Claude Monet is remembered today as one of the world’s most influential and famous painters. As a leading member (often regarded as the founder) of the Impressionist movement, his art found a new way to depict reality on the canvas.
Like many of his fellow Impressionists, Monet is inextricably linked to Paris, with the majority of his work being divided between three of the French capital’s major museums. In other words, there’s no better place in the world to see a comprehensive collection of Monet’s most famous paintings. Here’s our complete guide to discovering Monet in Paris.
Musée Marmottan Monet
If you’re after Monet in Paris, this would be the obvious place to start. As you might have guessed, Monet’s namesake museum features the world’s biggest collection of his paintings in the world. You’ll find highlights and hidden gems – including what is arguably the most influential and famous Monet painting ever – as well as a wide selection of works by Monet’s contemporaries.
This is the big one. Its title alone gave the nascent art movement represented by Monet its final name: Impressionism. In April 1874, it was displayed during what would later become known as the “Exhibition of the Impressionists” in Paris, alongside work by Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Morisot.
At the time, most critics did not yet understand the significance of the event they were attending, or how valuable and beloved the paintings (and artists) on display would eventually become. While some enjoyed the painting’s idyllic and hazy representation of the port of Le Havre, others were especially hostile and regarded the painting as unfinished – art critic Louis Leroy was particularly scathing: “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this seascape.”
Nymphéas / Water Lilies
If you’re talking about famous paintings by Claude Monet, it’s only a matter of time before you get to the topic of water lilies. Honestly, it might even be the very first thing anyone brings up. In his later years, Monet lived in a village just outside of Paris: Giverny. It was here that he spent most of his time outside in his flower garden, painting canvases that would later become some of his most renowned paintings.
During the last 30 years of his life, Monet’s primary artistic focus was based around this flower garden – specifically the pond with water lilies. It’s estimated that he created around 250 paintings based on this theme. While these are spread all over the world, many of them can still be found in Paris; no less than 19 of Monet’s Nymphéas can be found at Musée Marmottan Monet.
Houses of Parliament, Reflections on the Thames
Monet often created a series of paintings based on a particular theme, with the above water lilies being the most extreme example. However, Monet also created another series of famous paintings: the Houses of Parliament. These moody, atmospheric pieces were created between 1899 and 1901, during and after his trips to London.
Having first visited the English capital in 1870 (exiled due to the Franco-Prussian War), Monet fell in love with the city’s romantic propensity towards mist and fog. For a painter who was concerned with texture, light, and hazy impressions, London provided a perfect backdrop.
The series is spread out across the world, from Chicago to Moscow, but a trip to Paris will let you admire this particular version of Monet’s unique perspective on London.
The Rose Path, Giverny
This painting is one of the lesser-known gems you’ll find at Musée Marmottan Monet, and was completed in Monet’s final years. Created between 1920 and 1922 (he would die four years later, in 1926), Monet’s eyesight had begun to abandon him. Despite suffering from cataracts that greatly impaired his vision, he still continued painting.
Depicted in a typically Impressionist manner, this is likely to have been the path of roses in Monet’s garden as he himself would have seen it: an almost abstract combination of contrasting colours and blurs, all blending into one hazy but beautiful impression.
Monet took great care of his garden, and in later life had found the financial stability which had eluded him for most of his career – he was free to hire gardeners to help him maintain beautiful and elaborate arrangements such as this one; it’s easy to imagine why he may have wanted to immortalise it in a painting.
Vétheuil in the Fog
Much like the Houses of Parliament, this painting relies heavily on the use of fog to create a unique atmosphere. This particular artwork is part of Monet’s paintings created in and around Paris; Vétheuil is a small commune located 60 kilometres north-west of the city, on the banks of the Seine.
The journey and valuation of this painting mirrors the career of Monet himself. It’s alleged that Jean-Baptiste Faure, a wealthy opera singer and art collector, once refused to buy this painting for 50 francs when it was offered to him by Monet, ridiculing the ‘incompleteness’ of the image and likening it to a blank canvas.
Years later, Faure would visit Monet’s studio and offer to buy it for 1,000 francs, not recognising it as the image he once dismissed, leading to this quote:
Le Pont de l’Europe, gare Saint-Lazare
One of the iconic Monet masterpieces at Musée Marmottan Monet, Le Pont de l’Europe, gare Saint-Lazare is part of – you guessed it – another series of artworks based around a single cohesive theme. In this case, Monet created twelve images of the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station in Paris. This was actually the first instance of Monet focusing a number of works on a single subject, paving the way for later projects.
All of the works in the series (like most of Monet’s famous paintings) were created ‘en plein air’, which essentially means outdoors, in the very location depicted in the painting. Monet was a huge proponent of this way of working, having originally been introduced to the concept by his mentor Eugène Boudin. For anyone embarking on a true Monet pilgrimage in Paris, it’s still possible to visit Saint-Lazare Station and imagine the young artist huddled over his easel.
