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Five Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D’Orsay

If you are a fan of Claude Monet and his artworks, then you must visit two fantastic art museums when traveling to Paris. The Musee Marmottan Monet and the Musee D’Orsay.

The Musee Marmottan Monet owns the largest Claude Monet art collection in the world. However, the incredible impressionism museum, Musee D’Orsay also owns an impressive number of Claude Monet artworks.

Five MUST SEE Claude Monet Impressionist paintings in the Musee D Orsay

1. Nymphéas Bleus (Blue Water Lilies)– 1916-1919

Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay
Nymphéas Bleus (Blue Water Lilies) Painting in the Musee D Orsay

This painting was painted in Monet’s later years when he was starting to enjoy success as an artist. As soon as started earning serious money, Claude Monet bought a large house in the small village Giverny. This house was on a huge plot of land and Monet worked tirelessly to establish the most magnificent gardens. Today, these gardens are one of the most famous tourist attractions in France.

“Apart from painting and gardening, I am good for nothing. My greatest masterpiece is my garden.”

Quote Claude Monet

Claude Monet designed and built a magnificent lily pond in his garden. He loved his lily pond and it provided him with artistic inspiration for over thirty years. In fact, Claude Monet ended up painting over 250 artworks of his water lily pond.

Nymphaea is the botanical name for the water lily. In this particular painting, Nymphéas bleus, there is no horizon or sky. Claude Monet’s focus is the lily pond only. He aims to give a close-up of his beloved pond, giving an overall effect of an amorphous surface with infinite, limitless space. This painting is iconic!

This Nymphéas Bleus painting is located in room 34.

2. London, Houses of Parliament. The Sun Shining through the Fog ( 1900)

Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay
London, Houses of Parliament
Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay

Claude Monet painted a series of oil paintings depicting the Westminster Palace, and the Houses of Parliament, in the fall of 1899 and the early months of 1900 and 1901 during stays in London

All of these paintings were painted from the same viewpoint, from a terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames.  Monet captured the same view again and again. However, he captured the changing colors and shadows by painting the view at different times of the day and under varying weather conditions.

“Without fog London would not be beautiful.” 

Quote Claude Monet

Monet did not finish these paintings in London. He brought back the unfinished artworks to his art studio in France to complete.

He wrote to his art dealer Durand-Ruel: “I cannot send you a single canvas of London … I have them all before me, and to tell the truth not one is finished. I will finish them all together”.

Three years later, in 1903, Monet completed this series.

In 1904, this painting and thirty-six others were exhibited at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris for the first time. The public adored them and his paintings sold like hot cakes!

This Houses of Parliament painting is located in room 34.

3. Gare Saint-Lazare (Saint-Lazare train station) 1877

Saint-Lazare train station by Claude Monet
Saint-Lazare train station
Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay

Between 1853 and 1870, Georges-Eugène Haussmann was busy renovating and modernizing Paris. For this massive urban renewal project, Haussmann built opulent buildings standing side by side on wide, tree-lined boulevards. He also directed the establishment of beautiful parks, new roads and railway stations for the French capital. One of the stations was the grand Saint Lazare.

It was through this train station that Claude Monet, then an unknown painter, commuted into Paris from Argenteuil, a rural town not far from Paris where he lived with his family.

Claude Monet’s Fascination with the Industrialization & Modernization of the French Capital

Monet was fascinated by this train station. To him it symbolized the essence of modernity and industrialization that was happening all over Paris and throughout France.

He rented an art studio near the Gare Saint Lazare and ended up creating twelve paintings of this station. In these paintings he portrays the clouds of steam billowing out from the trains, the busy & crowded platforms and the trains themselves.

Claude Monet exhibited some of these paintings at the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. The public and art critics did not understand why Monet chose to portray the uglier side of the station. His paintings showed the the smoke in the train shed, the billowing clouds of steam, the workers and the bustling activities of the train station. The outside entrance of this train station was in fact very beautiful and grand, but Monet had no interest in portraying that.

Although not appreciated when he first exhibited these paintings, today this series of Saint-Lazare Train Station is hailed as one of his most famous and important artworks. These paintings provide a wonderful, impressionism snapshot of the massive industrialization taking place in 19th century Paris.

This painting is located in room 31.

Poppy Field (Coquelicots), 1873

Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay - Poppy fields
Poppy Fields Near Argenteuil
Famous Claude Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay

When Claude Monet returned to France from England in 1871, he settled in the rural village, Argenteuil. He lived there until 1878. These were good years for Monet has he was now starting to sell his paintings through his art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. Monet loved living in the countryside and the rural landscapes provided him with plenty of artistic inspiration. He would set up his easel outside and paint en plein air.

In this painting, Monet portrays a young woman with the sunshade umbrella strolling in the poppy fields with a child on a bright, sunny day. They are probably his first wife, Camille, and their son Jean.

Monet exhibited this painting for the first time during the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.

If you look carefully, you will notice that Camille and Jean appear in the painting twice.  Look again and find them!!

This painting is located in room 29

Rouen Cathedral (1893)

Rouen Cathedral - Claude Monet painting Musee D'Orsay
Rouen Cathedral
Famous Monet Paintings in the Musee D Orsay

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Claude Monet painted the Rouen Cathedral series in the 1890s. The paintings capture a particular viewpoint of the Cathedral. However, Monet painted each painting at different times of the day and under varying weather conditions. He aimed to portray the different colors and shades under changing lighting conditions.

Monet ended up creating more than thirty paintings of the Rouen Cathedral in Normandy. He rented a small apartment across the street from the cathedral as a temporary painting studio. He woke up early with the sunrise and and painted until the sunset. Monet was so frantic about capturing the changing colors and shades as the sun moved during the day, that he often worked on more than one canvas.

In 1895 he selected twenty paintings from the series for displaying in a Paris gallery for the first time. These paintings were a huge success and he sold eight of them.

Historically, the Rouen Cathedral series was well-timed. In the early 1890s, France was going through a revival in Catholicism. The public loved seeing one of their major cathedrals portrayed with so much color and by a modern painter.

To the French, this cathedral represented the best in French history and culture. The cathedral was built in the grand Gothic style during the Middle Ages and was admired and copied by many other European countries.

For more information about wonderful artworks at the Musee D’Orsay, see the articles below: