including the Musée d’Orsay and Musée Marmottan Monet, both in Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Discover more of Monet’s paintings in our gallery dedicated to the French master.