Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

Written by Ross King
Review by Jeanne Greene

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, artist Claude Monet, 74, had apparently retired to his home in Giverny, just north of Paris. Monet had lost his wife and his eldest son and, with cataracts blurring his once-acute vision, he faced a troubled old age. But when the German Army invaded France, the artist (who refused to leave Giverny during the war), had begun to paint again. As a result, we have a series of magnificent paintings based on the water lilies in his garden, each unique not only in its beauty but also in its tranquility.

Overcoming frustration, fatigue, and failing eyesight, Monet continued to work until he died in 1923. To reveal the man as well as the artist, King discusses Monet’s place in his world (Europe, 1840-1923) and, to a degree, ours. Although the popularity of Monet’s work varies from one generation to the next, ours tends to agree with his contemporary, Georges Clemenceau, who called the Water Lilies one of the “highest expressions of the human spirit.”