The Nymphéas Cycle

Exhibition in Paris from 6th May to 2nd August 1999


In London this year, in March, people had to stand in a queue for two hours to see the Monet exhibition. In Paris, in May, there is an hour’s wait to get into the Orangerie Gallery to see this last Monet exhibition of the "millenium ". The " Nymphéas cycle " is on view until 2nd August 1999.
Our forum "Questions de l’homme " is offering you a little survey of these " Nymphéas " in order to whet your appetite and make you want to come and see them, now or later, at the Orangerie or at the Musée Marmottan-Monet in Paris.


 Who was Monet ?

Claude Monet was born in Normandy (France), in 1840. From his early childhood he turned to painting. In Paris he soon made his mark and then became famous.

He was a member of the founding group of " Impressionists " together with Cézanne, Degas, B. Morisot, Pisarro, Renoir, Sisley and other artists who organised an exhibition in 1874 at the studio of the photographer Nadar in Paris. The name of " Impressionist " given to this group came from the title of Monet's picture " Impression, soleil levant ".

The Impressionist school broke new ground in painting, attempting to portray on canvas the impressions of the artist, his vision, his sensitivity. The overall result was a flow of colours, at times fluid, sometimes " pointillistes ", or at times dabbed.
From 1886 onwards, the movement known as " synthétisme ", with Gauguin, Van Gogh, Emile Bernard and the school of Pont Aven (see Questions de l’homme, Pont Aven & Nizon) contributed a new conception. Then came the Nabis (word meaning " prophets ") with, in particular, Maurice Denis (see the Musée du Prieuré in Saint Germain en Laye.

As for Claude Monet, he continued his research in the Impressionist style. This endeavour achieved a high point in art and modernity.

In 1883, he set himself up in a little estate in the country, in Giverny, in the valley of the Seine. He was to become the owner of the property in 1893 and here he specially contrived a " water garden " whose water lilies, iris and willows were to become known throughout the world thanks to the paintings of the gardener.

In 1885, the first of these paintings appeared under the title of " jardins d’eau " (water gardens in English). Then came the theme of the Nymphéas (a type of water lily planted by Monet in his little ornamental lake).
In 1897 Monet had the idea of creating a vast decorative ensemble into the impressions of which the spectator would be plunged. This idea progressed further and further in the Monet-Giverny-Nymphéas epic.

In 1918, he made a gift to France of the entire work of the Nymphéas in its final form, in gratitude for the sacrifices of the war. The paintings were destined to be placed in a special gallery, the Orangerie, in the beautiful historic centre of Paris.

Monet developed cataracts in both eyes. It was with this diminished vision that he reworked, destroyed or finished the huge mural decorations of the " cycle des Nymphéas ". He died in 1926. At the opening of the Orangerie Gallery, the public was rather disconcerted by the tremendous difference between the styles of " cubism " and of the architectural decoration of the period and the complete Impressionism of the unframed landscapes into which Monet invites us to immerse ourselves.

Since then, the passage of time has proved Monet victorious, as he had doubtless foreseen. Through him, Impressionism, beyond fashion and periods , has effected its way into eternity.

Jacques Naylis

For further information :

Exhibition catalogue, 320p. 28.97 EUR - 190.03 FRF, éditions rmn

" Pont Aven et Nizon "



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