Just beside Place de la Concorde, nestled within the trees of the Tuileries Gardens, the Water Lilies cycle of the Musée de l’Orangerie stands out as the magnum opus of Claude Monet’s (1840–1926) final thematic series. Since its inauguration on May 17, 1927, the Parisian gallery has housed two elliptical rooms specifically built to display a collection of the artist’s monumental murals on its curving white walls.1 Glued directly and permanently to these walls through the adhesive technique of marouflage, each of these eight canvases depicts the water garden of Monet’s bucolic estate at Giverny under shifting conditions of light and atmosphere.2
While painted at his Giverny studio without an official expositional venue in mind, Monet produced these massive images with an overt awareness of the all-surrounding configuration in which he wanted them presented to the public. The murals’ colossal dimensions, however, rendered them difficult to accommodate within the confines of a traditional museum or gallery setting.3 Paul Léon, director of the Administration des Beaux-Arts at the time of the L’Orangerie project, wrote in his memoir: “The work was of a difficult presentation. It required an oval room of specific dimensions, to place the panels side by side in the order that [Monet] conceived. The container would have to be built for the contained.”4 After failing to secure the ample land behind the Hôtel Biron (presently the grounds of the Rodin Museum), Monet commissioned Louvre architect Camille Lefèvre and the pair turned their eyes to the large albeit narrow space within the Orangerie des Tuileries.5
Per the collaborative design conceived by Monet and Lefèvre, visitors first enter a vestibule of soft white walls, bare and smooth, with daylight pouring down from a paned oculus in the ceiling. They then pass into the first room of the Water Lilies gallery, measuring roughly sixty-eight feet in length (from east to west) and about forty-one feet in width (from north to south), and immediately encounter four murals, all two meters in height and aligned at the same distance from the floor (Figs. 1-2).6 In these compressed, horizonless images, painted clusters of lily pads caress the pondwater’s rippling surface as iridescent lily blossoms bespeckle the waterscape. While both rooms share the same width between the north and south gallery walls, the second room is significantly longer than the first, measuring about seventy-six feet along its central axis.7 In three of the second room’s four murals, the trunks of willow trees are represented as robust yet twisting vertical columns (Figs. 3-4). Their trunks and branches stretch past the ends of the canvases, as fronds drape downward at varying lengths from the unpainted branches, appearing to billow in a gentle breeze. Unlike smaller paintings of the Water Lilies series produced in previous decades, the sheer magnitude, size, and scale of these murals enabled Monet to explore the lateral scope of his Giverny pond, offering his viewership a larger breadth of cloud and sky reflected in the crystalline water.8 This macroscopic viewpoint of Monet’s aquatic garden results in a sense of complete immersion for the viewer, wherein the immaterial, perceptual realm of the mind meets the material, physical realm of painting and architecture as bolstered by the space of the gallery.
Rather than dwell in aesthetic or biographical analyses of the paintings themselves, as several historians have before, I propose a previously uninvestigated outlook on this unique artistic site. In the pages that follow, I argue Monet’s Water Lilies gallery at the L’Orangerie serves as a case study of proto-installation art through what we may call the gallery’s “phenomenology of display.” While most studies of installation art focus on its many varied manifestations in the mid-to-late twentieth century, fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century modernists, such as Nabis members Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis, produced works that foregrounded questions of display, site-specificity, and viewer experience, all of which can be considered constituent components of proto-installation art.9 The ellipse-shaped rooms of the L’Orangerie gallery, specifically designed to house Monet’s Water Lilies, should be understood in this context.10 Their phenomenology of display enables the murals and the tailored architectural space within which they cohabit to operate in unison to evoke an immersive, visuomotor experience for the visitor.11 The Water Lilies gallery can be thus envisaged as proto-installation art because its custom display practice deploys immersive stratagems that amalgamate the material environment of the physical gallery space and the perceptual field of the visitor’s sensorium.
In the first section of this article, I historically situate the L’Orangerie gallery in relation to the proto-installation artforms of the panorama rotundas of the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the bodily experience as paramount to the meaning of these symbioses of art and architecture. Based on Nabis proto-installation praxis, the second section provides a focused account of the L’Orangerie gallery and its emphasis on experience through the paintings’ proximal relations to one another and the merger of the murals through their tailored display. This section will draw on the similarities between the immersive strategies of the panorama rotunda and those employed by Monet and Lefèvre for their own panoramic project at the L’Orangerie. The third and final section delves into an aesthetic critique of the Water Lilies murals’ formalist qualities—their textures, composition, and edges—and how these elements were carefully crafted by Monet in dialogue with and response to illusionistic conventions of earlier panorama painting.
But firstly, how did visitors to the Water Lilies gallery, from its earliest reviewers to later scholars, respond to the gallery’s strategy of display? Answers emerge within the literature released around the time the L’Orangerie opened its doors to the Parisian public. One account penned by historian Louis Gillet describes the L’Orangerie Water Lilies installation in his book Trois variations sur Claude Monet [Three Perspectives on Claude Monet]. Published in June 1927, just a month after the gallery’s unveiling,12 Gillet writes:
Two large ovular rooms, running in the direction of the Seine, two lakes, two rings ingeniously chained to each other, precede a vestibule, ovular as well, but smaller and of different orientation; nothing but curves, ellipses which the floor pavement repeats in a muted manner; bare surfaces, almost without moldings, made only to support the aquatic décor […]: all this has an air of liquid movement, elongated fluidity that miraculously lends itself to this slow belt, to this zone of floating, flowing reveries.13
Gillet’s description emphasizes these paintings as an experience of “liquid movement” and “floating, flowing reveries” in the distinct space they occupy, rather than as motionless art objects hung on a wall solely for visual consumption. Over fifty years after his testimony, art theorist Rosalind Krauss discusses the creative efforts nineteenth-century artists began to invest into the spaces of exhibition for their artworks. In an article published in 1982, she offers her take on the “exhibitionality” of Monet’s “late waterlilies,” a classification under which the L’Orangerie murals fall:
The synonymy of landscape and wall […] is thus an advanced moment in a series of operations in which aesthetic discourse resolves itself around a representation of the very space that grounds it institutionally. Needless to say, this constitution of the work of art as a representation of its own space of exhibition is, in fact, what we know as the history of modernism.14
This “synonymy” between the L’Orangerie Water Lilies and their exhibition space builds upon Clement Greenberg’s argument that the history of modern art chronicles the transition away from realist illusions of depth toward an overt addressment of pictorial flatness, where painting increasingly intimates its own two-dimensionality through gestural applications of form and color.15 Greenberg applies this assertion to Monet’s Water Lilies series in his 1956 essay “The Later Monet,” in which he explicates “atmosphere gave much in terms of color but took away even more in terms of three-dimensional form. […] The broken, prismatic color tended to make the balance between the illusion [of] depth and the design on the surface precarious.”16 Greenberg’s advocacy for the Water Lilies as a forerunner to the anti-figurative aesthetic of Abstract Expressionism has long dominated discourse devoted to Monet’s later waterscapes, while little to no scholarly attention has been afforded to its methods of display as critical to their study. The L’Orangerie murals were not regarded as separate, individual paintings plastered upon walls. As Gillet’s testimonial suggests, they were perceived as a singular, unified arrangement, each brought together through a structural fusion of canvas and winding wall. Essentially, Krauss’ abovementioned claim neglects to appreciate that this multimedia artistic site emblematizes an artist-architect collaboration that existed long before the days of modernity and expands well beyond the historiographical bounds of modernism.
