Photo/IllutrationClaude Monet’s water lilies painting discovered in 2016 in Louvre is now undergoing major restoration in Japan. The severely damaged canvas lies on a sheet of brown paper for support. Damaged parts are secured with patches of translucent paper. (Provided by the National Museum of Western Art)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A massive canvas by French Impressionist Claude Monet that was part of the famed Matsukata Collection and went missing more than 60 years ago is now back in Japan.

The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo’s Ueno district announced Feb. 26 that the badly damaged “Water lilies: reflection of willows” is now undergoing restoration work in Japan and will go on public display in June next year.

The canvas was owned by Kojiro Matsukata (1866-1950), a wartime business tycoon who amassed a huge collection of Western art.

As Japan's war fortunes dwindled, the painting was moved to Paris for safekeeping. This and other works from the collection were requisitioned by the French government at the end of the war as enemy property.

Most of the seized works were returned to Japan after the war and donated to the National Museum of Western Art in 1959 as the Matsukata Collection, but the Monet canvas had disappeared by then.

It was discovered in tatters in September 2016 by a French researcher rolled up in a corner of a storage space in one of the Louvre's galleries.

It is said that Matsukata purchased the painting directly from Monet. It depicts water lilies flowering in a pond reflecting willow trees on the bank.

The canvas, which is 2 meters high and 4.2 meters wide, dates from 1916. Half of it was missing by the time is was discovered.

The painting is thought to have been damaged when a subordinate of Matsukata transferred part of the collection to the rural outskirts of Paris to safeguard it from possible bombing or fire. Its existence was known, but its whereabouts remained a mystery after the war.

The work is considered to be a study for the set of “Water Lilies” paintings in Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris that is regarded as the masterpiece of Monet’s later years.

Akiko Mabuchi, director of the National Museum of Western Art, called the damaged painting “a valuable work that is indispensable in research of Monet.”