See Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ in a new light at Nelson-Atkins

Monet’s Water Lilies

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), ‘Water Lilies,’ circa 1915-1925, oil on canvas, 79 x 167¾in. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 57-26

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, the beloved painting that has been the centerpiece for the Bloch Galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, will be moved to a dedicated gallery for an exciting, immersive exhibition, “Monet Water Lilies: From Dawn to Dusk,” opening Friday, Feb. 12.

This exhibition will present the painting with a 10-minute light program that emulates the rise and fall of daylight and plays every quarter-hour. It will be accompanied by nature sounds from Monet’s garden in Giverny.

“When Claude Monet began work on this large-scale triptych, it was against the backdrop of war,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins. “In this moment of death, destruction, and chaos all around him, he chose to focus on a verdant portion of his garden that demonstrated life, serenity and control. This immersive new exhibition transports visitors to Giverny without ever leaving Kansas City.”

Monet set his easel outside and painted, closely observing and attempting to render the effect of light in surface shapes, colors and shadows as they shifted throughout the day. He completed the canvas in his studio from memory, as soldiers, including the artist’s son and stepson marched to the front lines to defend their country. For Monet, his Water Lilies canvases offered an escape.

“The advanced light and sound technologies in the galleries allow us to realize the vision of the exhibition,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, senior curator of European Arts. “That is, to recreate conditions that mimic the kind of sensory stimuli Monet drew upon that inspired him to create Water Lilies. In our parallel moment of chaos and loss, it is our hope, as it was Monet’s, that these works would offer ‘a refuge of peaceful meditation.’”

The exhibition also features a short video of Monet painting in his garden at the outbreak of World War I. Replacing Water Lilies in the Bloch Galleries will be an intimate exhibition, “Among Friends: Guillaumin, Cezanne, Pissarro.” For more than 20 years, Armand Guillaumin (1841–1927), Paul Cezanne (1839–1906) and Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) counted one another as among the closest of friends. In 1861, the three met and formed an immediate bond at the Académie Suisse in Paris, where they rejected tradition and academic training. They exhibited together in Paris first at the Salon des Refusées in 1863, and again at several of the annual Impressionist exhibitions. At the beginning of the 1870s, they lived and worked in Paris and the surrounding suburban countryside, sharing vantage points, exchanging works, and trading innovative techniques.

This exhibition features two paintings by Guillaumin on loan from local private collections, one of which marks its American debut in this newly conceived installation. These include an early panoramic landscape of a commune outside of Paris, and a boldly colored later work titled Country Lane in Damiette, painted around 1885-1887. These paintings will join some of the museum’s most celebrated treasures for the first time in a new and exciting context that promotes friendship, exchange and creativity.

Monet’s Water Lilies

Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillaumin (French, 1841-1927), ‘Landscape, Ivry-sur-Seine,’ oil on canvas, 19 3/8 × 25¾in. Promised gift of Robert L. and Barbara Bloch in honor of his parents, Henry and Marion Bloch, and the 75th anniversary of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 27-1989

Although Guillaumin, Cezanne and Pissarro went their separate ways in the mid-1880s, they acknowledged their lasting influence on one another’s work up until their respective deaths. Toward the end of his life, Pissarro wrote of their time together in Pontoise, “By Jove, we were inseparable! […] Each of us retained the only thing that matters, ‘his sense of feeling.’”

Both exhibitions open Feb. 12 and close Jan. 23, 2022.

For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit