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Giant Monet Painting Discovered in Louvre Storage and Returned to Japan

Missing for almost 60 years, the painting was found severely damaged in a Louvre storage facility.

What’s left of Claude Monet’s “Reflections of the Weeping Willow on the Water-Lily Pond” (1916) (image courtesy the National Museum of Western Art)

Earlier this week, Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art (NMWA) announced that a long-lost Claude Monet painting has been returned after being found “rolled up in the corner of a storage facility at the Louvre Museum in Paris,” according to The Telegraph‘s Danielle Demetriou. Although the painting, “Reflections of the Weeping Willow on the Water-Lily Pond” (1916), was found in either 2016 or 2017 (reports vary), the discovery only recently came to light.

Claude Monet, “Water Lilies,” 1916, another painting from Kōjirō Matsukata’s collection (image courtesy the National Museum of Western Art)

Thought to be a study for Monet’s famed Water Lilies series, the painting once belonged to Kōjirō Matsukata, a Japanese businessman and friend of Monet’s, who bought more than a dozen paintings directly from the artist in the 1920s. Matsukata made his fortune in the shipbuilding industry during World War I and started collecting art almost immediately. He was particularly fond of European art, aspiring to create a museum of his mounting collection of works by Vincent van Gogh, Gustave Courbet, Paul Cézanne, and Auguste Rodin, among others.

During World War II, Matsukata left “Reflections of the Weeping Willow on the Water-Lily Pond” and about 400 other works in Paris for safekeeping. Toward the end of the war, they were requisitioned by the French government as “enemy property.” In 1959, a majority of Matsukata’s collection was returned to Japan. (According to Jane Warren of Express, 14 paintings “were retained by the French to fill in gaps in their national collection.”) Although Matsukata had died nine years previous, his collection was made public in Japan, and a Le Corbusier-designed museum built especially to house it. Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art remains the only Japanese cultural institution devoted to Western art.

Missing for almost 60 years, “Reflections of the Weeping Willow on the Water-Lily Pond,” a 2-x-4-meter canvas, was found severely damaged, half of it effectively destroyed. After a major restoration, NMWA hopes to put the painting on public display for the first time in 2019.

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