Image by/from Claude Monet
Water Lilies (or Nympheas, French: [nɛ̃.fe.a]) is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926). The paintings depict his flower garden at his home in Giverny, and were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts.
Monet’s long preference for producing and exhibiting a series of paintings related by subject and perspective began in 1889, with at least ten paintings done at the Valley of the Creuse, which were shown at the Galerie Georges Petit. Among his other famous series are his Haystacks.
During the 1920s, the state of France built a pair of oval rooms at the Musee de l’Orangerie as a permanent home for eight water lily murals by Monet. The exhibit opened to the public on 16 May 1927, a few months after Monet’s death. Sixty water lily paintings from around the world were assembled for a special exhibition at the Musee de l’Orangerie in 1999.
The paintings are on display at museums all over the world, including the Princeton University Art Museum, Musee Marmottan Monet, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the National Museum of Wales, the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum and the Legion of Honor.
On 19 June 2007, one of Monet’s Water Lily paintings sold for £18.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London. On 24 June 2008 another of his Water Lily paintings, Le Bassin Aux Nympheas, sold for almost £41 million at Christie’s in London, almost double the estimate of £18 to £24 million.
In May 2010, it was announced that the 1906 Nympheas work would be auctioned in London in June 2010. The painting had an estimated sale price of between £30 and £40 million. Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie’s auction house director and head of impressionist and modern art, said, “Claude Monet’s water-lily paintings are amongst the most recognised and celebrated works of the 20th Century and were hugely influential to many of the following generations of artists.” The sale took place on 23 June 2010 at the auction house and the painting attracted bids of up to £29 million, but it ultimately failed to sell.
On 6 May 2014, one of the Water Lilies, Le Bassin aux Nympheas, was auctioned at Christie’s, New York City for $27 million.
In June 2014, one of the Water Lilies, Nympheas, sold for $54 million USD at a Sotheby’s auction in London. This piece was auctioned to an anonymous buyer, but the piece went on to be part of the exhibition “Painting the Modern Garden: From Monet to Matisse” at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, starting in 2015. The co-chairman of Sotheby’s modern and impressionist art department, Helena Newman, claims that the result is at the top of the original estimated selling price. This price was between 34 and 51 million USD.
While many of Monet’s masterpieces have sold, there are still an estimated 250 oil paintings from this series. The collection is widely popular, with many of these pieces residing in exhibits that have yet to go to auction.
Water Lilies, 1920-1926, Musee de l’Orangerie
Water-Lily Pond, c. 1915-1926, Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima, Kagawa, Japan
Wisteria, 1925, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Water Lilies, 1922, Toledo Museum of Art
Le Bassin Aux Nympheas, 1919, private collection
Water Lilies, 1919, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The Water Lily Pond, c. 1917-1919, Albertina
Water Lilies, 1917-1919, Honolulu Museum of Art
Water-Lily Pond and Weeping Willow, 1916-1919, private collection
Nympheas reflets de saule, 1916-1919, Musee Marmottan Monet
Blue Water Lilies, 1916-1919, Musee d’Orsay
Sea-Roses (Yellow Nirwana), after 1916, Tate Modern, London
Nympheas, 1916, Musee Marmottan Monet
Water Lilies, 1916, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
White and yellow Water Lilies, 1915-1917, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
Nympheas, 1915, Musee Marmottan Monet
Nympheas (Waterlilies), 1914-1917, National Gallery of Australia
Water-Lilies, 1914-1917, Toledo Museum of Art
Nympheas, 1915, Neue Pinakothek, Munich
Water Lilies (TFAM), 1908, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum
Water Lily Pond, 1908, private collection
Water Lilies, 1907 The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Water Lilies, 1907, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
Pond with Water Lilies, 1907, Israel Museum
Water Lilies, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago
Water Lilies, 1905, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Le Bassin des Nympheas, 1904, Denver Art Museum
Water Lilies, 1904, private collection
Water Lilies, 1903, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio
Closeup of Water lily pond, one of 18 views of the pond, 1899, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Water lilies, 1897-1899, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
Nympheas, 1897-1898, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1897-1899, Princeton University Art Museum