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Water Lily Pool

also known as Le Pont Japonais a Giverny, Water Lily Pool, The Japanese Bridge, Ninpheas et Pont Japonais

Artist: Claude Monet
Created: 1900
Dimensions (cm): 101.0 x 89.8
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Art Institute of Chicago, USA

Prior to the waterlilies series, Monet's series paintings were generally representations of a single object under varying atmospheric conditions.  The waterlily paintings, on the other hand, are details of a larger subject.  By focusing on different sections of the pond, and the ever-changing reflective nature of the water, Monet created a series of seemingly infinite variety out of a single subject.

This painting, one of many views of the Japanese bridge that spanned the pond, appears static at first glance, but is actually full of lively action.  This is achieved primarily through two things: the reflections on the water between the lilies, and the interplay of complementary elements.  The reflections undulate with a palpable animation, appearing almost as if they are dancing.  The surface of the water itself alternates rhythmically between lilies and exposed reflective water, creating continuous oscillation between physical objects and reflected simulacra.  Throughout the scene, green complements red, enlivening the foliage around the water.  The gently arching bridge lends a lateral crescendo and decrescendo, complementing and contrasting the horizontal surface of the water.

The weeping willow trees in the background provide a screen against which the bridge is framed, and, along with the shrubs and grasses on the edges of the pond, completely engulf the painting in foliage.  There is no horizon and no vanishing point; the only indication of space outside this microcosm is the glimpse of pinkish twilight sky in the upper left.  The lack of perspective recalls Japanese woodblock prints, of which Monet was an avid collector.  They were certainly influential to his art in the later stages of his career, as this painting clearly shows.


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