Monet's iconic canvas The Water Lily Pond also known as Japanese Bridge is the product of a synthesis of the artist's enthusiastic hobby for gardening and his rapidly growing taste for the Japanese cultural imports that would take the artistic sphere of late XIX century Paris by storm.
After an extensive period of continental travel in the first years of the 1880’s, Monet settled with his new wife Alice and their children forming a family home in the village of Giverny in 1883. At first, Monet's garden was merely a resource for flowers to study and paint in periods of bad weather. However, soon the painter found other likeminded individuals who, had distanced themselves from the frenetic pace of Parisian city-life and retired to the country, and also taking an interest in the emerging practice of gardening. Previously an action only undertaken by workers and professionals, gardening became a hobby for leading members of the French intelligentsia such as Octave Mirbeau and the artists Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro. The friends were soon exchanging their methods and cuttings, and Monet’s expertise in horticulture grew.
As his fame and sales of his works grew, the Impressionist was able to expand the scope of his garden, his shift towards the aesthetics of Japanese woodcut prints also boosted his enthusiasm to create and sustain his garden at Giverny. He soon acquired a small pond, creating a water feature and bridge in the Japanese style, littering the pond with water lilies. A fresh sensory effect is evoked in this experiential reproduction of his beloved garden, which he painted around eighteen studies of for an exhibition in 1900.
The Water Lily Pond is an impassioned reproduction of the natural foliage Monet so loved and sought to tame and reproduce at will. He painted several artworks portraying his beloved pond and bridge. The pond takes up about half of the canvas, getting narrower as it gets further, no convey perspective. The overall painting portrays shades of green – in the bridge, the vegetation in the background and the reflex it creates on the water – but Monet breaks this with yellow and pink flowers.
Europe was experiencing a change in time, where things happened at a quicker pace, and materialism was rising. The Japanese woodcut prints brought along a stillness and a connection to nature of cultural importance. The Impressionists embraced this state of mind, and this reflected in their work.
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