Water Lilies, Harmony in Blue, 1917 by Claude Monet

By the time Monet embarked on his last monumental series of water lily paintings, he had gained critical and commercial success. This gave the artist added freedom to explore motifs of his choice and paint to his own schedule. Although he returned again and again to the water lilies, it was o subject that caused him difficulties, and he worried about the paintings, often reworking them.

In 1914 war was declared and Monet shut himself even further away from the horrors around him, focusing on his water lilies. He began to conceive an idea for a grand decorative scheme, and between 1914 and 1920 was hugely productive, painting a number of extremely large canvases - the size of which he had not worked on since his youthful Salon aspirations.

Here Monet has focused on colour: the clash of green trees as their reflection creeps into the violet-blue depths of the pond's water. He has used small accents of complementary reds, pinks and yellows in the buds of the lilies that sit atop curiously colourless lily pods using expressive, but smooth brushwork.