11 Surprising Stories Behind Amazing Artworks

One of Claude Monet's Water Lilies pieces, circa 1925.
One of Claude Monet's Water Lilies pieces, circa 1925. / Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

You can learn a lot at an art museum, but the placards beside the pieces are rarely large enough to tell the whole story about how each work came to be.

This episode of The List Show is devoted to filling in some of the gaps. Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is sharing all the fascinating details behind 11 visual masterpieces, from Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals to the Benin Bronzes, a collection of precious sculptures and other works looted from Nigeria in the late 19th century.

Not all beloved artworks started out that way. When Claude Monet wanted to purchase land in Giverny, France, to grow a lush water garden he could render on canvas, townspeople expressed outrage. (To be fair, they were mainly worried he’d wreak havoc on the region by introducing invasive plant species.) Though Monet prevailed, it wasn’t the only obstacle he’d have to overcome in order to paint his famed Water Lilies.

Hear the rest of that story and more below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future videos.