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Water Lilies

Water Lilies Description

Water Lilies (Agapanthus)
Claude Monet
c. 1915-1926
oil on canvas
79" x 167"
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio


Students will look closely at the painting to investigate the characteristics of water lilies and predict the food webs and the relationships between the plants and animals that typically live in or around a lily pond. They will create their own work of art that demonstrates their knowledge of the intersection of animal and plant life in a pond environment.


1. As a class, compare the role of observation in science with its role in art making. Discuss how the scientist and artist approach the natural world in similar ways. Monet’s Water Lilies. Ask:

What details in this painting tell you the artist spent time looking closely at water lilies? (Monet shows the variety of colors within the blossoms and leaves, and the effects of light on their surfaces.)

What do you think the artist was trying to capture? (
The aim of his large Water Lilies paintings, Monet said, was to supply "the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank." While his garden in Giverny, his water-lily pond, and the sky above are the subjects of this monumental triptych, his representation of them can be seen to verge toward abstraction. In the attempt to capture the constantly changing qualities of natural light and color, spatial cues all but dissolve; above and below, near and far, water and sky all commingle. In his enveloping, large-scale canvases Monet sought to create "the refuge of a peaceful meditation in the center of a flowering aquarium.")

Do you think the painting represents a water lily accurately? (no) Why? (Money wanted to convey an impression of the lilies not exact replicas)

What does the painting tell you about a water lily’s

2. Have students list characteristics of water lilies based on the information in this painting. Ask them to consider the following:

In what type of water would you expect to see water lilies—a fast-flowing river, a lake, a pond, the ocean? (most often on a pond or lake)
Where do plants get the energy they need to grow and make food? (sun)
If you were looking at a real lily pond, what types of living things might you see? (insects, mammals, birds, amphibians, or fish found in or near a lake/pond environment)
Where do the animals living in or near the pond get the energy they need? (food)

Make a list on a chalkboard or flip chart of the plants and animals identified by students. Instruct the students to circle and connect with lines the animals and plants that are related to each other. (Example: A frog might eat an insect, and the frog might be eaten by a large bird.)

3. Using the notes on the chalkboard or flip chart, have students categorize the plants and animals that live on the surface of the water, under the surface, and around the pond.

4. Instruct students to create a work of art that represents a healthy pond habitat in a medium and style of their choosing. Don’t forget to include the water lilies!

The lesson plans below were written by science teacher Larry Bloomfield, art teacher Michelle Harrell, and French teacher Sylvie Little of Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School.

Activities and Lesson Plans

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