Claude Monet is best known for his paintings of water lilies, gardens and everyday life. But are they also a source of uncovering past air quality problems? Well researchers at the U.K.’s Royal Society, say the answer is yes, at least for one famous painting of London’s Parliament building in 1904. According to the researchers, Monet’s keen eye for detail provided a vivid snapshot of the brown and yellow skies which surrounded the Parliament building at that time. They believe the light absorption by grease and oil droplets from smoking chimneys produced these specific colors, and their findings are in excellent agreement with Monet’s complaints about London’s sad and drab weather and elusive Victorian sun.

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