Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 7: Monet Growing on Trees

Water Lily Pond!

Monet, The Water Lily Pond, 1899. Usually it’s the name Water Lilies that springs to mind whenever he’s name-checked, but he actually produced some 250 paintings on the same subject, 17 of those featuring this Japanese bridge.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, intellects engaged, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

After our lunchtime intermission we returned to the museum through the west entrance to its “classic” half. the side with the two famous lion sculptures out front. Up the stairs and filling the long expanse bridging the train tracks is a wide selection of 19th-century Europeans, beginning with the Impressionists. Regressing a century prior to where we’d left off, once again we found ourselves within the realm of the moderately representational — figures, landscapes, and other nouns hewing somewhat to their intended shapes, but with colors and lightings bearing a more supernormal appearance. Definitely not pretend-photography like the “classic” era that preceded them.

The Art Institute has by far the largest Monet collection we’ve witnessed to date, alongside other peers from the Impressionist movement. Full confession: I gravitate toward works of stark contrast, and too many Monets in a row produced the opposite effect and began to look alike. Please enjoy this selection of what stood out to us before I began to walk a bit more briskly toward the Post-Impressionists…

Water Lily Pond closeup!

In this enlarged snippet of The Water Lily Pond, Monet’s technique is more intriguing to see in your face than at a remove.

On the Bank of the Seine!

On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, 1868. Starring his future wife Camille and the inn where they were staying, recommended to him by the writer Emile Zola for its low prices.

Arrival of the Normandy Train!

Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877. The busiest train station in Paris, shrouded in blues and grays, a rare moment of Monet capturing man-made structures before he turned to natural landscapes and fixated on lilies.

Petite Creuse River!

The Petite Creuse River, 1889. Purple mountains’ majesty and whatnot.

Poppy Field (Giverny)!

Poppy Field (Giverny), 1890-91. A painting of drugs for the young-adult internet hedonists out there. Probably more interesting than his 25 paintings of wheat fields. That sounds like an awful lot of wheat, but all of the numbers in this entry are coming from actual art-history sources, not me going for comedy.

Houses of Parliament London!

Houses of Parliament, London; 1900-01. One of 19 such paintings of the same subject, virtually the same perspective, but with different color schemes. Years before Warhol made side-by-side reproduction cool.


Irises, 1914-17. Like water lilies, another preoccupation of his that spawned multiple variations on a theme.

The museum’s selection of Impressionists had a bit more than Monet. Runner-up from our perspective seemed to be Pierre-Auguste Renoir, another of those renowned painters best known to today’s audiences as a frequent Jeopardy! answer. The next four slides are all his.

(Fun trivia: further down Renoir’s family tree is his grandson Jean Renoir, groundbreaking film director whose The Rules of the Game is among the best Criterion Collection releases I’ve amassed to date. Highly recommended, especially to anyone interested in historical perspectives on class warfare.)


Seascape, 1879.

Young Woman Sewing!

Young Woman Sewing, also 1879.

Woman at the Piano!

Woman at the Piano, 1875-76. Thus we begin to catch on to his “women engaged in their pursuits” motif.

Two Sisters (On the Terrace)!

Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881. His most crowded-around work was among a lot of over 100 paintings bequeathed to the Institute upon the previous owner’s passing in 1932.

The Crystal Palace!

The only work we captured by Camille Pissarro, his 1871 The Crystal Palace captured everyday French life on the right. On the left is the eponymous structure, an architectural extravagance that burned down in 1936.

Artist's House at Argenteuil!

To confuse anyone who’s not bothering to read the captions, we double-back to end with one last Monet piece. 1873’s The Artist’s House at Argenteuil once again stars his wife Camille, along with their son Jean.

Monet signature!

An enlarged snippet from Argenteuil with li’l Jean and his papa’s distinctive signature.

More to come! Other chapters in this very special MCC maxiseries:

Gallery 1: The Grounds Alone
Gallery 2: The Old Modern Americans
Gallery 3: Georgia on Her Mind
Gallery 4: Two Americans Abroad
Gallery 5: Ye Olde Tyme America
Gallery 6: Very Contemporary
Gallery 8: Posting Post-Impressionist Impressions
Gallery 9: Picasso and the Surreal
Gallery 10: The Last of the Famous International
Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor
Gallery 12: An Omnibus of Outtakes

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