Claude Monet The Water-Lily Pond
Featuring prominently in the permanent exhibition of London's National Gallery, Claude Monet's 1899 The Water-Lily Pond is a starkly evocative design that captures in his own inimitable style the lush and epiphanic light of a bright summer's afternoon. Rendered in the Impressionist style that his 1873 canvas Impression Sunrise initiated, Monet's deft and confident brush-strokes reflect a period of inner stability and contentment. Following a lengthy spell travelling across the European continent throughout the early years of the 1880s, the artist found domestic peace with his second wife, Alice, and their children from previous marriages. Following the death of his first wife, the establishment of a family home in the idyllic countryside setting of Giverny allowed Monet welcome respite from the personal traumas he had endured. From the year they settled in the home in 1883, Monet began to use the extensive adjoining lands as a study-area for his exploration of flowers, when the frequent bouts of bad weather halted his en plein air painting excursions.
Yet, the story of Impressionism from its development through the independent Paris exhibitions to the wealthy garden-homes of the suburban painters, is also the story of another, once-radical, intellectual pursuit; gardening. Monet's garden at Giverny would soon become the subject of discussion and pilgrimage, and it fast turned from a fenced study-area to a utopian retreat from the speed and noise of Parisian life. Many Impressionist artists rigidly divorced themselves from the conditions of modern life and turned instead to the countryside. Gardening had been always closely associated with the working class or as a role assigned to a professional taking care of a large estate, yet Monet was just one of many French intellectuals who took up the practice in the late-nineteenth century. From writers such as Octave Mirbeau to fellow Impressionists Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro, Monet exchanged techniques, tools, and seedlings, and together their horticultural fascination grew.
An iconic work of European painting, Monet's The Water Lily Pond is the product of his yearning for a small patch of land to call his own. As his commercial success grew further towards the end of the century. Monet installed a Japanese-style bridge and imported water-lilies; certainly reflecting his preoccupation with the Japanese wood-block prints that had taken Parisian cultural life by storm. This small pond, littered with the idiosyncrasies of a private hobby, triggered some of the most majestic experiments with light ever committed to canvas.
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