Portland Art Museum receives Bank of America funding for restoration of Monet’s Waterlilies

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Waterlilies, 1914-1915, oil on canvas, 63 1/4 in x 71 1/8 in, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 59.16.

Conservation treatment will focus on the removal of a synthetic varnish, helping restore painter Claude Monet’s intended appearance to his masterpiece “Waterlilies.”

The Portland Art Museum (PAM) has been named a 2024 Bank of America Art Conservation Project awardee for the restoration of Claude Monet’s Waterlilies, one of the French painter’s most universally recognized oil-on-canvas paintings. The masterpiece is one of 24 globally significant pieces to receive conservation funding support from the Bank of America program.

Support from Bank of America will facilitate a holistic conservation project focused on returning Waterlilies to Monet’s intended appearance. The conservation project is led by PAM conservator Charlotte Ameringer.  A non-original acrylic resin varnish saturates the paint films, causing the colors to appear darker and more intense. This varnish also imparts an even gloss to the surface. As a result, Monet’s soft, subtle colors, his variations of texture and luminosity, and his intentional emphasis on the painting’s surface are profoundly altered. The removal of this varnish is a complex undertaking and seeks to return Waterlilies to its original appearance as closely as possible.

The community is invited to follow the conservation process over the next seven to eight months on PAM’s website, as well as its social media channels. “We look forward to publicly sharing an important and critical aspect of museum work that is typically kept behind the scenes,” said Ameringer, PAM’s conservator.

The work will take place in the Portland Art Museum’s new conservation lab, part of a campus transformation now underway at the museum. The newly conserved painting will return to public view in late 2025 when the museum’s campus transformation is complete.

Part of a series of approximately 250 paintings of waterlilies (nymphéas in French) that Monet painted in his garden in Giverny, France, over the course of nearly three decades until his death in 1926, the Portland Art Museum’s Waterlilies (1914–15) is regarded as a particularly superb interpretation.  The artist’s son Michel Monet considered it one of the finest paintings that his father ever painted, and it hung in Michel’s dining room for over 35 years. The Museum purchased Waterlilies in 1959, a major acquisition made possible by the proceeds of a highly successful Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at PAM the year before. For 65 years, it has been a visitor favorite and the cornerstone of the museum’s strong Impressionist collection.

“We are very grateful to Bank of America for their generous support for this conservation work,” said Brian Ferriso, Director of the Portland Art Museum. “Bank of America has been a steadfast partner to the Museum for many years, providing crucial support not only for our artistic stewardship but for the Museum’s broader mission of connecting the community through art.”

The Art Conservation Project is one demonstration of Bank of America’s commitment to promoting cultural sustainability and making the arts more accessible. A wide range of support for cultural institutions around the world helps uplift communities and is one of the many ways Bank of America helps drive Responsible Growth. Waterlilies is not the only Claude Monet painting receiving conservation treatment in this year’s cohort of Art Conservation Projects. The Hill-Stead Museum will use its grant from Bank of America to restore three masterpieces in its permanent collection, to include Monet’s Fishing Boats at Sea. In 2019, the Kimball Art Museum announced it was able to purchase a 17th-century giltwood frame for Monet’s Weeping Willow through a 2016 Art Conservation Project grant from the bank. For a full list of museums receiving grants through the 2024 Bank of America Art Conservation Project, please view the 2024 Art Conservation brochure (PDF).

“Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nymphéas) paintings are among the most beloved and recognizable artworks of the 20th century, and the painting in the Portland Art Museum’s collection is an outstanding and cherished example,” said Roger Hinshaw, president, Bank of America Oregon and Southwest Washington. “The fact that this masterpiece is here in Portland is a testament to the powerful role the arts play in helping our community thrive both economically and culturally. Bank of America is honored to partner with PAM in helping realign this piece to the artist’s original intent, so it can continue a legacy of delighting and inspiring all who see it.”

This is the second time a piece in PAM’s collection has been selected for the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. PAM was previously chosen for a 2019 Art Conservation Project for the conservation of the Roy Lichtenstein Brushstrokes, the iconic sculpture in front of the museum on SW Park Avenue. Bank of America is one of PAM’s longstanding partners and has been involved with many projects, including supporting past PAM exhibitions including Jeffrey Gibson: They Come From Fire, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism and Paris 1900: City of Entertainment. Bank of America has also lent works from its private collection to PAM and the museum is a Bank of America Museums on Us Partner, where bank clients can use their debit or credit cards to obtain free entry into the museum the first full weekend of every month.

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