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Writing about these two groups, Paul Hayes Tucker states: “Despite certain resemblances to those earlier works, each of these new groups is quite distinctive. The various forms of foliage in the views of the house, for example, surge and swirl as if competing for prominence in the scene while the house peers into the fray from behind the tangled brushwork like an inquisitive though somewhat fearful spectator. The vitality of the bushes and trees in these two pictures is repeated in the flower-wrapped pergolas and the far bank in the water-garden paintings, although the intensity of the views of the house is slightly reduced here because of the smaller size and the distance of the fauna…. These three new pond paintings are meditative, mysterious and expansive, commensurate with their Eastern inflection (Monet in the 20th Century (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London & Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1998-99, p. 58).
By 1890, Monet had become financially successful enough to buy the house and large garden at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. With enormous vigor and determination, he swiftly set about transforming the gardens and creating a large pond, in which waterlilies gradually matured. Once the garden was designed according to the artist’s vision, it offered a boundless source of inspiration, and provided the major themes that dominated the last three decades of Monet’s career. Towards the end of his life, he told a visitor to his studio: "It took me some time to understand my water lilies. I planted them purely for pleasure; I grew them with no thought of painting them. A landscape takes more than a day to get under your skin. And then, all at once I had the revelation – how wonderful my pond was – and reached for my palette. I’ve hardly had any other subject since that moment" (quoted in Claude Monet (exhibition catalogue), Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 146).
Once discovered, the subject of waterlilies offered a wealth of inspiration that Monet went on to explore for several decades. His carefully designed garden presented the artist with a micro-cosmos in which he could observe and paint the changes in weather, season and time of day, as well as the ever-changing colors and patterns. John House wrote: “The water garden in a sense bypassed Monet’s long searches of earlier years for a suitable subject to paint. Designed and constantly supervised by the artist himself, and tended by several gardeners, it offered him a motif that was at the same time natural and at his own command - nature re-designed by a temperament. Once again Monet stressed that his real subject when he painted was the light and weather” (J. House, Monet: Nature into Art, Newhaven, 1986, p. 31).
Monet often approached his subjects at Giverny in series, a method that he had developed in his high Impressionist works and perfected in his famous series paintings of the early 1890s, such as those of haystacks, poplar trees and the façade of Rouen cathedral. Monet fascinated over the varying effects of seasonal light upon these subjects. In Giverny, subjects such as the Japanese footbridge or, as in the present work, a garden arch provided the artist with an anchor for a given series. Monet thus paid exacting attention to the details of the garden, including maintaining the pond and plants in a perfect state for painting. Elizabeth Murray writes, "The water gardener would row out in the pond in a small green flat-bottomed boat to clean the entire surface. Any moss, algae, or water grasses which grew from the bottom had to be pulled out. Monet insisted on clarity. Next the gardener would inspect the water lilies themselves. Any yellow leaves or spent blossoms were removed. If the plants had become dusty from vehicles passing by on the Chemin du Roy, the dirt road nearby, the gardener would take a bucket of water and rinse off the leaves and flowers, ensuring that the true colors and beauty would shine forth" (E. Murray, Monet, Late Paintings of Giverny from the Musée Marmottan, New Orleans, 1995, p. 53).
In 1908 Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier visited Monet at Giverny and gave a thoughtful description of Monet’s working methods for the review Fermes et Châteaux: "In this mass of intertwined verdure and foliage… the lilies spread their round leaves and dot the water with a thousand red, pink, yellow and white flowers… The Master often comes here, where the bank of the pond is bordered with thick clumps of irises. His swift, short strokes place brushloads of luminous color as he moves from one place to another, according to the hour… The canvas he visited this morning at dawn is not the same as the canvas we find him working on in the afternoon. In the morning, he records the blossoming of the flowers, and then, once they begin to close, he returns to the charms of the water itself and its shifting reflections, the dark water that trembles beneath the somnolent leaves of the water-lilies" (quoted in D. Wildenstein, Monet or The Triumph of Impressionism, Cologne, 2003, p. 384). The unending variety of forms and tones that the ponds provided allowed Monet to work consistently on a number of canvases at the same time. With large scale and a wide-ranged palette, Les Arceaux de roses, Giverny is a unique and grand statement of adoration for this artist's haven.
Distinct from his earlier, pre-1910 depictions of his garden at Giverny, these later compositions are remarkably daring. The brushstrokes are heavily laden and equally applied across the surface of the canvas. This painterly technique brings the eye to the surface of the canvas and contends with the illusions of a receding space and a differentiation between the physical properties of the water, foliage and structure.
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