Monet’s Water-Lilied Defense

Sarah Bietz


Claude Monet donated many of his water-lily triptych paintings to the French government after WWI, leading critics to theorize that his artistic motivation was a patriotic love for his war-torn homeland. This paper explores other theories on Monet’s motivation to create the works. Drawing from the analysis of art historian Tamar Garb in her paper, “Painterly Plentitude”, I will argue that we should not overlook the significance of the water-lily series as Monet’s final work. The painter’s health was deteriorating with his increasing age, and yet his last project was his most ambitious. Applying Garb’s thesis to Monet’s final series, it appears that his fascination with painting water, the association he made between water and death, and Monet’s choice of huge canvases all suggest that the paintings were an intensely personal project, rather than patriotic.

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