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Portland Art Museum receives grant to restore Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’

The oil-on-canvas masterpiece is one of the French painter’s most universally recognized works.

Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," one of approximately 250 paintings created by the artist, now owned by Portland Art Museum. White blossoms occupy the upper half of the work, sprouting from round lily pads. On the bottom half, three pink flowers are framed by water grass.

Portland Art Museum used proceeds from a highly successful Van Gogh exhibit in 1958 to purchase this Monet masterpiece the year after.

Photo by M.O. Stevens

Iconic painter Claude Monet created ~250 compositions of the water lilies in his garden in Giverny, France before he died in 1926. Out of all those works, one particular piece hung in the dining room of his son, Michel Monet, for over 35 years — eventually, in 1959, it made its way to the Portland Art Museum’s (PAM) Impressionist collection.

Since then, “Water Lilies” has lost a bit of its original magic, but thanks to a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project, holistic conservation to restore the painting to its intended appearance — soft, subtle colors with varying texture and luminosity — can move forward. PAM conservator Charlotte Ameringer is leading the complicated effort to remove a synthetic varnish that saturates the paint films, imparting a flat surface gloss.

Typically, this type of work is conducted behind-the-scenes, but the community is invited to follow the process over the next eight months via social media.

Expect the painting to return to public view, alongside a transformed campus, in late 2025.