Garden Path at Giverny, 1902 by Claude Monet

Monet's paintings of his water-garden and water-lilies at Giverny occupied him for many years in the latter part of his life and were his last great work. Like the works of Turner in the final stage, they were for a long time misunderstood and unappreciated but similarly revived in esteem in the light of modern reappraisal. By the end of 1890 Monet was making enough from the sales of his pictures to buy his house at Giverny outright and soon after began improvements to the garden which included the formation of a pond from a marshy tract by damming a stream that ran into the river Epte. He had a bridge built over the pond `in Japanese taste' and his first paintings of the water-garden in a series, 1899-1900, give prominence to the bridge with water-lilies beneath and weeping willows, by that time well-grown, around it. These pictures formed a quiet beginning to what was to become an increasingly exciting enterprise.

In the second phase of forty-eight pictures produced between 1903 and 1908, he dispensed with the bridge which had been a somewhat conventional accessory, set his angle of vision nearer to the water surface and composed his picture simply of the water-lilies and reflections in the water, with only a suggestion of trees and other vegetation on the banks in the background. The pond became a sort of magic mirror holding such amazing depth and beauty of color and variety of light as can be appreciated here. More akin to Japan in spirit that the hump-backed bridge was the decorative sense that Monet now displayed in the selection of the areas of blue and green leaf and the touches of white and red in vivid design against the deeps of color to the right and in the foreground of this painting. As the series continued Monet made modifications in his scheme of design; although he used large canvases he limited the number of plants to appear in them and increased their size. Finally he painted them from almost directly overhead, thus eliminating normal perspective, the play of light on the surface place being now the main feature. In this decorative treatment, as may be noticed in other works of the turn of the century, there came a certain suggestion of art nouveau.