So how was the relationship between the Water Lilies cycle and its specific display conceptualized at the time of the gallery’s opening? Would visitors have thought it a novel multimedia phenomenon? Or would they have perceived it, either consciously or subconsciously, as part of a larger heritage of crafting an immersive experience through the union of art and architecture? The L’Orangerie gallery cannot simply be categorized as an “art installation.” Monet and Lefèvre’s display plan for the Water Lilies murals, which combined the illusory conventions of the panorama rotunda with the ambient devices of installation art, should be recognized as an innovative intervention into the discourses of display that shaped the period. Evident from Gillet and Krauss’ aforementioned observations, the L’Orangerie gallery’s space design and configuration merit a thorough, nuanced analysis, one which has been hitherto absent from the annals of Monet scholarship.
The Panorama Rotunda
Scottish painter Robert Barker, incarcerated by his creditors in the 1780s, is rumored to have found inspiration for the first panorama in the vertical light cascading down the wall of his prison cell.17 He patented a process called la nature à coup d’oeil18 [“nature at a glance”], by which a geographical vista, without any definitive beginning or endpoint, could be depicted upon a 360-degree circular canvas in precise perspective within a largescale cylindrical structure.19 The system of multi-perspectival diagonals on a concave surface made the image, when viewed from an elevated platform, appear undistorted and lifelike, thereby bringing the illusion of reality as close as possible to the experience of reality.20 After rigorous experimentation in Edinburgh, Barker brought his novel illusory technique to London, where the first permanent panorama rotunda was opened in Leicester Square on May 14, 1793.21 He collaborated with architect Robert Mitchell on the project, who designed the rotunda as a two-storied hall in which two panoramic paintings could be concurrently shown in separate rooms.
Printed in 1801, a transverse cross-sectional aquatint by Mitchell anatomizes the inventive architecture of the Leicester Square Panorama (Fig. 5).22 Via the staircase in the lower right corner, the visitor would pass through the entranceway and reach a viewing platform surrounded by a balustrade. This physical partition would serve the double purpose of positioning visitors both at a distance from the picture plane, preserving the perspectival illusionism of the image, as well as where the upper and lower edges of the panoramic painting could not be visually distinguished.23 At this spot, the visitor would be completely surrounded by the painting that clung along the circular walls of the building. The painting in the second circular room, reached by the stairwell on the left, was exhibited on the upper floor.24 While this auxiliary feature was made extinct in subsequent rotunda designs as the panorama grew in popularity and demand, visitors to Leicester Square were nonetheless mesmerized by this new cultural venue, the likes of which had never before been encountered. One such visitor documented their enthrallment for posterity:
No device, to which the art of delineation has given birth, has approached so nearly to the power of placing the scene itself in the presence of the spectator. It is not magic, but magic cannot more effectually delude the eye or induce a belief of the actual existence of the objects seen. There is a kind of infinitude in the form of a circle, which excludes beginning and ending; there is a kind of reality which arises from the spectator’s ability to inspect every part in turn […].25
The panorama rotunda was a technological innovation that, as Jonathan Crary exposits, “uprooted” traditional modes of experiencing visual culture, which were beforehand concentrated on a localized, fixed point of view.26 Yet the panorama rotunda created a space in which a viewer was placed in the center of a round room and made to feel as though they were in the middle of an enveloping natural or urban landscape. Writing of Barker’s inventiveness, Denise Blake Oleksijczuk contends rather than looking “outward” to an external vanishing point customary of classical linear perspective, placing the viewer in the middle of a 360-degree pictorial representation, as opposed to in front of it, allowed visitors to adopt an internal, centralized position in relation to a panoramic image that employed conventions of externalized, perspectival illusionism.27 Since it was impossible to see the all-surrounding imagery all at once, visitors were compelled, as Oleksijczuk states, to “move around to see [the entire image], an experience in which their eyes and the actions [of] their muscles and joints gave them an acute awareness of the position and movement of their bodies.”28 This conspicuous evocation of the visitor’s proprioception—the body’s capability to perceive its own position and movement within a physical space—is one of the defining cornerstones of the panorama rotunda experience.
The panorama rotunda’s early success was based on what Vanessa R. Schwartz calls “the project of verisimilitude,” that is, the immersive realism of the panorama’s circular point of view.29 With this mission borne in mind, Barker’s material and spatial techniques were modified by subsequent panorama designers to achieve even greater illusionistic realism. The fanfare eventually traveling across the Channel, French panoramists sought to guide visitors “perceptually closer” to the action represented in the ambient paintings.30 In 1831, military painter Jean-Charles Langlois opened an enormous rotunda, the largest in Paris at the time, 125 feet in diameter and forty-nine feet in height, at 14 rue des Marais-du-Temple, behind the present Place de la République.31 It was inaugurated with a panoramic painting of The Battle of Navarino, a military struggle in which the combined French, English, and Russian fleets, in support of Greek independence, defeated the Ottoman navy in 1827.32
Langlois catered to traditional conventions of realism to depict the battle imagery, complete with depictions of receding ships as they approached the Mediterranean horizon, smoke, cannon fire, and vessels aflame beneath a clear blue sky. As for the panorama rotunda’s internal design, Langlois replaced the typical observation platform at the panorama’s center with the poop deck of a frigate that had truly taken part in the naval battle: the Scipion, known to the French citizenry for its feat of arms.33 With the addition of the ship, Langlois led visitors up to this “deck” through a series of “cabins” and passageways, rife with nautical equipment and decor. This process enabled the visitor to adjust their eyes to the dim light in the rotunda and to create an immersive “naval” aesthetic before they reached the platform.34 Langlois further reinforced the panorama’s illusion of reality by using gas lighting to simulate fire and mechanical ventilation to feign a sea breeze.
