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Claude Monet – The Obsession with Water Lilies, as seen in virtual reality

An exhibition that showcases Monet's work, from the visual to the virtual, at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

by Sukanya Garg Jun 28, 2019

The Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris launched its first ever virtual reality (VR) project, Claude Monet, The Obsession with Water Lilies in November 2018. An immersive 360 degree experience, it commemorated Monet’s extraordinary gift, one hundred years ago on November 12, 1918, of a series of monumental and breathtaking water lily paintings, donated to the French nation under the guidance of his friend Georges Clemenceau, to commemorate the end of World War One. This project was therefore designated a “Centenary” project, certified by the First World War Centenary Group.

VR Claude Monet, The Obsession with Water Lilies Image Credit: Musée d’Orsay

Directed by Nicolas Thépot, the film exploring the genesis of Monet’s final work was produced in partnership with ARTE, Lucid Realities and Camera Lucida productions. This ground-breaking VR exhibition whisked the viewer beyond the white walls of the museum, to those same vibrant gardens that Monet so painstakingly documented over the course of almost 30 years in roughly eight minutes. You stood in the shallow waters at Giverny, inspired as he was inspired by the dappled light and fickle seasons waxing and waning across the lilies and bulrushes. You were then transported to Monet’s studio, where a virtual canvas was stretched taut above and around you and the artist’s bold, searing brushstrokes built up across your vision.

VR Claude Monet, The Obsession with Water Lilies Image Credit: Musée d’Orsay

“Beyond painting and gardening, I’m good for nothing…” Monet famously said. The VR experience took one through the water lilies cycle, almost 250 paintings that the impressionist painter produced from life in his garden in Giverny. An excellent observer of nature and the garden that he had created at his home in Giverny, it was here, for almost 30 years until his death, that he returned again and again to paint this theme as the seasons changed, producing these gigantic decorative panels now mounted on the walls of the Musée de l’Orangerie. The experience infused these familiar paintings with an energy and a context profound and new.

VR Claude Monet, The Obsession with Water Lilies Image Credit: Musée d’Orsay

Through a contemplative VR experience that brought the user from the garden to the Orangerie Museum, passing by the painter’s studio, the viewer had the opportunity to relive an ongoing beginning of nature, to explore time and space around the water lilies.

This virtual reality experience was presented at the Musée de l’Orangerie from November 14, 2018 to March 11, 2019 as part of the Monet-Clemenceau collection focus, in partnership with the First World War Centenary Partnership Programme. This project was chosen by HTC as part of the Vive Arts programme, which assists the world’s leading museums in developing high quality immersive experiences. 

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased at multiple exhibitions.

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