Monet’s final years
In the last years of his life, Monet alternated between painting the panoramic Grand Decorations and smaller canvases of his clos normand (upper garden) and Japanese bridge. While the arched structure of the bridge, embellished with wisteria, echoed the arcade of rambling roses leading to his house, the predominant pinks and reds of the rose beds and rose-clad arches presented Monet with the agonising problem of his damaged eyesight.
In 1912 Monet was diagnosed with bilateral cataracts that affected one eye more seriously than the other. The crystalline lens of his right eye was becoming opaque and yellowish, initially causing exaggerations in his perception of colour and eventually muddying his vision. To compensate, Monet labelled his paint tubes and worked increasingly from experience and memory. He also maintained a strict order of colours on his palette. The blurring of shapes and detail in his vision can be seen in the broader and more generalised handling of form in his late paintings, and in their often repeated layering of raw colours.
Surgery in 1922 and again in 1923 restored much of the sight in Monet’s right eye, and while at first he found colours too extreme, tinted spectacles helped him resume painting with renewed assurance. With growing confidence he was able to complete his immense Grand Decorations project which, along with the gardens at Giverny, became Monet’s greatest legacy to the world.