Germain Bapst’s 1889 text Essai sur l’histoire des panoramas et dioramas [Essay on the History of Panoramas and Dioramas] remarks on the heightened illusory realism of Langlois’ panorama, proclaiming he “transported the spectator to the center of the action, while his predecessors had left the visitor isolated and removed from the spectacle represented as the crow flies.”35 Furthermore, Bapst explains how Langlois replaced the ordinary glass of the roof skylight with frosted glass to negate any shadows that may otherwise be cast upon the canvas.36 It was ultimately the manner in which the Battle of Navarino painting was displayed, incorporating visual, haptic, and auditory stimulation, that maximized a sense of immersion and emphasized the panorama as a bodily experience. The architectural insularity of the panorama rotunda eliminates any visual or proprioceptive referent to the world outside that represented in the circular painting, which optimizes the illusory effect of the visitor’s augmented visual experience.
Funded by industrial companies and more accessible to the working class, panorama rotundas proliferated throughout the city and became an integral part of Paris’s entertainment culture for almost a century.37 The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) breathed new life into panoramic painting when it was capitalized for propagandistic purposes, and the French capital was eventually consumed by what an 1881 article termed panoramania.38 Monet was in his early forties when the panorama fascination took hold of Paris. While there is no extant proof of any visits to panorama rotundas across the city, Monet certainly encountered them through newsprint, magazines, or commercial advertisements. It is therefore entirely plausible Monet was inclined to experience the panorama craze that had long since taken the Parisian people by storm. He was at the very least personally acquainted with repurposed panorama rotunda architecture. The seventh Exhibition of Independent Artists, which opened on March 1, 1882, and in which Monet showcased thirty-five artworks, was held at 251 rue Saint-Honoré, in the palace built for the panorama The Battle of Reichschoffen, designed by esteemed panorama architect Charles Garnier.39 While his conception for a Water Lilies installation, described as a “circular room” to Maurice Guillemot in 1898, was radically different from the usual historical or geographical subject matter of panoramic painting, it may have been the panorama rotunda’s scale and enveloping illusionism, specially lit and removed from the context of the home or museum, that inspired Monet.40 This rapprochement is further confirmed in 1927 by critic François Thiébault-Sisson, who attests Monet “dreamt of a vast rotunda wherein his canvases could be housed in the style of a panorama.”41
Almost thirty years after their apogee, Monet would revive certain techniques of the panorama rotunda’s phenomenology of display, such as its customizable architectural design and all-surrounding painted imagery, in service to his own artistic objective. Liberated from the constraints of painterly realism that had bound traditional panoramists, Monet’s Water Lilies gallery at the L’Orangerie readapted the spatial, material, and proprioceptive tactics of the panorama rotunda as conceived by Barker, Langlois, and their architectural partners, and ushered in a new epoch of proto-installation art. Much like the panorama rotundas of nineteenth-century Paris, Monet’s Water Lilies gallery was painted as well as constructed to be immersive.42
The L’Orangerie Gallery
Panorama rotundas were designed in service of creating an ambient illusion for the beguilement of their visitors.43 They were not distinguished as art objects within a larger museum framework but rather experienced as a singular entity. In the final decades of his life, Monet called the monumental canvases of his Water Lilies series his grandes décorations. Grace Seiberling expounds how at the end of the nineteenth century, a décoration referred to a type of “decorative” painting that was large in its dimensions, free of academic demands for realistic illusionism, and destined for a specific architectural setting.44 Pondering the works of the Nabis decorative artists of the 1890s, Katherine M. Kuenzli reports these décorations were “site-specific installation[s]” that “formed all-encompassing and permanent environments for their patrons; some series remain[ing] in situ for as many as thirty years.”45 Seiberling and Kuenzli’s descriptors can be applied to the L’Orangerie Water Lilies cycle: largescale, non-realist paintings showcased in a physical site specifically built to have them permanently exhibited in an all-encompassing fashion. The purpose of Monet’s meticulous consideration for the murals’ manner of display and their interaction with one another is twofold. Not only does it harken to the immersive panorama rotunda tradition, but also speaks to his forward-thinking ideas of proto-installation art, or rather, not art as representation, but art as environment.46
Pursuant to Monet’s demands in preserving the Water Lilies cycle’s phenomenology of display, no other artwork—either painting or sculpture—could be added to the L’Orangerie gallery by later curators, no modification of the arrangement of the panels could ever be authorized, and the canvases could never be sold into other collections.47 Since the custom-built space in which the Water Lilies are displayed would be meaningless without the paintings for which it was created, one can say Monet’s murals are, to borrow from Kuenzli, very much in situ, for they reside and are plastered in permanence to the L’Orangerie walls as opposed to hung with precarity.48 The Water Lilies gallery, as a site-specific architectural setting, is and has always been the murals’ original and only context. On the day of the gallery’s opening, its sole intention was to display Monet’s murals, just as the sole purpose of the panorama rotunda was to fulfill the illusory objective of the landscape contained and showcased therein.
Over the past ninety years, visitors to the L’Orangerie have walked from the building’s main entrance to the posterior half of the building. They cross the gallery’s entranceway and enter a small windowless vestibule, elliptical in its shape, with, as Monet’s first architect Louis Bonnier aspired, “intentionally reduced proportions and lighting.”49 Lefèvre’s early floorplans from January 1922 show the curving walls of the vestibule, similar to those which hold Monet’s murals (Fig. 6).50 This intermediary area serves as a perceptual transition for the visitor, to permit their senses of sight and proprioception to adjust to the controlled, alternate conditions of light and space ahead. This technique proves akin to the nineteenth-century panorama rotunda corridors, often long and plunged in limited lighting, that led to the center of a monumental panorama display.51 This introductory architectural feature in both cases serves as a transition between exterior and interior space and light, eases these perceptual changes, and heightens the immersive effects of the artwork it precedes.
Once in the vestibule, visitors then migrate through either one of two curving passageways to the left and right, mirroring two other passageways connecting the first and second rooms of the gallery as well. There are pragmatic and perceptual reasons Lefèvre and Monet would have designed two pairs of curving passageways rather than linear ones. First, it optimizes the negative floorspace between the elliptical walls of the Water Lilies gallery rooms and the linear exterior walls of the museum. Second, it maximizes the amount of gallery wall space needed to display to Water Lilies cycle. Third, having the visitor move through these curved tunnels hints at the impending curving directionality of their corporeal movement once they enter the gallery rooms. Finally, once inside the gallery rooms, these curved passages obstruct all references to the outside world.52 As with the architectural layout of the panorama rotunda, any space exterior to the gallery space is impossible to see once the visitor has entered the first room, magnifying the insularity of the space and the gallery’s immersive ambiance.
Like those in the vestibule, the gallery rooms’ walls are smooth and unpresumptuous, with simple moldings running above the murals and along the ground, removing the sharp right angle between the walls and the floor and accentuating the overall curvature of the space. The ceilings are comprised of a large vellum sheet that canopies both rooms, which filters the sunlight passing through the double-paned skylight and into the gallery (Fig. 7). The elongated edifice of the L’Orangerie was erected along Paris’s historical axis and runs parallel with the trajectory of the sun, guaranteeing the erstwhile greenhouse would receive a maximal amount of daily sunlight.53 These geographic coordinates would prove advantageous for Monet, whose entire artistic practice was committed to sensory recordings of nature in relation to natural light.54 The diffused, scattered luminesce created by the skylight and canopy ensures the room is imbued with just enough daylight to draw out the potent vibrancy of the pigments in the murals’ colors. Reducing the risk of unwanted shadow being cast upon the paintings, this optical trick also circumvents any potential photobleaching of the Water Lilies’ colors, which would otherwise diminish the intricacies of their hue and value if exposed to a direct light source.55 Similar to nineteenth-century panorama rotunda architecture, the L’Orangerie vellum canopy resembles in its functionality Langlois’ frosted glass skylight for his display of The Battle of Navarino: to eliminate shadows that fall upon the canvas of his panorama painting.56 It is likely Monet and Lefèvre took influence from this panoramist lighting strategy to heighten the immersive experience of their installation.
All the murals in the Water Lilies gallery rooms are two meters in height and installed approximately two feet off the floor.57 Their low placement in relation to the visitor’s body, coupled with the fact that the murals surpass most people in height, maximizes the sensation of immersion, whereby the visitor feels they may tumble in the vast imagery and plunge into the polychromatic pond. Taking in all parts of the monumental cycle at once proves difficult, even from a distanced viewpoint. This challenge thus entices the visitor to register the different sections of the murals in succession.58 Speaking of his Wheat Stacks series exhibition in 1891, Monet told a visitor that the paintings “only acquire their full value by the comparison and the succession of the whole series,” highlighting these artworks were to be viewed together in order to observe a gradient of colors that record the changing hours of the day.59 While these easel paintings were dispersed and the series fragmented, the Water Lilies gallery survives intact in the precise arrangement Monet intended. Each mural represents a discrete moment in time while also participating in a larger temporal sequence courtesy of their physical connection to each other.
In his book Art and Visual Perception, Rudolf Arnheim states: “All gradients have the power to create depth, and gradients of brightness are among the most efficient. This is true for spatial settings, such as interiors and landscapes, but also for single objects.”60 The Water Lilies gallery qualifies on all these criteria as an interior space depicting a 360-degree waterscape, as well as a display of enormous paintings. The gallery murals are physically interlinked by the space they share, both geometrically through their shared height and position on the gallery walls, as well as through specific color relationships. These color relations, the “gradients of brightness” Arnheim characterizes, evince themselves in the specific arrangement of the Water Lilies cycle in both rooms of the L’Orangerie gallery. When the murals’ architectural interaction with one another is observed, the resulting effect is a spectral belt of color value: an optical gradient of relative brightness and darkness of color that allows the visitor’s gaze to freely flow around the unified artwork, prompting visuomotor stimulation and a sense of immersion within Monet’s art environment.61
In both rooms of the gallery, the color values at the ends of the murals enable the visitor’s eyes to drift along from one painting to the next without any perceptual disruption. Despite physical interruptions between the canvases that would not have existed in the paintings of panorama rotundas, the Water Lilies murals are of equal height, and their ends flank and abut one another. This proximity permits the visitor’s attention to flow from mural to mural without any effort or damage to their visual experience. For example, along the northern wall of the first room, the left and right registers of the mural Clouds (Fig. 1 to the left; Fig. 2 to the right) are distinctively darker, with their deep greens and violets, as compared to its center register, with its lighter blues and pinks. These darker ends of Clouds adjoin the right side of Setting Sun (Fig. 2 at the center) to the west and the left side of Green Reflections (Fig. 1 at the center) to the east, both of which are dominated by dark, deep shades of green, blue, and violet.
A spectral belt of color value is also apparent in the second room of the gallery. Along the eastern wall, Two Willows (Fig. 3 in the middle) possesses a principal color schema of light pinks, blues, and shades of lilac, while on the opposing, western side, Reflections of Willows (Fig. 4 in the middle) is enriched with deep blues and violets. The murals along the northern and southern walls of this room act as color value intermediaries, with their lighter shades of blues and pinks in the watery reflections juxtaposed with the darker greens, ochres, and reds of the willow tree’s bark. This phenomenon demonstrates the existence of a continuous, spectral belt of color value that compels the visitor’s vision around the rooms continuously without a definitive point of beginning or end. This sensation triggers a strong experience of liquescent, visual movement and perceptual disorientation, the apex of the gallery’s tactics of immersion. Similar to the panorama rotunda phenomenon expressed by Oleksijczuk, as the visitor’s eyes and head move, their body is actively engaged through awareness of muscle and joint movement to register and absorb the all-surrounding watery imagery.
In an article published in 1909 by the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Roger Marx writes that in the Water Lilies series, Monet “finds his pleasure in the enjoyment experienced, throughout the day, in the viewing of a single site.”62 This statement well encapsulates the fused temporal and spatial parameters of the Water Lilies gallery experience. Advancing this notion of the L’Orangerie Water Lilies as a holistic experience, critic François Monod wrote a review for the journal L’Art et les Artistes in June 1927, wherein he describes Monet’s paintings within the site’s “enveloping” display:
In each of the two rooms of the Orangerie, a foggy morning effect and twilight effect occupy the ends of the ellipse; on the long sides shine effects of full light during the hours of midday. The only concrete elements of the spectacle are the floating petals of the water-lilies, flames of purple and gold, which, on the large sides, frame the long plunging views, two thin trunks of weeping willows, and a few twigs of their foliage trembling in the breeze. The spectator is enveloped in a bath of aerial quivering, damp moirure, and flickers of clarity.63
Monod’s words epitomize the intended and realized outcome of the gallery’s phenomenology of display. They do not differentiate the specific murals of the room but rather insinuate how they relate to one another to form a singular perceptual phenomenon, in a “kind of infinitude” not dissimilar to what was observed of Barker’s panorama rotunda a century earlier. The seriality of these in situ paintings offers an altered perception of time, for when viewing the L’Orangerie murals together, the visitor receives the sense that different moments in time—morning, noon, afternoon, dusk, and back to morning—meld into a simultaneous continuum, and in consequence render the experience of time graspable through the experience of space.64 In proto-installation art, be it the panorama rotunda or L’Orangerie gallery, the art and architecture it inhabits mesh into one inseparable entity. The visitor, surrounded by interior walls, perceives and experiences exterior tranquility.
