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Erin's Blog


An Ode to Water Lilies

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The History of Water Lilies 

In honor of Erin Hanson's new, expansive water lilies painting, we wanted to take a moment to look back at the rich and colorful history of these luminous blooms. You may be surprised to know that this exotic flower can actually be dated as far back as the Jurassic era (the Amazon Water Lily) and has been peppered throughout human history for thousands of years.

Religious Meaning: In Buddhism and Hinduism, the water lily symbolizes resurrection, due to its nature of closing up at night and reopening in the morning, which simulates a daily spiritual rebirth.

Ancient Times: Water lilies are were an important part of ancient Egyptian culture, and the graceful flowers can be found adorning pillars, stone alters, and many other parts of ancient temples a symbol of the sun and rebirth.

Ancient Egyptian water lilies

Trade Opens the World to Exotic Beauty: These beautiful, naturally occurring floating flowers are indigenous to East Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical South America. As international trade opened up it wasn't long before these gorgeous blooms started popping up in large European estates in the late 1700's.

The World Stage Takes Notice: In 1893, ten years after Monet's arrival at Giverny (by then he was already a celebrated artist), he bought the piece of land neighboring his property and built his own water lily ponds. Monet created his own gardens of inspiration, even though his neighbors were opposed due to a fear that his exotic plants would poison the water and the land. His water garden was notably rugged and rural in its landscaping and was inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew well from the prints he collected avidly.


Over his lifetime Monet painted over 250 pieces inspired by water lilies and they have since become some of the most iconic images of Impressionism.

Today, sprawling gardens of water lilies can be found spanning the globe. They can be enjoyed immaculately manicured in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, with a picnic at the Norton Simon Art Museum in Pasadena, California, and in many cases, you find a neighbor with a gently trickling waterfall and lily pond as an artistic element in their backyard.

As art imitates life and life imitates art, Erin discovered the water lily garden at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and was inspired to paint the fascinating specimen for the first time (2016).

Erin Hanson painting Water Lilies

Water Lilies

Over the next 5 years, Erin painted many water lily-inspired paintings. She started searching out water lily ponds so that she could explore the contrasting colors and textures of water lilies on a still pond.

I perhaps owe having become a

painter to flowers. - Claude Monet

Erin Hanson's

Erin Hanson painting Lily Reflections

Lily Reflections by Erin Hanson, 2021

Erin Hanson painting Lilies Reflections

Lilies Reflections by Erin Hanson, 2021
Permanent Collection: Hilbert Museum of California Art

Erin Hanson painting Lilies on Blue

Lilies on Blue by Erin Hanson, 2020

Erin Hanson painting Ripples of Light

Ripples of Light by Erin Hanson, 2020

Erin Hanson painting Lilies Impressions

Lilies Impressions by Erin Hanson, 2020

Erin Hanson painting Lilies Reflection

Lilies Reflection by Erin Hanson, 2019

Erin Hanson painting Lilies on the Lake

Lilies on the Lake by Erin Hanson, 2019

Erin Hanson painting Lilies at Dawn

Lilies at Dawn by Erin Hanson, 2016

Erin Hanson painting Lilies on the Lake II

Lilies on the Lake II by Erin Hanson, 2016
Collection of the Allegretto Hotel in Paso Robles, CA

Erin Hanson painting Water Lilies

Water Lilies by Erin Hanson, 2016

Erin Hanson private commission painting Lilies and Koi

Lilies and Koi by Erin Hanson, 2021
Private commission

Erin Hanson painting Lilies in Triptych

Lilies in Triptych by Erin Hanson, 2021
Available for purchase

Erin Hanson painting Lilies in TriptychLilies in Triptych in-room for scale

Enjoy the entire Erin Hanson Water Lilies Collection Here

Water Lilies
Around the World

The Orangerie

In 1927, the water lilies were set in massive curved panels and installed in two adjoining oval-shaped rooms in Paris' new museum, The Orangerie. The rooms opened in 1927. Some art historians call the Orangerie the world's first "art installation" because the space was designed specifically for Monet's paintings.

Monet working on Water Lilies

A photo of Monet working on Water Lilies (1920)

In the middle of this rollout image is the Water Lily Jaguar

In the middle of this rollout image is the Water Lily Jaguar. It is on a witz (a living mountain) in between a wahy (spirit being) on the left and Chaak on the right. (There's also a serpent that is coming out of the witz.) The vessel was made between 600s AD and 700s AD, either in Mexico or Guatemala. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dead on the Papyrus of Ani, c. 1250 BCE

The ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor in the shape of a cow descending into the papyrus marshes from a stylized mountain, and a hippopotamus goddess with lotus/water lily offerings. From the Book of the Dead on the Papyrus of Ani, c. 1250 BCE.
British Museum, London. ©Trustees of the British Museum

A piece of Japanese art from the 1800s depicting a Japanese carp and water lilies

A piece of Japanese art from the 1800s
depicting a Japanese carp and water lilies.

Sudley Castle, in Gloucestershire, England

Sudley Castle, in Gloucestershire, England

Sudeley Castle is also the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds. Visitors can explore the beautifully restored 15th century St Mary’s Church where Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives, now lies entombed.

Would you like to see more of Erin Hanson's water lilies? Take a look at the entire collection here.

About Erin

ERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a teenager, she apprenticed at a mural studio where she worked on 40-foot-long paintings while selling art commissions on the side. After being told it was too hard to make a living as an artist, she got her degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley. Afterward, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to return to her love of painting and create one new painting every week.

She has stuck to that decision, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history, with over 3,000 oil paintings sold to eager collectors. Erin Hanson’s style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is taught in art schools worldwide. With millions of followers, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of impressionism, inspiring thousands of other artists to pick up the brush.