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Group: Giverny

Artist: Claude MONET
Birth/Death: 1840–1926

Title: Waterlilies
Date Made: 1903

Lender: Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio

The layers of paint in Waterlilies create a dense, continuous surface. In this it is totally unlike Japanese painting, where the ink or paint sinks into the paper or silk and becomes one substance with it. Nevertheless there are affinities of mood with Japanese paintings which also express the ephemeral moment. Monet’s delicate curved strokes are slightly blurred at the tips of the willow leaves, suggesting their almost imperceptible movement in a current of air that has not yet stirred the glassy water. Broad strokes of violet-blues are painted around the islands of waterlily pads, as if to indicate that they shadow the water beneath them. These brushstrokes draw attention to the invisible depths of the pool, and perhaps to the mud from which the lilies emerge.

In Waterlilies one instinctively measures space by relating the willow fronds to the different angles of foreshortening and the decreasing scale of the waterlily leaves as they recede towards a darkening that suggests the opposite bank. When Monet excluded such forms and painted only the water surface, the viewer has no means of measuring space, and it becomes infinite.

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