Melbourne Winter Masterpieces
Monet’s Garden

The Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The Grand Decorations

Claude Monet
Wisteria (Glycines) (1919–20)
oil on canvas
100.0 x 300.0 cm
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Gift of Michel Monet, 1966 (inv. 5124)
© Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, © Bridgeman-Giraudon / Presse

As Monet became increasingly absorbed by the challenges of painting his water garden, he formed an idea for a series of large panoramic paintings. He envisaged them enveloping the viewer in sensations similar to those he experienced before the quiet mystery and majesty of the lily pond.

In 1909, following a hugely successful exhibition of some forty waterlily paintings at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris, Monet spoke of his dream to create an installation designed to offer meditative repose for the weary: ‘The essence of the motif is the mirror of water whose appearance alters at every moment, thanks to the patches of sky that are reflected in it, and give it its light and movement’. These works would come to be known as the Grand Decorations.

Around this time Monet’s eyesight began to deteriorate and, in addition, he was grieving the deaths of his wife and son Jean. The horrors of the First World War were also imminent. In a state of depression, Monet ceased painting for many months until eventually encouraged by his friend Georges Clemenceau and stepdaughter Blanche to take up this ambitious project. Monet sustained work on the Grand Decorations for some fifteen years, producing over two hundred preparatory works in the process.  Clemenceau later suggested to Monet that the Grand Decorations be donated to the nation. Monet envisaged his panels in large oval salons at the Orangerie des Tuileries in Paris. That building was adapted and the paintings were installed following Monet’s death in 1926.

Claude Monet (1840–1926)
gelatin silver photograph
Private collection
Roger-Viollet, Paris
© Roger-Viollet, Paris/ Bridgeman Art
© Roger-Viollet, Paris/ Bridgeman Art

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