'Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony'
CLAUDE MONET (1840 -1926)
'The Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony', 1899 (oil on canvas)
When Monet was moving from one series of paintings to another, he was always in search of a subject that would allow him to witness that moment in nature when the light, color and atmosphere of the landscape combine in sublime harmony. This search concluded when he constructed his magnificent garden at Giverny, a small village in the Normandy countryside, about 80km northwest of Paris. In 1883 Monet rented a house there with studio outbuildings and two acres of orchard attached. By the 1890’s he had earned enough from his paintings to purchase the property as well as an adjoining water meadow.
Monet had always been a gardener, but his development at Giverny was on an extraordinarily ambitious scale. He redesigned the garden in two stages. First, he uprooted the orchard and planted the flower garden with a profusion of different blooms that provided a continuous display of color all year round. Then, in 1893, he flooded the meadow by diverting the River Ru to create his exotic water garden with its water lilies, irises, wisteria, bamboo, rhododendrons, weeping willows, poplars and alders. Near the entrance to the water garden, Monet built a Japanese footbridge across the pond. He based his design on an image from a Japanese print, 'Under the Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa' by Hokusai, and painted it green to harmonize with its surroundings.
Monet’s garden was the inspiration for the great paintings of his final decades. It was an extension of his art that allowed him to compose and control the elements of a natural landscape that he used to ‘model’ his ideas in paint.
CLAUDE MONET (1840 -1926)
Detail from 'The Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony', 1899 (oil on canvas)
In Monet's previous series of 'Poplars', his compositions had grown more abstract. He had begun to flatten the image by reducing its depth of field with horizontal and vertical forms arranged parallel to the picture plane. The flattening of the composition continued in his 'Japanese footbridge' series, as he lowered his viewpoint to remove the sky. This type of cropping technique was a device that many Impressionist painters borrowed from the new art of photography.
In 'Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony', Monet crops the image to exclude all but the bridge, the lush vegetation of the pond and its surrounding undergrowth. The result is a magical glade of shimmering green light, punctuated by cream, pink, yellow and orange water lilies. The convex arch of the bridge cuts the painting in two and is counterbalanced by its concave, copper-brown reflection at the bottom of the picture. Monet builds up the detail with layer upon layer of paint gradually thickening his brushstrokes to reach a crescendo of colorful highlights. The result is so rich in color and texture that on close examination, all you can perceive are the glorious harmonies of abstract color. It is only when you stand back, does the painting come into focus as the 'Water Lily Pond'.