Art & Culture

Claude Monet's Water Lily Paintings Almost Never Existed

Alexander Smith
Pink lilies, 1897-1899, by Claude Monet
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI | Getty Images

Hundreds of the most famous paintings ever committed to canvas almost never came into being—all because of a group of paranoid French farmers, an exhibition curator has revealed. (Tweet this)

Claude Monet completed around 250 paintings of his water lily garden in northern France, with the most valuable work selling for $80.4 million at a London auction in 2008.

But according to documents unearthed by Ann Dumas, co-curator of an upcoming exhibition on the subject in Cleveland, Ohio, and London, U.K., Monet's impressive water garden depicted in the images was not welcomed by his neighbors in 1893.

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"There was a protest from local farmers who were very suspicious of these strange aquatic plants that Monet wanted to plant because they they would poison their water and kill their cattle," Dumas told a press briefing Monday attended by the BBC.

As well as becoming one of the most iconic names in the art world, Monet was an avid gardener. The impressionist wanted to divert the river Epte into his property in Giverny, France, to create the soon-to-be-famous water garden.

But fearing the effect the water lilies might have on their livestock, the farmers wrote to local officials in 1893 in an attempt to block his plans.

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Monet only gained permission to proceed "after a lot of difficulty," Dumas said, according to the BBC.

The exhibition "Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse Exhibition" will tell the story of how gardens featured in the work of Monet and his peers. It will run at the Cleveland Museum of Art from October 11 to January 5 next year, and then the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, from January 30 to April 20.