The later years of Claude Monet's life brought crisis and change. In 1909, Alice developed myelogenous leukemia, and, when his devoted companion died on May 19, 1911, Monet was inconsolable. The following year brought more crushing news: The difficulty with his sight that he had long dismissed as eyestrain was diagnosed as double cataracts. Fearful of having his vision drastically changed, Monet refused to undergo the recommended operation until July 1920.
After a bout with depression that kept him from painting from the time of Alice's death until 1913, Monet again found solace in his garden and purpose in his work. In April 1914, he informed Geffroy that he was ready to take on some large paintings.
Gift to the Nation
Over the next decade, Monet worked on an unprecedented scale: canvases roughly six and a half feet high and 14 feet wide. In 1916, he built a new studio to house the epic images of his water lilies, and, in 1918, to honor the Armistice of the First World War, he promised the paintings as a gift to the nation. He painted more than 40 panels for his Grandes Decorations, and, in the spring of 1925, he selected 22 of them to be installed in two oval rooms in Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris. He imagined the effect as being surrounded by the natural beauty of his water garden, soothing the nerves and calming the spirit.
Claude Monet died of pulmonary sclerosis on December 3, 1926, at the age of 86. He left instructions for a simple funeral, and the only tribute on his coffin was a sheaf of wheat. He had created his own legacy in painting the "restful sight of those still waters" that preserved the experience of his long and productive life, spent pursuing the fleeting impressions of nature through the testament of his brush.
Monet left a vast body of work to be admired and cherished. We'll introduce to the paintings of Claude Monet in the next section.