June 23, On This Day
Seven years ago today, on June 23, 2014, one of the most famous paintings in the world hit the auction block — and Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, titled Nymphéas (1906), fetched a hefty $54 million in the largest sale of the day (of Impressionist and modern art) at Sotheby’s in London.
This artwork is part of is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by the French Impressionist, depicting his flower garden at home in Giverny, the main focus of his artistic production during the last 30 years of his life (many of which were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts). In it, the water reflects the skies’ shifting hues and the lilies themselves are elegant touches of paint.
The painter and founder of impressionist painting is seen as a key precursor to modernism, especially in his attempts to paint nature as he perceived it. He was a prolific practitioner of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein air (outdoor) landscape painting. In fact, the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting ‘Impression, soleil levant’, exhibited in 1874 in the first Salon des Refusés (“exhibition of rejects”) initiated by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon.