Arts Everyday Living: Monet and the Art of Meditation-The Spirit of the Water Lilies

Click on the paintings to ENLARGE them.



 Meditation: to engage in thought or contemplation; to reflect*

This upcoming week I’ll be presenting with artist, dancer, and multi-arts specialist  W. Elisabeth Larson, Creative Art Journeys, a series of four multi-arts programs in Arlington, Virginia enabling participants to use visual art, music, experiential learning and creative movement to enrich their everyday lives.

At the core of our first session, Monet and the Art of Meditation, are his ethereal water lilies, that can visually relieve feelings of stress and tension.  Ideally, we could travel to Monet’s spacious water lily rooms at the Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris for the ultimate escape from daily pressure in which visitors, in the artist’s words, with overtaxed nerves can relax.**

However, we can substitute a virtual gallery of water lily highlights.  We have hundreds to choose from, a body of masterpieces produced from the early 1900s to Monet’s death in 1926. Let’s, though, really concentrate on the few examples below—to actually meditate, to contemplate, and to reflect….

For instance, In the Water Lilies of 1905, now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, we experience a timeless space with no beginning or end. Where islands of lilies gather at the top in tight clusters, then gradually separate into distinct blossoms, floating leisurely on the surface of the lavender toned water.




Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1905, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



While in the Water Lilies, a 1906 version at the National Museum of Wales, a mist moves freely across the blue expanse of impressionistic lily pads—a dream-like display, almost disappearing in the hazy atmosphere, except for the deep pink buds in the foreground of the water garden.




Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906, oil on canvas, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff



Our reverie continues in the Water Lilies of 1908 from Worcester Art Museum, which though in oil, has the transparency of a watercolor.  Above, the willows descend like a yellow veil into the mirror smoothness of the pond, almost merging with the flower mirage below.




Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908, oil on canvas, Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts



The next Water Lilies from the Musee Marmottan is undated, offering a sharper image of a corner of nature where clouds can exist underwater and plants grow upside down.




Claude Monet, Water Lilies, undated, oil on canvas, Musee Marmottan, Paris



Finally, in Water Lilies, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, probably done between 1914-1917, the artist reaches beyond the limits of ordinary color and paints in the jeweled palette of spirituality.




Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1914-1917, oil on canvas, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco



Coming Wednesday: Monet and the Japanese Bridge


You might also want to read more about the power of art:

Monet’s Waterlilies: The Healing of a Nation


*Definition of Meditation from Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

**Quote of Claude Monet (1840-1926) from Monet by Carla Rachman, Phaidon Press Unlimited, London, UK. 1997.


The above images are used solely for educational purposes.