The Water Lilies Murals
Unlike the panorama paintings of Barker and Langlois, from which visitors were kept at a strategic distance, visitors to the L’Orangerie gallery have been able to inspect the Water Lilies murals at close range. While the paintings of panorama rotundas used thin, tight brushwork to maximize their illusion through hyperdetailed realism, Monet’s application of paint is rigorous, forceful, and tactile, despite the murals’ ethereal imagery and delicate color schemes. His diligent execution of what Robert Herbert calls “texture-strokes” creates a complex meshwork of color relations in service of a deceptive impression of spontaneity, or an illusion of instantaneity.65 In any given region of these paintings, a visitor will notice an extensive complex of coats of paint, colorations, and orientations of brushstrokes (Figs. 8-9). Even in the most unassuming spot, visitors may find a plethora of pastel shades: warm yellows, soft pinks, and rich blues, greens, and violets. These canvases are covered with a luscious incrustation of several layers of paint atop one another.66
According to Charles M. Mount’s biography of the artist, Monet often used blotting paper to absorb the oil from the paints for his late Water Lilies canvases and did not thin his paints with turpentine.67 The resultant low binder concentration produced a dense, pasty paint that was elastic and more difficult to spread and manipulate along the canvases’ weave. This viscosity led to shorter, wider brushstrokes, as the thick paint could not be fluidly dragged or smeared across great lengths of canvas. The individual colorized textures overlay and pass through each other in a myriad of juxtapositions, whereby adjacent colors interplay and enhance one another’s vibrancy.68 This type of examination contrasts starkly with their observation from afar, and it proves intriguing that such solid brushwork alludes to liquescence when contemplated at a distance.
The paintings run through a broad palette of color contrasts, with which Monet played in many modulations, such as light-dark, warm-cold, and complementary colors.69 Coarse areas of texture alternate with dabbing and hatching, where two or more colors can be seen within a single brushstroke. Monet’s rubbing of pasty pigments on top of dried, pastose layerings produces a broken, rough appearance, with streaks of paint so granulose that subsequent swift, thinner strokes would not cover its ridges or penetrate its crevices.70 The final result is a canvas of saturated pigmentations and heavy impasto. The incrustations of paint, layer atop layer, texture upon texture, and color over color, summon to the visitor’s consciousness Monet’s hand and very physical painterly process (Fig. 10).
The raw, painterly surface of these murals gives rise to formless reflections of gentle light that almost mimic the “natural” shimmer on the surface of the pond.71 The conflict between the physical, uneven texture of the paint against the diaphanous fluidity of the lily pond invites a strong bodily awareness through the evocation of tactility, echoing the thoughts of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty: “tactile experience adheres to the surface of [the] body […] space itself is known through [the] body.”72 The Water Lilies murals’ topography of paint appears rough and ragged, a patchwork of colors and dissolved shapes. Yet as the visitor retreats from the canvas, the mellifluous colors form distinct features and reveal themselves as the aqueous, aerated subject matter that was Monet’s creative point of departure.73
Perhaps the most substantial and consistent feature in Monet’s Water Lilies series is the juxtaposition of the horizontally-shaped clusters of lily pads and the arabesque verticality of the reflections of trees, clouds, and sky in the pond’s rustling water (Fig. 11).74 When the interaction between these two compositional elements in the L’Orangerie murals is compared to earlier, smaller Water Lilies panels (Figs. 12-13), the consistency in Monet’s pictorial layout throughout the entire series becomes apparent. The foreshortened ovals of the lily pads are aggregated into floating isles and organized into horizontal strata parallel to the top and bottom edge of the paintings. They seem smaller and more angular as the visitor’s vision moves upward along the canvases, signifying the receding surface of the water and conveying its lateral depth.75 Within this format, a counter-system of large, amorphous shapes represent the reflections of trees, foliage, clouds, and sky on the pond’s surface. Yet their vertical, intertwining brushwork, coupled with the verticality of the fragmented willow trunks and fronds, affirm the flatness of the picture plane and the vertical, curving walls upon which the murals are exhibited.76
As Dolf Sternberger stresses, the panorama rotunda’s commitment to realistic illusionism was dependent upon, in part, the removal of any visual evidence that could remind the visitor of the image’s flatness and pictoriality.77 However, each of the L’Orangerie murals are adorned by a thin golden frame to secure the paintings’ edges to the wall and prevent peeling. Aside from this pragmatic function, frames were meant to connote the limits of the image space. Monet challenges the finality of the murals’ edges by illustrating figures incompletely, omitting the depiction of a shoreline at the bottom or a line of horizon at the top. Brian O’Doherty expounds on the late nineteenth century’s rebellion of “weakened absolutism” of the canvas’ edges: “A signature of Impressionism is the way the casually chosen subject softens the edge’s structural role at a time when the edge is under pressure from the increasing shallowness of the space.”78 What proves revolutionary is that by allowing this illusion of the laterally receding waterscape to be questioned by the presence of a display frame, Monet seems to explicitly call attention to the illusion itself as a construct of the visitor’s visual perception.79 Turning his back on the hyperrealist conventions of panorama painting, Monet nonetheless achieves the same objective said conventions sought to create. His phenomenology of display uses the frame to highlight the L’Orangerie project as a hybrid between two distinct traditions, one of painting and the other of architecture, being merged into one entity. In lieu of the Impressionist pursuit of naturalism, the Water Lilies murals highlight the proto-installation mandate of visuomotor experience as critical to the artwork’s raison d’être, an internal artifice fabricated by a perceiving mind.
After a six-year closure to the public, the Orangerie Museum reopened its Water Lilies gallery in 2006. The renovated rooms reinstated Monet’s original vision for the gallery and position the space closer to contemporary practices of installation art. The second floor of the museum, built atop the Water Lilies gallery in 1960 for the Walter-Guillaume collection, was demolished, and a double-paned skylight was built, exposing the murals to natural light for the first time in forty-one years.80 The result was a light-catching chamber between the vellum canopy and the double-paned skylight that holds daylight and bathes the gallery’s rooms in a soft albeit dense glow. The flooring, which was clad with brown, checkered wood (Fig. 14), was replaced with a reflective white lacquer that matched the color of the walls, moldings, and newly installed vellum canopy.81 This interior redesign had the effect of further accentuating the “aquatic décor” of the murals’ subject matter, as Gillet described back in 1927. This curatorial decision ultimately validates the conditions under which Monet intended his murals to be experienced, to accredit the murals’ manner of display as vital to their meaning.
The painterly and architectural constituents of the L’Orangerie gallery perceptually interact through their phenomenology of display and work together in a large continuum of shapes, colors, and spatial configurations.82 For too long have Monet’s Water Lilies paintings been lambasted as “chocolate box art”, overexposed in popular culture while seldom appreciated beyond their aesthetic sentimentality. The Water Lilies gallery has herein been recognized as a unique artistic site and praised for its panoramic qualities, now with deeper historical contextualization. The architectural design of the Water Lilies gallery engages the visitor’s sight and proprioception. The relationship between its massive paintings and their unique display invites questions regarding the significance of the perceiving, sensing body in art interpretation. Intersecting the panorama traditions of his past and the installation art practices of his future, Monet’s gallery plays host to a phenomenological, embodied mode of artistic contemplation. It propels our notion of the experience of art from a passive spectatorship that hierarchizes vision over other senses, toward an active participation that democratizes them instead.
Special thanks to Dr. Mary Hunter, Dr. Christine Ross, and the McGill Department of Art History for their unwavering support and encouragement during the research and writing process of this Master’s thesis. The utmost thanks are owed to Brittney Bailey, Franchesca Fee, and Jessica Mingoia of the Rutgers Art Review for their invaluable insights and ardent dedication to this project through the tumult of the pandemic.
1. For the purpose of this thesis, the term “monumental” means of immense size and scale, referring to those Water Lilies paintings that are so large they often cover entire walls, produced by Monet as diptychs, triptychs (like the panels at the Museum of Modern Art in New York), or polyptychs (such as some of the murals at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris). The L’Orangerie Water Lilies will also be categorized as “murals” because by the term’s definition, they have been permanently glued to their gallery walls. Like traditional murals, they are very much wall paintings. See Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, or the Triumph of Impressionism: Catalogue Raisonné – Volume IV (Köln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1996), 970.
2. Louis Paillard, “Un musée Claude Monet est installé aux Tuileries,” Le Petit Journal (Paris, France), May 17, 1927, 2. See also Charles W. Millard, “The Later Monet,” The Hudson Review 31, no. 4 (Winter 1978–79): 643, https://doi.org/10.2307/3850046.
3. Félicie Faizand de Maupeou, “Un geste artistique inédit: la mise en exposition des Nymphéas de Monet à l’Orangerie des Tuileries,” exPosition, no. 3 (September 2017): [n.p.], http://www.revue-exposition.com/index.php/articles3/de-maupeou-exposition-nympheas-monet-orangerie.
4. Paul Léon, Du palais royal au Palais Bourbon (Paris: Albin Michel, 1947), 195. “L’œuvre était d’une présentation difficile. Il fallait une salle ovale, de dimensions déterminées pour y placer côte à côte la série des panneaux selon l’ordre qu’il [Monet] concevait. Le contenant devait être construit pour le contenu.” All translations from French are done by the author of this article unless stated otherwise.
5. Faced with pressures from his friend, statesman Georges Clemenceau, Monet reluctantly accepted Camille Lefèvre’s proposal to house the paintings in the Orangerie des Tuileries within a gallery of custom design, despite his regret over the narrowness of the building. See Wildenstein, Catalogue Raisonné – Volume IV, 947, 969.
6. Wildenstein, Catalogue Raisonné – Volume IV, 970.
7. Wildenstein, 970.
8. Joel Isaacson, Observation and Reflection: Claude Monet (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1978), 45.
9. For the purpose of this article, “proto-installation” art refers to a chronological precursor of installation art, avoiding categorical inaccuracies between the Water Lilies gallery and the mid-twentieth-century conception of installation art. Embracing a phenomenological comprehension of space and time, it encompasses a network of immersive artforms that span several centuries, coalescing traditional artistic media with newer media techniques, such as painting, conditioned lighting installments and architectural structures.
10. As Claire Bishop details, the display space of an art installation is secondary in relevance to the individual artworks it contains, but “in a work of installation art, the space, and the ensemble of elements within it, are regarded in their entirety as a singular entity.” In an art installation, the art and visual reception thereof is of greater importance than the space in which it is displayed; in installation art, the art and the space it inhabits are one and the same. It would not be entirely accurate to call the L’Orangerie gallery installation art, as the term only first appeared in the mid-twentieth century. Nevertheless, the gallery space of the L’Orangerie Water Lilies makes use of material, spatial and visuomotor tactics akin to those employed by several contemporary installation artists. See Claire Bishop, Installation Art: A Critical History (London: Tate Publishing, 2005), 6. See also Monica E. McTighe, Framed Spaces: Photography and Memory in Contemporary Installation Art (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2012), 8.
11. It should be recognized that there seems to exist an implicit ableist structure to the way Monet and Lefèvre envisioned the visiting experience at the L’Orangerie gallery. As such, the terms “visuomotor” and “proprioceptive” used in this article respectively signify movement of the head as the eyes consume and contemplate the art-architecture interplay of the space, and a corporeal awareness of the body and its positioning in relation to space it occupies. They do not necessarily connote a physical movement of the body through the L’Orangerie space itself.
12. Romy Golan, “Oceanic Sensations: Monet’s Grandes Décorations and Mural Painting in France from 1927 to 1952,” in Monet in the 20th Century, eds. Paul Hayes Tucker, George T. M. Shackelford and MaryAnne Stevens (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1998), 90. See also Georges Clemenceau, Claude Monet: Les Nympheas (Paris: Librairie Plon, 1928), https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6574418n.r.
