At first glance, this painting seems to be of the contemporary Abstract Expressionist school. Only upon close scrutiny does the vine-covered Japanese bridge emerge from the pulsating canvas. Here Monet has carried Impressionism to its final limit. Unlike other members of the Impressionist group, he had consistently adhered to Impressionism from the beginning. In our painting, Monet reveals his characteristic sensitivity to the light and color of nature—nature as it was besides his lily pond overhung with weeping willows, the still water glistening as the shimmering sunlight played on its surface.Monet's failing eyesight accounts for much of the abstract quality of his painting at this time, as well as for his loss of proper color perception. On May 8, 1922, he wrote to his friend Gustave Geffroy, “Despite the poorness of my sight I wished to correct some of my decorations (Les Nymphéas). I was greatly in the wrong, for, finally, I had to admit that I was no longer capable of doing anything beautiful. I destroyed some of my panels. Today I am almost blind and must renounce all work. It is hard, but it is so: a sorry ending in spite of my good health.”1
The world has not agreed with Monet's criticism of his work of this period. In 1923, after partial sight was restored to one eye, he again took up painting.Our painting has traditionally been dated 1912,2
but a similar painting in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, dated about 1922,3
suggests a later date.4Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- Marc Elder, À Giverny, chez Claude Monet, Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, 1924, p. 81.
- William C. Seitz, Claude Monet, Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, 1957, ill. no. 89.
- Alfred H. Barr, J., “Painting and Sculpture Acquisitions, July 1, 1995, Through December 31,” The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, XXIV:4, Summer, 1957, p. 38, ill. p. 7.
- William C. Seitz, Claude Monet, New York, Abrams, 1960, p. 159.
- Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926. Nymphéas: Pont Japonais c. 1922. Oil on canvas, 35” x 45 3/4”. Signed lower right with estate stamp: Claude Monet. Accession 61.36.15.CollectionsMonet family, Giverny, France; M. Knoedler and Company, New York; P. D. McMillan, Minneapolis, 17 September, 1957; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Bequest of Putnam Dana McMillan, 15 November, 1961.ExhibitedSt. Louis, City Art Museum, Claude Monet, 25 September-22 October, 1957. Subsequently exhibited at: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1 November-1 December, 1957.ReferencesWilliam C. Seitz, Claude Monet, Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, 1957, p. 38.