The article below was published in Pinnable’s newsletter in . The exhibition Monet — The Garden Paintings ended on 2 February 2020.

Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Claude Monet’s Garden Paintings

Claude Monet (1840–1926) is the most renowned impressionist painter, perhaps best known for his painting Poppy Field, which is on show at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Brilliant with light, Monet was a true master of capturing the moment. From the late 1880s onwards, he became very successful, and thanks to collectors in Europe, America & Japan, Monet made his fortune, which he spent on fast cars and the luxuriant garden around his house in Giverny. Because he no longer needed to exhibit or sell pictures, Monet, who was an avid gardener, devoted the final years of his life to painting his garden, especially the water lilies in his pond. Coloured water lilies were still a novelty at that time, introduced at the 1889 Universal Exposition, and five years later to Monet’s garden, which he deemed his greatest work of art.

Claude Monet: The House seen from the Rose Garden
The Artist’s House seen from the Rose Garden (1922–1924)

On until 2 February, the exhibition Monet — The Garden Paintings at the Kunstmuseum (the former Gemeentemuseum) in The Hague is mainly about Monet’s work from the turn of the century until his death, during which period he worked in an increasingly abstract style to explore new artistic frontiers, although having contracted cataracts might have had something to do with it as well. In the resulting pictures, such as the Kunstmuseum’s fantastic Wisteria for instance, it is not always easy to see whether you’re looking at the water or the sky, a plant or a tree, or its reflection. Most of the garden paintings were generally unknown until the 1950s, when an international exhibition prompted a revival of interest in, and appreciation of, Monet’s later work. Today, his water lilies belong to his most-admired paintings.

Reader comments


Claude Monet était celui des peintres contemporains que Cézanne mettait le plus haut. Il lui arrivait bien quelquefois, dans sa haine contre l’Impressionnisme, de lancer cette boutade, à l’adresse du peintre des Heures: «Monet ce n’est qu’un œil». Mais il ne pouvait s’empêcher d’ajouter: «Mais, bon Dieu, quel œil!»


One of Claude Monet’s most popular paintings at the National Gallery in London, currently on display at the Gemeentemuseum, is The Water Lily Pond, depicting his garden in Giverny. The bridge, which Monet designed himself, shows the influence of Japanese art on his work.


Monet’s contemporaries didn’t necessarily embrace his abstract style. In this book Art (1914), art critic Clive Bell wrote, for example (p. 187), about the great impressionists: ‘Some of them, to be sure, turned out polychromatic charts of desolating dullness — Monet towards the end, for instance.’


In 1963, when Claude Monet’s Water-Lilies went on display at the National Gallery in London, one commentator noted: ‘It is a great area of drifting, nebulous colour with which it is very difficult to establish any consistent relationship. The only proper reaction would be to dive into it and drown.’