SAINT LOUIS, MO.-
For the first time in over 30 years, The Saint Louis Art Museum
, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and The Cleveland Museum of Art have collaborated to reunite the three panels of Agapanthus as the artist himself intended.
The Agapanthus triptych was inspired by Monet's pond in his famed garden at Giverny, just west of Paris. Monet himself gave the title Agapanthus to the 42 foot triptych after the plant (also known as "African lily" or "Lily of the Nile"). His large-scale water-lily compositions represent the culminating achievement of his career, and were described by the artist as his Grand Decorations.
Monet began work on these three massive canvases, each measuring approximately 7 feet by 14 feet, in about 1915, and continued to rework and obsessively change the composition of the triptych until his death more than 10 years later.
After Monet's death, the three panels of Agapanthus remained in Monet's studio until the mid-1950s when they were acquired by the New York dealer Knoedler and Company and first exhibited in the United States in 1956. The three compositions were acquired by The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City between 1956 and 1960. There are only two Monet triptychs in the United States; the other is in New York's Museum of Modern Art.
The three sections were first reunited in the 1978 exhibition, Monet's Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism, sponsored and exhibited by the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The three canvases were joined together again at the Saint Louis Art Museum in a 1980 exhibition cosponsored by the three holding institutions.
In St. Louis, Monet's Water Lilies includes two large-scale oil studies for the Agapanthus triptych, on loan from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris and reunited with the triptych for the first time. The Agapanthus, 19141917, and Water Lilies, Harmony in Blue, 19141917, are studies for the right and left panels of the triptych, providing important insight into Monet's working methods.
With a total of eight paintings, the St. Louis presentation of Monet's Water Lilies is curated by Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, and will also showcase two works from a private St. Louis collection. Wisteria Numbers 1 and 2 was intended by Monet to be part of the initial installation for his triptychs in a planned (but never realized) pavilion in the garden of what is now the Musée Rodin in France. The other private collection loan, Water Lilies, was included along with Agapanthus in the 1956 exhibit of Monet's work at the Knoedler Gallery in New York.