Le Bassin aux Nympheas by Claude Monet

“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at any moment.”

Le Bassin aux Nympheas, 1919, is among four highly finished monumental renderings of Claude Monet’s beloved water lilies in Giverny. Monet executed all four works in the same period, painting the same view before the pond itself. Speaking of the pond, Monet was not only a skilled painter of landscapes, artist but he was also a very passionate landscape designer and gardener. In fact, he gained permission to reroute the river Epte and installed a dam on a section which would become his famous lily pond at Giverny.

Painting waterscapes over and over again Monet experimented with different kinds of compositions and techniques. In some cases he added and subtracted decorative elements, particularly a low Japanese bow bridge as a central element in many of his works. In his other compositions there were no central elements, making them first true all-over compositions.

Now let’s look at Le Bassin aux Nympheas – there is no background or foreground, only an illusion of an expansive spatial environment filled with water lilies and reflections from the foliage and the sky. Here, Monet was attempting to create an image of an endless expanse of water. To achieve this the artist had to break from his earlier small-scale works. When Monet started the Nympheas in 1914 he began working towards this new concept that would ultimately culminate in his celebrated frieze the Grandes Decorations in the Musée de l’Orangerie at the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.

The large scale of the Nymphéas (two meters wide and one meter high), its expressive and very present brushstrokes and very abstract rendering of all its natural elements would have a lasting influence on the future generations of artists. Most notably, the Abstract Expressionists who appropriated his scale and innovations in the application of paint and made them their own. For example, in the hands of Cy Twombly, Monet’s vast vistas and soft colors took on a more energetic, pure and much more [literally] poetic form.

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