About This Artwork

Claude Monet
French, 1840-1926

Water Lilies, 1906

Oil on canvas
89.9 x 94.1 cm (35 3/8 x 37 1/16 in.)
Inscribed at lower right: Claude Monet 1906

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1157

This work is featured in the online catalogue Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, the first volume in the Art Institute’s scholarly digital series on the Impressionist circle. The catalogue offers in-depth curatorial and technical entries on 47 artworks by Claude Monet in museum’s collection; entries feature interactive and layered high-resolution imaging, previously unpublished technical photographs, archival materials, and documentation relating to each artwork.

"One instant, one aspect of nature contains it all," said Claude Monet, referring to his late masterpieces, the water landscapes that he produced at his home in Giverny between 1897 and his death in 1926. These works replaced the varied contemporary subjects he had painted from the 1870s through the 1890s with a single, timeless motif—water lilies. 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 water lilies, 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 Water Lilies, which comes from his third group of these works, he had dispensed with the horizon line altogether. In this spatially ambiguous canvas, the artist looked down, focusing solely on the surface of the pond, with its cluster of plants floating amidst the reflection of sky and trees. Monet thus created the image of a horizontal surface on a vertical one. Four years later, he further transcended the conventional boundaries of easel painting and began to make immense, unified compositions whose complex and densely painted surfaces seem to merge with the water.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 232.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Monet, Nympheas, 1909, no. 15.

Noonan-Kocain Gallery, St. Louis, Tableaux Durand-Ruel, 1911-1912, traveled to Chicago, Auditorium Hotel and Cincinnati.

New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paintings by Clause Monet, March 1914, cat. 19.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings Loaned to the Art Institute of Chicago by Martin A. Ryerson, 1925, cat. 2139.

Toledo Museum of Art, Paintings by French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, November-December, 1937, cat. 16 (ill.).

Bloomington, Ill., Scottish Rite Temple, Central Illinois Art Exposition, March-April, 1939, cat. 26.

The Arts Club of Chicago, Origins of Modern Art, April 1940, cat. 63.

Sioux City, Iowa, The Art Center Association, Exhibition, September 1949.

Wichita, Kans., Wichita Art Museum, Three Centuries of French Painting, May 9-23, 1954, cat. 17.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Experimental Gallery: Impression 1874-1876, October 1953-March 1954, traveled to Renaissance Society, October-November 1956.

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Paintings of Claude Monet, April 1-30, 1957, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by Monet, March 15-May 11, 1975, cat. 110 (ill).

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Monet's Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism, April 19-July 9, 1978, not in cat., traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, St Louis Art Museum, July-September 15, 1978.

Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art, The Impressionist Tradition: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago, October 18-December 6, 1986, cat. 64 (ill.), traveled to Fukuoka Art Museum, January 5-February 2, 1986 and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, March 4-April 13, 1986.

Basel, Kunstmuseum, Nymphaes, July 20-October 19 1986, cat. 22 (ill.).

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Monet in the 20th Century, September 20-December 27, 1998, cat. 32 (ill.), traveled to London, Royal Academy of Arts, January 23-April 18, 1998.

Fort Worth, Tex., Kimbell Museum of Art, The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, June 29–November 2, 2008, cat. 91 (ill.).

Publication History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook to the Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, vol. 2 (Chicago, 1920), p. 65, no. 760.

M.C., “Monets in the Art Institute,” The Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 19, 2 (February1925), p. 20.

G. Geoffroy, “Claude Monet,” L’Art et les Artistes 2 (November 1920), p. 73 (ill.).

Margaret Werth, “”A Long Entwined Effort” Colonizing Givery,” Immpressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885-1915, ed. Katherine M. Bourguignon, Exh. cat. (University of Chicago Press), p. 70, (ill.), p. 71.

Daniel Catton Rich, “Französische Impressionisten in Art Institute zu Chicago,” Pantheon (March 1933), p. 77.

G. Slocombe, “Giver of Light,” Coronet 3 (March 1938), p. 26.

Lionello Venturi, Archives de l’Impressionisme 1 (1939), pp. 421-425.

Lionello Venturi, Impressionists and Symbolists (London 1950), fig. 62 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings of the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), p. 322.

Frederick A. Sweet, “Great Chicago Collectors,” Apollo 84 (September 1966), p. 203.

Grace Seiberling, Monet’s Series (New York and London, 1976), pp. 228, 257, fig. 33.

Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné vol. 4 (Lausanne, 1985), pp. 214-215, no. 1638 (ill.).

Charles F. Stuckey, Water Lilies (New York, 1988), p. 37, pl. 12.

Daniel Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné vol. 4 (Cologne, 1996), p. 765, no. 1638 (ill.).

James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Chicago, 1996), p. 11 (ill.).

Lisa Stein, “Seeing Beyond the Must-Sees,” Chicago Tribune (April 18, 2003), section 7 (ill.).

The Age of Impressionism at the Art Institute of Chicago (New Haven and London, 2008), cat. 91, pp. 174–75 (ill.).

Ownership History

Bought from the artist by Durand-Ruel and Bernheim-Jeune, Paris in June 1909 [this and the following information according to Wildenstein 1996]; sold to Henri Bernstein, Paris in May 1909; sold to Durand-Ruel in August 1909; sold to Martin A. Ryerson (died 1932), Chicago, 1915; bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1933.

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