The end of the 1890s was marred by tragedy for Monet, though this was not apparent in the tranquil, quiet paintings of his beloved water lily pond in the garden at Giverny. In 1898 Monet's good friend and supporter
Stephen Mallarme died, and at the end of the year Sisley, who had been friends with Monet for nearly 40 years, developed throat cancer. Sisley died in January 1899 and Monet later organized an exhibition and sale of
his works to raise funds for his family. Further disaster struck when Alice's daughter Suzanne died suddenly, aged just 30, It was a devastating blow to Monet and his wife, who never recovered from the grief.
From out of this despair, Monet painted his exquisite canvases based on his water lily pond and the wooden Japanese bridge that he had constructed in 1895 (Monet had long been an admirer of Japanese woodcuts and design). He first painted his water lilies in 1897, but in 1899 he produced a series of 18 contemplative works of the lilies and the bridge, each demonstrating his unsurpassed skills as a colorist.