Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’

Monet's 'Waterlilies', originally uploaded by pureandapplied.

Over a period of 30 years Claude Monet painted more than 250 extraordinarily beautiful images of the waterlilies in his garden pond at Giverny, where he lived until his death in 1927.

This series is known as the Nympheas, and eight of the most impressive are hung in the Musée de l'Orangerie, near the Louvre.

The l'Orangerie, renovated from 1999 to 2006, was originally a barracks, and first became home to the paintings immediately after Monet's death. The eight Nympheas are hung in two long oval rooms designed specifically to show them in the most dramatic way. Sunlight from opaque skylights above illuminates the rooms with their walls painted white and curved so the viewer sees the paintings in their entirety almost equidistantly, to feel immersed in the images.

Monet's 'Waterlilies'

In each room two wide images and two narrower images face each other. The myriad, varied colours of season, sunset, flowers and pond meld together and many people, like those in this photo, myself included, simply sit and look at the canvases for long, silent periods. The combined effect of the architecture, the diffused natural light, and the vast canvases is quieting, even spiritual (for want of a better word).

Downstairs in the l'Orangerie is another gallery of modernist painters. The likes of Picasso, Modigliani, Cezanne and Matisse are demoted to the basement beneath Monet's more impressive paintings.

Later in our travels, in New York, we saw another of the Nympheas series hung in the MOMA. With all its resources, the MOMA could not match the experience of the paintings to be had in Paris in the l'Orangerie.

I'm writing this post for my friend Katie who, although having lived in Paris for many years, was unable to visit the gallery probably because it was closed for renovation. Katie, I encourage you to go to the l'Orangerie, and I encourage anyone reading this post to do so as well.


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