Monet's two oval-shaped rooms filled with his Nympheas (Waterlilies) paintings (1918-27) in the
Orangerie in Paris at first glance appear to have no human figures except the visitors looking
at the panels.
the surfaces on these canvases are filled with the colors of light, clouds, waterplants, and flowers.
But in the FIRST ROOM of the WATER LILIES as you enter from the lobby,
approximately at the spot on the left wall marked by the arrow above, you will find a face hidden in the cloud reflections of the pond:
It is the facial signature of the artist, who is
following in the tradition of self-portraiture for painters, established by Masaccio, over on the right. (See my blog entry on Masaccio and the tradition of self-portraiture for painters.)
If you compare photographs of Monet near the end of his life and the closeup of this section of the
cloudscape in the Waterlilies, there is a wonderful similarity of form:
The artist paints himself into the painting with his long scraggly white beard, with darker greys near the mouth for the darker parts of the mustache and beard that have not yet turned white. The right eye appears larger as the left eye does in the photo. It is as if Monet were looking in a mirror to replicate himself. The lids above the eyes are darkened, too, and there is a suggestion in the painted version of the furrowed lines between the eyebrows.
Perhaps the dark mass to the right of this self-portrait is meant to pull his face forward out of the depths while at the same time evoking the dark unknown of death. (Monet dies in 1926 just a few months before the rooms are completely finished in 1927.)