Student View

Monet’s Bridge

How does this artist illustrate the passage of time in his garden?

Bridge in Giverny, France, between 1899 and 1909. Lilla Cabot Perry photographs, [ca. 1889-1909]. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

A photograph of the wooden footbridge over Monet’s water lily pond.

Monet was a master gardener as well as a master painter. In 1883, the artist moved to Giverny, a country town near Paris. His property included a garden, which he devoted himself to redesigning. The garden inspired Monet to create a series showing his water lily pond. It includes 18 works featuring the arched footbridge. In the examples on these pages, Monet studies the effects of shifting light on the scene  at different times of day. Today, these  are some of the most famous paintings in the world.

Monet wasn’t only a master painter. He was a skilled gardener as well! In 1893, the artist moved to Giverny, a town near Paris. He had a large garden. It inspired him to create his Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies series. These works include 18 paintings featuring the bridge over his lily pond. In each one, Monet studies how light shifts at different times of day. These are some of the most famous paintings in the world.

Claude Monet, Bridge Over a Pool of Water Lilies, 1899. Oil on canvas, 36 1/2x29in. (92.7x73.7cm). H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.113). 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA. Image source: Art Resource, NY.

How does Monet capture reflections on the pond’s surface?

Fair Skies

  • When weather permitted, Monet sometimes worked on eight or more paintings at once en plein air.
  • For the example above, Monet captures the brilliance that might make viewers recall a midsummer day. 
  • He renders the radiant sunshine by adding yellowish greens in the wispy trees and grass. To portray a blue sky’s reflections on the pond, Monet includes cool blues and greens on the water’s shimmering surface. 
  • He adds contrasting red to show shadows in the murky weeds and under the footbridge. 
  • In nice weather, Monet sometimes worked on eight or more paintings at once outside.
  • For the example above, Monet captures the bright light of what viewers might see as a summer day. 
  • He depicts the sunshine by using yellowish green to paint the trees and grass. Cool blues and greens on the water’s surface capture the sky’s reflection on the pond.
  • Monet adds red to show shadows in the weeds and under the wooden bridge.

"For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere that gives subjects their true value."

—Claude Monet

Claude Monet, Japanese Footbridge (Le Pont Japonais), Giverny, 1895. Oil on canvas. Wildenstein 1419. 31x38 1/2in. (78.7x97.8cm). Framed: 36 1/2x4x3 1/2in. (93x111x8cm). Gift of F. Otto Haas, and partial gift of the reserved life interest of Carole Haas Gravagno, 1993. 1993-151-2. Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Photo Credit: The Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY.

How can you tell that Monet is moving toward abstraction in this work?

Golden Hour

  • While in Giverny, Monet began moving toward abstraction in his explorations of light. In this work, he uses bright dabs of paint for the trees in the background. 
  • Monet embraces optical color mixing, applying dots of complementary greens and reds close together to paint the trees and their reflections on the pond. 
  • The fiery tree trunks and radiant leaves in the background suggest that Monet depicts the landscape as the sun sets. Some people refer to this time of day as “the golden hour.”
  • In Giverny, Monet explored abstraction. He uses dabs of bright paint to build the composition. 
  • Monet adds green and red dots close together to show the trees and reflections. The viewer’s eye blends the colors together. This is called optical color mixing.
  • Vibrant colors suggest that Monet paints the scene at sunset. Today some people call this time “the golden hour.”

Claude Monet, The Water Lily Pond: green harmony, 1899. Oil on canvas. 35x36in. (89x93.5cm). Inv no. RF2004. Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. Photo: Stéphane Maréchalle/RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY.

How does Monet use color to convey mood?

Moody Blues

  • Traditional Japanese prints inspired Monet’s artwork and his gardening. The bold colors Japanese artists used to show plants and water in their prints interested the painter. 
  • In this work, Monet portrays cool light on his water lily pond. Dappled light filters through the trees, suggesting a cloudy sky, dawn, or dusk. 
  • Monet was committed to using colors other than black to render the shaded areas of his compositions. Here, he fills the scene with blue shadows. The artist uses color to not only show light but also to set the mood.
  • Traditional Japanese prints inspired Monet. He liked the bold colors Japanese artists used to show plants and water. 
  • In this work, Monet paints cool light on the pond. The light filters softly through the trees. The effect creates the appearance of a cloudy sky, dawn, or dusk. 
  • Monet almost always used colors other than black to show shadows in his paintings. Here, he paints blue shadows. This color sets the artwork’s mood.
Back to top
videos (1)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Skills Sheets (11)
Lesson Plan (6)
Lesson Plan (6)
Lesson Plan (6)
Lesson Plan (6)
Lesson Plan (6)
Lesson Plan (6)