Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1919, Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 79 inches, Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Seeing Nature: The Water-Lily Pond

With less than a month left to experience Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, we’ll be posting essay excerpts from the exhibition catalog written by Portland Art Museum curators.

The Water-Lily Pond (Le bassin aux nymphéas), Claude Monet
By Brian Ferriso, Museum Director and Chief Curator

The Water-Lily Pond is one of more than two hundred fifty water lily paintings produced by Monet. Earlier works in the series depict recognizable locations, with decipherable trees, water, sky, and a distinct horizon line. The later works, which include this one, are abstract. There is no horizon and no sense of depth. Trees, plants, sky, and water are all given equal attention in an amalgamation of tone and shadow. The Water-Lily Pond inverts the rightside-up orientation of the traditional landscape: here the viewer looks down into the sky, which is reflected in water that acts as a mirror.