Monet executed many preparatory paintings for the Grandes Décorations to see in first-hand the visual effects of his innovations. Even when the brush stroke is complex, these images have the spontaneity of a drawing.
On February 27 in London, Christie's sells as lot 11 Saule pleureur et bassin aux nymphéas (weeping willow and water lily garden), an oil on canvas 180 cm wide in the standard height of the Grandes Decorations, 2 m high. The composition is similar to the left part of the triptych Le Matin aux Saules, dated 1920-1926 but whose gestation in the workshop had already begun in 1916.
This study is an encounter between the elements of nature and the principles of geometry, with the rising vertical of the solid trunk, the descending vertical of the leaves hanging in the air, the horizontal plane of the water lilies on the water, the intangible mirror of the reflections.
The horizon is not visible but the dominant is an intense blue provided in reflection by a pure summer sky, in opposition with the pastel shades of dawn which will be applied to the corresponding picture of the Grandes Décorations. In this experimental work that provides inputs into the artistic process of Monet, each motif is painted with a different stroke, up to including tiny surfaces of bare canvas in some interfaces.
Please watch the short video shared by Christie's.
This painting is certainly anterior to the series of ten opuses on weeping willows executed in 1918-1919 in which the main theme, increasingly close to abstraction, is the light sifted by the foliage.