Claude Monet - Water Lilies 1908

Water Lilies 1908
Water Lilies
1908 100x81cm oil/canvas
Private Collection
Sotheby's auction house 2015 - LOT SOLD. 33,850,000 USD

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From Sotheby's auction house:
Claude Monet’s Nymphéas are among the most iconic and celebrated Impressionist paintings. The profound impact these pictures have made on the evolution of Modern Art marks this series as Monet’s greatest achievement. The famous lily pond in his garden at Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major late works. These spectacular canvases document the changes in his style and his constant pictorial innovations as he continued to paint this theme until his death in 1926. The present work dates from circa 1908 when he painted what are arguably the finest and most technically sophisticated examples from the series. The canvas here is an extraordinary example of the artist's virtuosity as a colorist. The surface texture is rich with detail, particularly in the passages where the blossoms float atop the water. This distinction between reflection and surface, water and flora, and the general clarity of the scene are particularly striking in Monet's canvas here, and evidence its distinction as one of the most technically sophisticated of the entire series.
By 1890, Monet had become financially successful enough to buy the house with a large garden at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. With enormous vigor and determination, he swiftly set about transforming the gardens and creating a large pond. There were initially a number of complaints about Monet’s plans to divert the river Epte through his garden in order to feed his new pond, which he had to address in his application to the Préfet of the Eure department: "I would like to point out to you that, under the pretext of public salubrity, the aforementioned opponents have in fact no other goal than to hamper my projects out of pure meanness, as is frequently the case in the country where Parisian landowners are involved […] I would also like you to know that the aforementioned cultivation of aquatic plants will not have the importance that this term implies and that it will be only a pastime, for the pleasure of the eye, and for motifs to paint" (quoted in Michael Hoog, Musée de l’Orangerie. The Nymphéas of Claude Monet, Paris, 2006, p. 119). Once the garden was designed according to the artist’s vision, it offered a boundless source of inspiration, and provided the major themes that dominated the last three decades of Monet’s career. Towards the end of his life, he obfuscated his initial intentions, perhaps with a mind to his own mythology, telling a visitor to his studio: "It took me some time to understand my water lilies. I planted them purely for pleasure; I grew them with no thought of painting them. A landscape takes more than a day to get under your skin. And then, all at once I had the revelation – how wonderful my pond was – and reached for my palette. I’ve hardly had any other subject since that moment" (quoted in Stephan Koja, Claude Monet (exhibition catalogue), Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 146).