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These works replaced the varied contemporary subjects Claude Monet had painted from the 1870s through the 1890s with a single, timeless motif—'Water Lilies'.
'Le Jardin de l'artiste à Giverny'
The focal point of these paintings was the artist’s beloved ﬂower garden, which featured a water garden and a smaller pond spanned by a Japanese footbridge. In his first water-lily series (1897–99), Monet painted the pond environment, with its plants, bridge, and trees neatly divided by a fixed horizon.
Over time, the artist became less and less concerned with conventional pictorial space. By the time he painted The Water Lilies, which comes from his third group of these works, he had dispensed with the horizon line altogether. In most of these spatially ambiguous canvases, the artist looked down, focusing solely on the surface of the pond, with its cluster of vegetation ﬂoating amid the reﬂection of sky and trees. With no fixed point of land or horizon, the viewer can almost become lost in the light and colors of Monet's pond.
Taking this breaking of boundaries even further, he broke with convention again when he expanded his Water Lilies well beyond the easel, creating vast, expanded paintings. A single painting can easily take up an entire wall. These late Monet paintings possess the “all-over” quality that would later be attributed to Abstract Expressionist works. This style of 'all over' painting almost seemed to create a work that resembled something more abstract.
These gestural, energetic, painterly works possess all of the energy, emotion, and, well, “action,” of the so-called “action paintings” that the Abstract Expressionists would not yet begin to start making until decades later. But it was not really until the 1950s that the power brokers within the art world really took notice of the similarities between the last Monet paintings and the works of the Abstract Expressionists.
'Le Jardin aux Iris à Giverny'
What many fans of Impressionism may not realize is the connection that exists between Monet and American Abstract Expressionists. In fact, Monet's unique artistic vision would go on to inspire countless Abstract Expressionist painters painters in the future. Among them: Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell, Mark Tobey, John Paul Riopelle, Sam Francis, Ellsworth Kelly, and several more..
That connection was once again being noted in 2018, in commemoration of the one-hundred year anniversary of the Water Lilies series, as the Musée de l'Orangerie , Paris, explored this connection in depth through the exhibition Waterlilies: American Abstraction and the Last Monet. This grand exhibition featured a stunning selection of late works by Claude Monet exhibited alongside works by the influential American Abstract Expressionist we mentioned above.