MUSÉE de l’ORANGERIE
New York Times – 16th May 2006 – Alan Riding
“PARIS …… Built in 1852 to house an orange grove, with a glass facade facing south across the Seine, the Orangerie was used to billet soldiers on leave from the trenches during World War I. After the armistice of November 11, 1918, the French Prime Minster, Georges Clemenceau, invited his friend, Claude Monet, to display his large-format nymphéas there. Monet had been working on them since 1914 in a spacious studio added onto his Normandy home in Giverny. And he would continue painting these vast canvases until his death at 86. The following year, 1927, eight were finally installed in two specially designed oval-shaped rooms in the Orangerie.
Waterlilies dominated the last 30 years of Monet’s life.
‘These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession for me,’ he wrote to a friend in 1909. ‘It is beyond my strength as an old man, and yet I want to render what I feel.’ In total, he painted some 250 oils of the vegetation in and around the Japanese-style lagoon at Giverny. They are to be found in major museums around the world, as well as at the Musée d’Orsay and, prominently, at the Musée Marmottan-Monet, both in Paris. Yet the Orangerie series is unique, not least because of its size: each painting is two meters, or six and a half feet, tall. If lined up side by side, the works would measure 91 meters, or 298.5 feet, in width. They are also conceived so that the four in one gallery represent sunrise, and the four in the other evoke dusk …..
…….Anyone lucky enough to be alone with the nymphéas is invited to meditate, perchance to dream.”
Although my visits to the garden have been during different seasons, I have not had the pleasure of seeing the water lilies (nymphéas) flowering – a treat left to my imagination with the assistance of Monet’s artworks.