Many great masters in art history had their muses, their sources of inspiration. For a male artist this often meant a particular woman; Picasso collected a veritable harem. For Monet, his greatest muse was not a woman at all, but rather a beautiful flower. “Her” name was Lily.
Water Lily, to be specific. The scientific name for water lily is “Nymphaea”, derived from from the Greek word numphé, meaning nymph, which takes its name from the Classical myth that attributes the birth of the flower to a nymph who was dying of love for Hercules. Monet’s sprite muse resided in the extensive Japanese-inspired water gardens he created on his property in Giverny, France.
During the last 30 years of his 86-year-life, Lily became Monet’s burning obsession. He painted almost 300 works of his beautiful muse, over 30 being very large format, immortalizing “her” beauty for all time for the world to love. And we do.
The crowning glory of the water lily collection may be the 8 monumental canvases that reside at the The Musée de l’Orangerie. Quote from the The Musée de l’Orangerie website:
The Musée de l’Orangerie houses 8 of the great Nymphéas [Water Lilies] compositions by Monet created from various panels assembled side by side. These compositions are all the same height (1,97m) but differ in length so that they could be hung across the curved walls of two egg-shaped rooms. The artist left nothing to chance with this set of paintings that he had long pondered over and that were displayed according to his wishes in conjunction with the architect Camille Lefèvre and with the help of Clemenceau. He planned out the forms, volumes, positioning, rhythm and the spaces between the various panels, the unguided experience of the visitor through several entrances to the room, the daylight coming in from above that floods the space when the sun is out or which is more discreet when the sun is masked by clouds, thus making the paintings resonate according to the weather..
…Thus, the representation of a continuum in time and space is materialized. In an equally suggestive way, the elliptical shape of the rooms draws out the mathematical symbol for infinity… More here.
You’ll find a mini virtual look at the l’Orangerie gallery collection here.
Water Nymph | Monet’s Muse © Susan L Hart