Train in the Snow / The Locomotive
Between 1874 and 1875, Monet focused much of his creative energy on depicting wintry landscapes, full of snow and frost. Most of these scenes were painted around Argenteuil, a north-western suburb of Paris.
While this painting is unmistakably done in Monet’s own style (which he had spent the last year or so receiving barbed criticism for), it also includes a focus on technological advancements, a popular theme in painting at the time which he had not previously explored.
Bridges featuring trains had been in the background of some of his past paintings, but the train is unmistakably the main subject of this particular work; its black and yellow hues stand in stark contrast to the soft white and grey of the winter landscape.
Musée Marmottan Monet is a must-do for anyone trying to find paintings by Monet in Paris. Slightly less well-known than iconic Parisian museums like the Louvre, this quiet and beautiful venue features 100+ Monet paintings as well as work by artists like Gauguin, Degas, and Morisot.
The Musée d’Orsay is the world’s foremost museum focusing on Impressionism, featuring the largest collection of its kind anywhere on the planet. As you would reasonably assume, it also features plenty of Monet’s most famous paintings, including some of his most iconic works. For anyone looking to find Monet in Paris, it’s an absolute must-visit. Located in a stunningly ornate former railway station that would make it worthy of a visit alone, this museum also contains work by artists including Van Gogh, Manet, Degas, Seurat, and countless others.
The Artist’s Garden at Giverny
Much like The Rose Path mentioned earlier, this was one of the paintings Monet created during the final 30 years of his life, as he sat in his peaceful garden in Giverny enjoying financial stability. One of Monet’s most popular paintings, this particular version of his flower-filled retreat has been exhibited in Australia, Belgium, Korea, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.
It can be seen as the culmination of Monet’s years of careful study and Impressionist experimentation. Dappled light shines through the trees and illuminates the irises below in various hues of purple and pink, creating a beautiful and tranquil scene. Painted in 1900, it’s safe to say that Monet was experiencing a burst of creative inspiration – it was around this time that he created his series of London-based paintings as well as some of his most famous water lilies.
Les Coquelicots / Poppies
Sometimes regarded as one of the 19th century’s most beautiful paintings, this 1873 work by Monet captured a scenic afternoon near Argenteuil, the now-suburb of Paris where Monet lived and worked between 1871 and 1878. This was one of the first Impressionist artworks to be displayed at the ill-fated exhibition in 1874.
While modern audiences marvel at the bright-red poppies flanking a woman and her child (likely Monet’s wife and son) and can appreciate the sense of calmness that pervades the scene, 19th-century audiences were not so kind. Many of those who attended the first Impressionist exhibition were members of the public who were seeking to poke fun at the work by artists who were – at the time – considered as ‘rejects’ from the renowned Paris Salon.
Monet’s Poppies rebelled against the conventions of art during his time, replacing dramatic scenery and traditionalist aesthetics with something as simple as a pleasant summer afternoon. Today, it’s one of the most treasured Monet paintings in Paris.
Women in the Garden
At over two meters tall and wide, Women in the Garden is a true statement piece that has divided opinions ever since 1866. Monet had planned for this work to be shown at the aforementioned Salon – the most prestigious art event on the Parisian calendar – in 1867, and believed he had checked all the right boxes: a massive painting (with an equally massive signature to firmly etch his name in the mind of the public) depicting a scene featuring members of high society.
Unfortunately for Monet, his work did not meet the criteria according to the Salon judges, who saw his work as being too different from the academic approach favoured at the time. Undeterred, Monet persisted with his progressive approach and was eventually proven right; this painting now takes pride of place in the halls of the Musée d’Orsay, captivating visitors on a daily basis.
Luncheon on the Grass
You might have just read that Monet wanted to submit Women in the Garden for consideration to the 1867 Salon, but what he actually wanted to submit was this painting – he just couldn’t quite get it finished in time.
Monet’s friend, Édouard Manet, had previously caused a furore with his own Luncheon on the Grass, which was either seen as a spectacularly innovative work of art or a needlessly provocative and formless mess, depending on the 19th-century art critic involved.
These days, it’s generally considered Manet’s greatest work, and it laid the foundation for Monet and his contemporaries to break away from the constraints of realism and forge their own artistic path. Monet himself seems to have loved and respected the original painting so much that he made his very own version.
Camille Monet on Her Deathbed
There’s no escaping it; this is a grim painting. Camille was Monet’s first wife. They had overcome the disapproval of their parents, great financial difficulties, and the trials and tribulations of an early life in poverty together.
The disapproval from Monet’s side of the family was so strong that they disowned the young couple, leaving them to face the world alone.
In 1877, shortly after the birth of their second child, Camille died at the age of 32, most likely of pelvic cancer. Monet watched her for hours after her death, transfixed by grief, and painted this portrait of his lost love. It’s one of the most emotionally arresting pieces in the Musée d’Orsay’s collection.
London Houses of Parliament: The Sun Shining Through the Fog
Much like the Musée Marmottan Monet, the Musée d’Orsay also has one of Monet’s famous London-based landscapes. Moody, mysterious, and atmospheric, this fiery-hued painting seems to absorb the viewer directly into the mists of London in the 1800s.
An interesting fact about this series is that it’s one of the rare exceptions in which Monet abandoned his plein air painting technique. While he’s guaranteed to have spent several foggy evenings observing the sunset on the banks of the Thames, he refined the paintings back at home in Giverny, even using photographs as reference material for his compositions.
One of the world’s most famous bird paintings, this winter landscape took the concept of ‘en plein air’ to new levels. Monet is claimed to have sat outside in the freezing cold for hours at a time, swaddled up in multiple blankets, in order to properly capture the scene.
The painting shows Monet’s obsession with capturing natural light and shadow, a key trademark of Impressionism. Along with The Train in the Snow, it’s generally considered to be among the most famous and successful of Monet’s many winter paintings.
Rouen Cathedral (series)
Monet, as is evident from paintings like The Magpie and his Houses of Parliament series, spent a good portion of his career experimenting with natural light; he was fascinated by the way in which the time of day or year fundamentally changed the appearance of a subject. This is perhaps best reflected in this Rouen Cathedral series.
While the entire series encompasses more than 30 paintings, three of these showstoppers can be found on the walls at the Musée d’Orsay. Between 1892 and 1893, Monet rented a room directly opposite this beautiful cathedral, and documented the play of light on its Gothic architecture. He exhibited the results in Paris, and successfully sold eight of these paintings while receiving praise from luminaries like Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.
La Gare Saint-Lazare
Part of Monet’s seminal works based on the Parisian railway station, this is arguably the most famous of them all. Conducting the series in 1877, this was Monet at his most archetypical: obsessed with how light and shadow change throughout the day, and how light and mist (in this case steam from the train’s engines) interplay with each other.
Once again, contemporary 19th-century reviewers weren’t left particularly misty-eyed by Monet’s work – certainly not Amédée Descubes-Desgueraines, who quipped: “Unfortunately thick smoke escaping from the canvas prevented our seeing the six paintings dedicated to this study.”
Looking for traces of Monet in Paris? You can still go to this station and see something quite similar to what Monet himself would have seen. While the amount of modern technology has undoubtedly increased (and the steam levels have subsequently decreased), the distinctive roof and original architecture remain intact.
If you have even the slightest interest in art, the Musée d’Orsay should be on your Paris bucket list. Everywhere you turn in this spectacular former railway station, you’re faced with names like Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and – of course – Monet.
Save time with a dedicated entry ticket or a pre-booked guided tour and avoid waiting in line. These special offers mean you can spend less time queuing and more time admiring the museum’s many masterpieces.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Closely linked to the Musée d’Orsay and only a short walk across the Seine, you’ll find this relatively small museum. Don’t be fooled by its size in comparison to its neighbours (a list of landmarks including the Louvre); it’s a must-do for anyone looking to find work by Monet in Paris. Step inside and you’ll soon realise why, as you find yourself surrounded on all sides by Monet’s famous water lilies.
The museum also features paintings by other artists. Picasso, Rousseau, and Matisse all make cameo appearances, but there’s no doubt that Monet is the star attraction here. It’s not uncommon for visitors to spend hours, or the entire day, immersed in these gigantic canvases.
Monet himself is very closely linked to the museum, which was originally named after him; it was inaugurated as the Musée Claude Monet only a few months after his death in 1926, before later being renamed the Musée National de l’Orangerie des Tuileries.
As well as providing the literally larger-than-life paintings that stretch out across the walls, Monet also had a hand in designing the architecture of the museum. His eight-part series of water lily paintings is displayed across two oval-shaped rooms forming an infinity symbol.
If you’re wondering why the light is so good, make sure you look up – Monet himself ensured that there were skylights installed, so that the paintings could be properly observed in natural light, shifting throughout the day.
There’s no better way to admire Monet’s most famous paintings than a private or semi-private tour around the museum that he himself was instrumental in creating. If you’ve enjoyed reading these facts and stories about the artist and his work, you’re guaranteed to love the commentary and insights from an expert art historian tour guide. It’s an exclusive and memorable experience to wander around the mostly-empty halls of the museum, and enjoy having the water lilies all to yourself.
Prefer sunflowers to water lilies? Check out our guide to famous Van Gogh paintings and where to find them, full of iconic images as well as secret stories and insights on the artist’s life and work.