The series includes over 40 paintings created from 1899 to 1904. Though many have since been sold to private collections, lost, or destroyed; only a handful remain visible to the public. Which is unfortunate, as Monet intended for the series to be judged as a whole. In 1903, he wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel:
“I cannot send you a single canvas of London… It is indispensable to have them all before me and to tell the truth; not one is definitely finished. I develop them all together.” (Source – The Met Museum)
Few people would have ever witnessed the series in its entirety. I can only imagine it being a beautiful sight. This video provides a partial glimpse of what the series looks like.
Monet painted the series from his room in the Savoy Hotel, though he continued working on the series back in his Giverny studio. Whilst the paintings appear fresh and spontaneous, Monet didn’t complete them in a single session. He likely had several paintings going at the same time as he tried to capture nature’s fleeting effects.
The series is essentially a study of color and light. The consistent subject allows for clearer observations of the relationships between color, light, and weather. This wasn’t Monet’s first time doing this. He also painted a series on water lilies, the Rouen Cathedral, haystacks, the Houses of Parliament, and the Charing Cross Bridge just to name a few. He painted the Charing Cross Bridge series around the same time and from the same room as the Waterloo Bridge series. That cluttered room must have been a wonderful display of art.
Anyway, let’s take a look at a few paintings from the series, starting with a simple sketch done in 1899. This must be one of his earliest depictions of the scene. Look at those wild, exploratory marks. It’s not refined or pretty, but it’s beautiful in its own right, especially when you know all the paintings that stem from this sketch.