France 1840 – 1926
Waterlily pond, green harmony
[Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie verte] 1899
oil on canvas
canvas 89.0 (h) x 93.5 (w) cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris , Bequest of Count Isaac de Camondo 1911
© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
A Japanese bridge hovers above a gentle stream filled with colourful waterlilies. Willow trees hang softly over the water and the sharper foliage of reeds is visible at the pond’s edge. The textures of the vegetation are reflected in the calm waters of the pond. Claude Monet encloses us in a cocoon of tranquil, green space where no sky is seen. The location is the artist’s famous garden at Giverny, a village on the river Seine 80 km from Paris, where he lived with his family from 1883.
The arch of the bridge divides the canvas into two sections. The upper half is painted in an array of greens, grey-blues and pale yellows; the lower half in a mixture of light blues, greens and pinks. The painting’s title, Lily pond, green harmony suggests that the elements of the composition create a pleasing visual experience. Other senses are also activated as we become aware of the coolness of the water, the intoxicating scent of the waterlilies mixed with the warm air surrounding the scene.
When Monet settled at Giverny with Alice Hoschedè and their large, melded family he diverted a small stream and began work on a pond and magnificent gardens. The subject was to become the main focus of his work until his death in 1926.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2009
From audio tour Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and beyond Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay