the Nymphéas of the painter Claude Monet , Offered to the French State .
“One could dream of a Monet turning toward the use of large canvases, clear and iridescent, the preserve of Veronese, of Tiepolo. Dream no more, and consider his supreme work, the Nymphéas [Water Lilies].
Despite their monumental dimensions they do not demonstrate the characteristics of Grand Venetian or Flemish decoration. His disposition of spirit appears to me to be that of a great easel painter who decides to offer his vision a field vast enough, imposing enough to embrace the world.
(A mirror of water is enough to identify with the Universe.) A cosmic vision, I would say, if this word had not been subverted in recent years and uttered in relation to anyone and anything. Thus Michelangelo, a creator of unique and solitary figures, awaited the day when a Vatican chapel would allow him to blossom and demonstrate his overwhelming power. This is why I am really pleased to describe the Orangerie in the Tuileries as the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism. A deserted site in the heart of Paris, a consecration of the inaccessible. What we have here is one of the peaks of French genius.”
Offered to the French State by the painter Claude Monet on the day that followed the Armistice of November 11, 1918 as a symbol for peace, the Water Lilies are installed according to plan at the Orangerie Museum in 1927, a few months after his death. This unique set, a true “Sixtine of Impressionism”, in the words of André Masson in 1952, testifies to Monet’s later work. It was designed as a real environment and crowns the Water Lilies cycle begun nearly thirty years before. The set is one of the largest monumental achievements of early twentieth century painting. The dimensions and the area covered by the paint surrounds and encompasses the viewer on nearly one hundred linear meters which unfold a landscape dotted with water lilies water, willow branches, tree and cloud reflections, giving the “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore” in the words of Monet. This unique masterpiece has no equivalent worldwide.
Claude Monet was born in Paris and grew up in Le Havre in Normandy. It was when he met the painter Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) that he started to paint from nature. He then moved to Paris in 1859, and joined the studio of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874) where he met the painters Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) and Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870).
Edouard Manet had an influence on him in the early 1860s, although he developed his personal, informal style in his landscapes.
Having taken refuge in London during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Monet returned to France to set up home in Argenteuil.
Claude Monet is known as one of the most famous painters of the Impressionist movement, which took its name from one of his paintings, Impression, soleil levant [Impression, Sunrise], dated 1872 (Musée Marmottan, Paris).
He took part in most of the Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 onwards. In 1883, he settled in Giverny in Normandy.
It was during this period that he began to paint series of certain subjects: haystacks, poplar trees, Rouen Cathedral, etc. From the late 1890s to his death in 1926, the painter devoted himself to the panoramic series of Water Lilies, of which the Musée de l’Orangerie has a unique series.
In fact, the artist designed several paintings specifically for the building, and donated his first two large panels to the French State as a symbol of peace on the day following the Armistice of 12 November 1918.
He also designed a unique space consisting of two oval rooms within the museum, giving the spectator, in Monet’s own words, “an illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon and without shore”, and making the museum’s Water Lilies a work that is without equal anywhere in the world.
The Walter-Guillaume Collection also has the painting Argenteuil by Claude Monet dating from 1875. T
his work is an isolated example in this collection. In fact, it is thanks to Domenica that this one came into the collection around 1955.