Monet’s water wars

Claude Monet
French 1840–1926
The bridge over the waterlily pond 1900
oil on canvas
89.8 x 101.0 cm
Art Institute Chicago, Illinois
Mr and Mrs Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1933 (inv. 1933.441)
Photo: Art Institute Chicago, Illinois
Photo: Art Institute Chicago, Illinois
Claude Monet
French 1840–1926
Waterlilies, evening effect (Nymphéas, effet du soir) (1897)
oil on canvas
73.0 x 100.0 cm
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Gift of Michel Monet, 1966 (inv. 5167)
© Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, © Bridgeman-Giraudon / Presse

In 1893 Monet purchased a parcel of land across the railroad track from his garden and set about planning the construction of a large pond. He wanted to dig a channel from the Ru, a stream running into the Epte, which is itself a tributary of the Seine, to feed his pond and to build two wooden bridges, one across the diverted stream and the other across the pond itself. In March he applied to the local council for permission. The council sent civil engineers to inspect the site and after they raised some objections, Monet gave up in a huff.

 

Shortly afterwards, he was persuaded to apply again, but this time the objectors were his neighbors, with whom he had always had difficult dealings. They were worried that the introduced waterlilies and other exotic water plants would invade the river downstream and choke the irrigation canals.

 

In July Monet wrote a withering letter to the district commissioner and ten days later he received permission. Work started immediately and by October the now-famous Japanese-inspired bridge over the lily pond had been built.

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