Sometimes artists are defined by their most famous subjects.
For Degas, it was dancers. For Da Vinci, it was the enigmatic Mona Lisa. For Monet, it was his Water Lilies.
In the overwhelming majority of his paintings that feature the lilies, Monet focuses solely on the surface of the water, but in his painting The Water Lily Pond, he gives viewers a fuller perspective of the area that chiefly served as his muse.
Inspiration at Home
Monet’s most prolific works were those of his Water Lilies; the entire collection featured hundreds of individual pieces of famous art all painted out of the inspiration he received from his own property. However, most of those paintings are defined by their disorienting use of space. Since he focused solely on the surface of the water, Monet didn’t afford any clarity as to the source of perspective.
However, in The Water Lily Pond, which Monet painted in 1899, viewers are given a better sense of where exactly the scene lives. A curved bridge cuts the vertical canvas into two sections. Above the bridge, about ¼ of the image is simply green foliage from deciduous trees, willows, and surrounding grass in the background.
Most of the actual depiction comes into play below the bridge. Here, Monet paints his beloved pond, framed by tall green grass on both sides. The water is nearly filled with lilies and their pads. The blooms are blush pink and pale yellow, and their pads are a slightly bluish green.
Between clumps of lilies, the calm water reflects the images of the trees above. The bridge itself is a simple, white one with a uniform curve and dappled shadows cast across it. In a sense, this painting sets the scene for the bulk of Monet’s other works.
Today, The Water Lily Pond can be viewed at The National Gallery in London.
Art Imitates Life
The Water Lily Pond was on Monet’s own property, and it was an inspiring view he worked hard to achieve. Monet purchased his home in Giverny in 1893, nearly 20 years after the First Impressionist Exhibit, which is a testament to just how long it took public sentiment to catch up with Impressionism.
Once he owned the home and surrounding land, Monet went to work on transforming the pond and gardens into a truly magical environment. He set his sights in earnest on painting the Water Lilies in the late 1890s, just a few years before he painted The Water Lily Pond itself.
Monet became so enchanted by his water lilies that he described the fixation as an obsession. More often than not, his works focused on small areas of the pond, depicting the impression he got of one patch of lilies. The Water Lily Pond is, however, a departure from that norm as it shows a large portion of the actual pond and its surroundings.
A True Impressionist
The Water Lily Pond was one of several works Monet painted of the pond during different times of day and in different seasons, studying the way that the light affected his perception of the environment.
Monet was one of the original Impressionists, and maintained his style throughout his entire career, even continuing to paint when his vision failed him later in life. With obvious brush strokes, plenty of color, a keen eye for light, and the feeling that a sense of a place is better than a photographic depiction, the Impressionists forged a new path in the art world. Monet, along with Degas, Renoir, Manet, and several others changed the course of creative expression.
Monet didn’t view The Water Lily Pond as one of his greatest triumphs, but it is meaningful peek into his muse for his biggest fans.