Monet masterpiece is restored to former glory

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The Independent Online

Claude Monet's water lilies, among the most celebrated paintings of the Impressionist movement, will be revealed in their original glory when the Orangerie museum in the Paris Tuileries gardens reopens today. Created especially for the museum, the monumental work, entitled Nymphéas, has been hidden from the public eye for six years, during extensive renovations. The giant frieze, made up of eight separate paintings which together stretch almost 600 feet around the gallery, has not been seen in the way the artist intended for more than 40 years.

Due to open two years ago, the €30m (£21m) reconstruction of the Orangerie was put on hold in 2003, when a 16th-century wall was discovered underneath the building. A stone's throw away from the Louvre and across the Seine from the Musée d'Orsay, the Orangerie also houses a collection of 144 works ranging from Modigliani to Soutine.

However, Monet's colossal masterpiece takes pride of place. Covering the walls of two oval-shaped rooms, the Nymphéas is finally on display as the artist intended. In the 1960s, the oval vestibules were destroyed and a complex entryway introduced, obscuring the grand scale of the work and depriving it of natural light, a key element in Impressionist painting.

Today, the rooms are back to their original shape and can be reached directly from the ground floor of the museum. The glass roof has been fully renovated, allowing daylight to stream in, re-creating the atmosphere of Monet's studio in Giverny.

The artist conceived the east-west progression of the Nymphéas to capture a sense of continuity of light and the passing of days. As he put it, the mural gives the "illusion of infinity, of a wave without horizon".

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