13. Louis Gillet, Trois variations sur Claude Monet (Paris: Librairie Plon, 1927), 100-01, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6577087f/f122.item.r. “Deux grands salons ovales, courant dans le sens de la Seine, deux lacs, deux anneaux ingénieusement enchaînés l’un à l’autre et que précède un vestibule, ovale aussi, mais plus petit et d’orientation différente; rien que des courbes, des ellipses que répète en sourdine le dessin de pavage; des surfaces nues, presque sans moulures, faites seulement pour supporter l’aquatique décor […] : tout cela a un air de mouvement liquide, de fluidité allongée qui se prête à miracle à cette lente ceinture, à cette zone de rêveries flottantes qui s’écoulent.”
15. Golan, “Oceanic Sensations,” 88.
16. Greenberg’s theories stem from bias toward the New York school of Abstract Expressionism and his desire to fit Monet’s later work into the artistic movement’s early history. Artistic and scholarly interest in the Water Lilies series was revived in 1952, when French surrealist André Masson’s short essay “Monet le fondateur” asserted the Nymphéas are Monet’s crowning artistic achievement, christening the L’Orangerie Water Lilies gallery the “Sistine Chapel of Impressionism.” Masson had spent the interwar years in New York and had become acquainted with young American artists like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, who looked to Monet’s late Water Lilies as a forerunner to their school of abstraction. See Clement Greenberg, “The Later Monet,” in Arts and Culture: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), 38, 43; André Masson, “Monet le fondateur,” Verve 7, nos. 27-28 (December 1952): 68; and Romy Golan, “L’Éternel Décoratif: French Art in the 1950s,” Yale French Studies 98 (2000): 104.
17. The neologism “panorama” is a composite term of two Greek words: pan, meaning “all,” and horama, which means “view.” See Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-siècle Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 150; Erkki Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2013), 4; and Ralph Hyde, Panoramania! The Art and Entertainment of the ‘All-Embracing’ View (London: Trefoil Publications, Barbican Art Gallery, 1988), 20.
18. Hyde, Panoramania!, 17.
20. Stephen Parcell, “The Momentary Modern Magic of the Panorama,” in Chora 1: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture, eds. Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), 172.
21. Stephan Oettermann, The Panorama: History of a Mass Medium, trans. Deborah Lucas Schneider (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 103; and Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion, 3.
22. Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (London and Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 132-33; Oettermann, Panorama, 103; Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion, 3; Hyde, Panoramania!, 17-20.
23. Oettermann, 103; Huhtamo, 3; Hyde, 17-20; and Altick, Shows of London, 132-33. See also Crary, “Géricault, the Panorama, and Sites of Reality in the Early Nineteen Century,” 20.
24. Oettermann, 103; Huhtamo, 3; Hyde, 17-20, and Altick, 132-33.
25. “Considerations of the Panorama View of Grand Cairo, composed by Mr. Barker from the Drawings of Mr. Salt, who accompanied Lord Valentia, now exhibiting in London,” The Literary Panorama, being a Review of Books, Magazine, Magazine of Varieties, and Annual Register [etc.], vol. 7 (London: Cox, Son, and Beylis for C. Taylor, 1810), 448, cited in Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion, 3-4.
26. Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1990), 113.
27. Boris A. Uspensky, “Structural Isomorphism of Verbal and Visual Art,” Poetics 5 (1972): 12-13, https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-422X(72)90028-9, cited in Denise Blake Oleksijczuk, The First Panoramas: Visions of British Imperialism (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 134-35.
28. Oleksijczuk, The First Panoramas,135.
29. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 154.
30. Schwartz, 153-54.
31. Emmanuelle Michaux, Du Panorama pictural au cinéma circulaire: Origines et histoire d’un autre cinéma, 1785-1998 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999), 34; and Bernard Comment, The Panorama, trans. Anne-Marie Glasheen (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 47.
32. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 154.
33. Michaux, Du Panorama pictural au cinéma circulaire, 34; Comment, The Panorama, 47; and Hyde, Panoramania!, 59.
34. Michaux, Du Panorama pictural au cinéma circulaire, 34.
35. Germain Bapst, Essai sur l’histoire des panoramas et des dioramas (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1891), 23, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6481919w/f49.item.r. “Puis il [Langlois] transporta le spectateur au centre de l’action, tandis que ses prédécesseurs l’avaient laissé isolé et éloigné du spectacle qui était représenté à vol d’oiseau.”
36. Bapst, 23. “Le colonel remplaça les vitrages simples de la zone lumineuse par des verres dépolis; il supprimait ainsi les effets d’ombre sur la toile.”
37. Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, trans. Gloria Custance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003), 71; and Hyde, Panoramania!, 170-71,
38. The term panoramania comes from an article printed on January 3, 1881 in Le Voltaire, in response to the unveiling of a third panorama within a year’s time. See François Robichon, “Les panoramas en France au XIXe siècle,” (Doctoral dissertation, Paris Nanterre University, 1982), 216; Comment, The Panorama, 66-67; and Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 157.
39. Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, or the Triumph of Impressionism (Köln: Taschen, 2014), 176.
4. Paul H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 198.
41. François Thiébault-Sisson, “Un nouveau musée parisien: Les Nymphéas de Claude Monet à l’Orangerie des Tuileries,” La revue de l’art ancien et moderne 52, no. 287 (June 1927): 52. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k4325570/f53.item. “Il [Monet] avait rêvé d’une vaste rotonde où ses toiles se logeraient à la façon d’un panorama.”
42. Oettermann, The Panorama, 5, 23-24; and Grau, Virtual Art, 60, 62.
43. Grau, Virtual Art, 57.
44. Grace Seiberling, Monet’s Series (New York: Garland Publishing, 1981), 221; and Robert L. Herbert, “The Decorative and the Natural in Monet’s Cathedrals,” in Aspects of Monet: A Symposium on the Artist’s Life and Times, eds. John Rewald and Frances Weitzenhoffer (New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1984), 174.
45. Katherine M. Kuenzli, The Nabis and Intimate Modernism: Painting and the Decorative at the Fin-de-Siècle (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), 15.
46. Monet and the panoramists were stylistic pioneers for contemporary museologists whom in the late twentieth century began to shift their exhibit designs “from space making to holistic experience making.” See “‘Experience’ in Museums,” in Tiina Roppola, Designing for the Museum Visitor Experience (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), 38. For a discussion of changing attitudes of the museum from an educational and historical institution to an experiential institution, see Maria Mortati, “Experiencing the Art Museum: Methods for Public Engagements,” in Museum Experience Design: Crowds, Ecosystems and Novel Technologies, eds. Arnold Vermeeren, Licia Calvi and Amalia Sabiescu (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018), 97-114.
47. Michel Hoog, Musée de l’Orangerie: Les Nymphéas de Claude Monet (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2006), 43-44.
