For nearly thirty years, Monet was interested in depicting one plant species, the water lily. Starting in 1897, the first paintings are small, their format almost square. Over two hundred and fifty canvasses were painted on this theme of nature in its primordial forms : water, light, vegetation, splashes of flowers.
In 1908, Monet wrote:
These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession; it is beyond the stength of an old man. And yet I want to succeed in depicting what I feel. I have destroyed some; I have started all over again. I hope that something will emerge from so much effort.
Wishing to participate in the 1918 victory, Monet offered two big panels to the French state and asked Clemenceau to act as an intermediary. The latter persuaded the artist to extend his gift and finally eight vast compositions were installed in two big oval rooms in the Orangerie, after Monet's death but in accordance with his instructions.