48. Kuenzli, The Nabis and Intimate Modernism, 15.
50. Hoog, Musée de l’Orangerie, 43-45.
51. Pierre Georgel, Le Musée de l’Orangerie (Paris: Gallimard, Réunion des musées nationaux, 2006), [n.p.]; Faizand de Maupeou, “Un geste artistique inédit,” [n.p.].
52. Grau, Virtual Art, 141.
53. Georgel, Le Musée de l’Orangerie, [n.p.].
54. According to Joel Isaacson, Monet’s practice was inspired by “his own experience of working from nature, and his exploration of the ways in which his experiences of nature could be transformed into paint.” His outdoor, en plein air approach to easel painting enabled him to capture the sensations of color and form he experienced amidst his subject matter out of doors, before retreating to his studio where he would take his outdoor painting sketches and complete his work. See Joel Isaacson, “Constable, Duranty, Mallarmé, Impressionism, Plein Air, and Forgetting,” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 3 (September 1994): 427-50, https://doi.org/10.2307/3046037.
55. Hue refers to the gradience or tint of a color (such as various blues, reds, or greens), while value refers to its level of luminosity, as in its level of brightness or darkness (such as light blue, dark blue, navy blue, etc.). See Luigina De Grandis, Theory and Use of Color, trans. John Gilbert (New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1984), 32-41.
56. Bapst, Essai sur l’histoire des panoramas et dioramas, 23.
57. Georgel, Le Musée de l’Orangerie, [n.p.].
58. Hajo Düchting, “On Monet’s Painting Technique in Late Works, based on the Basel ‘Water-Lily’ Picture,” in Claude Monet… up to Digital Impressionism, eds. Delia Ciuha et al., trans. Paul Aston and Christopher Jenkin-Jones (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2002), 86.
59. John House, Monet: Nature into Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 213.
60. Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, The New Version (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), 311.
61. De Grandis, Theory and Use of Color, 32-41.
62. Roger Marx, “Les « Nymphéas » de M. Claude Monet,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4, no. 1 (June 1909): 523, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k203174f/f594.item. “M. Claude Monet n’a souci que de se satisfaire; il dépense sa peine et trouve son plaisir à différencier les jouissances éprouvées, le long du jour, au regard d’un même site.” Translated in Steven Z. Levine, “Monet, Lumière, and Cinematic Time,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36, no. 4 (Summer 1978): 446-47, https://doi.org/10.2307/430484.
63. Moirure denotes the rippling effect of the painted water, and the perception of its waviness. See François Monod, “L’Actualité et la curiosité: Les « Nymphéas » de Monet à l’Orangerie des Tuileries,” L’Art et les Artistes 15, no. 78 (June 1927): 317, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k58602090/f147.item. “Dans chacune des deux salles de l’Orangerie, un effet de matin brumeux et effet de crépuscule occupent les extrémités de l’ellipse, sur les côtés longs brillent des effets de pleine lumière, pendant les heures du milieu du jour. Les seuls éléments solides du spectacle sont les corolles flottantes des nymphéas, flammes de pourpre et d’or, et, sur les grands côtés, encadrent les longues vues plongeantes, deux minces troncs de saules pleureurs, et quelques ramilles de leur chevelure tremblant dans les souffles de l’air. Le spectateur est enveloppé d’un bain de frémissements aériens, de moirures humides, de scintillements de clarté.”
64. Karin Sagner-Düchting, “Monet’s Late Work from the Vantage Point of Modernism,” in Claude Monet… up to Digital Impressionism, eds. Delia Ciuha et al., trans. Paul Aston and Christopher Jenkin-Jones (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2002), 29.
65. Rosalind Krauss, “The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition,” October 18 (Autumn 1981): 63, https://doi.org/10.2307/778410, citing Robert Herbert, “Method and Meaning in Monet,” Art in America 67, no. 5 (September 1979): 90-108.
66. Although concerned with the Water Lilies triptych at the Fondation Beyer in Basel, Switzerland, this chapter essay examines a painting Monet had intended to be included in the L’Orangerie collection. The aesthetic qualities shared between the Basel triptych and the polyptychs of the L’Orangerie bear strong similarities as both were intended for the same final project. See Düchting, “On Monet’s Painting Technique in Late Works,” 86.
67. Charles M. Mount, Monet: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966), 382-84; Gaston Bernheim de Villers, Little Tales of Great Artists, trans. and ed. Denys Sutton (Paris: Quatre Chemins Editart, 1950), 79.
68. Düchting, “On Monet’s Painting Technique in Late Works,” 86-87.
69. Düchting, 87.
71. Düchting, “On Monet’s Painting Technique in Late Works,” 87.
72. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Philosopher and His Shadow,” in Signs, trans. Richard C. McCleary (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 166-67; and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Donald A. Landes (Paris: Gallimard, 1945), 316.
73. Rewald, “The Impressionist Brush,” 53.
74. Seiberling, Monet’s Series, 229, 239.
75. Isaacson, Observation and Reflection, 45.
76. Isaacson, 45.
78. Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 22.
79. In 1894, Paul Cézanne visited Monet at his Giverny studio. At the time, Monet owned several paintings by his contemporary. Much of Cézanne’s oeuvre was what Merleau-Ponty calls a “lived perspective,” or how the experience of objects unfolds for the perceiving subject. This idea explains why many of Cézanne’s paintings raise conscious awareness of the flatness of the shapes and facets of colour on his canvases, but in relation to one another, create a subtle sense of depth. This relation is recognizable in Monet’s monumental L’Orangerie murals. The revived interest in Monet’s panels by the artists of abstraction paved the way for discussions as to how the later Monet’s style was conceivably mediated, in part, by Cézanne’s painterly practice. See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Cézanne’s Doubt,” in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, ed. Galen A. Johnson, trans. Michael B. Smith (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993), 64-65; and Paul Smith, “Cézanne’s ‘Primitive’ Perspective, or the ‘View from Everywhere’,” The Art Bulletin, 95, no. 1 (March 2013): 103, https://doi.org/10.1080/00043079.2013.10786108.
80. Georgel, Le Musée de l’Orangerie, [n.p.].
81. Minister of Culture, “Musée de l’Orangerie: Réouverture au public le mercredi 17 mai 2006,” Directorate of Museums of France, May 17, 2006, 12, http://www2.culture.gouv.fr/culture/actualites/dossiers-presse/orangerie/DP_Orangerie.pdf.
82. Seiberling, Monet’s Series, 258.