Claude Monet, One of the Leading Impressionist Painters
Introducing Monet & Impressionism
Born in Paris, France on 14th November 1840 Oscar Claude Monet was one of the leading ‘Impressionist’ artists of his time. His paintings are known for their brilliant use of atmosphere, colour and light. He worked outside in the open air extensively, painting what he saw around him, as well as a doing a considerable amount of studio work.
One only has to look at many of his paintings to see the vivid colours and striking effects he was able to achieve in his work.
Monet’s subject matter was varied; he painted people, buildings, locomotives, nature, churches and more.
Impressionist painting owes its name to one of his works, ‘Impression, Sunrise’ which critics and others regarded as having an unfinished look to it, this not being the norm at the time. Quick brushstrokes were used in Impressionism; changes in light and the variety of colours in nature were studied and imparted to the canvas.
There were times when he became depressed due to circumstances as well as doubting the quality of his work; he destroyed more than 500 of his paintings during these bouts.
Monet completed over 2000 works, an amazing achievement for this hard-working artist.
As a person he was sensitive, a perfectionist, liked his privacy and was at times rebellious and non-conformist.
Claude Monet died on 5th December 1926 at the age of 86.
Monet's Early Life
- Monet’s father was Claude Adolphe Monet and his mother, Louise Justine Aubrée Monet. Baby Claude was baptized on 20th May 1841 at Notre-Dame-de- Lorette. His father was in the grocery business and his mother was a musician, singing was her forte.
- Claude's father wanted him to join the family business as a manager of the grocery shop. He was initially disappointed when his son expressed a great desire to venture into art.
- In 1845 the Monet family moved to Le Havre on the coast of Northern France. In 1851 Claude went to the Le Havre private school. As a growing boy he liked to explore the port and walk on the beach as well as the Saint-Adresse cliffs, being fascinated by nature. He took drawing lessons with Jacques Francois Orchard. In his spare time Claude did caricatures of people in charcoal pencil and was able to sell them.
- He met Eugéne Boudin, a landscape artist at Le Havre. Using the medium of pastels and oils, Boudin encouraged Monet to paint outdoors which was something he pursued his entire lifetime. It was known as ‘En Plein Air’ or ‘Plein Air Painting.’
In January 1857 his mother died and his aunt began to look after him; Claude was relatively young when this occurred.
First Landscape Painting, The Army, Paris
- Monet’s first landscape painting was ‘View At Rouelles’ which was exhibited at the Le Havre municipal exhibition in 1858.
- A year after this Monet began painting at the Charles Suisse Academy in Paris and also moved to Paris. He met up with artists Courbet, Pissarro and Cézanne there.
- In 1860 he was conscripted into the army for seven years, joining the 1st Regiment of ‘The African Light Cavalry’ in Algeria. He had to leave after two years due to contracting typhoid. This could be seen as a blessing in disguise as he was able to continue with his painting when he'd recovered.
- Monet returned to painting at Le Havre in 1862, joining Dutch artist Jongkind who was to have a significant influence on his work.
- After this he studied at the School of Fine Art of Paris with Charles Gleyre and befriended the likes of Renoir, Sisley and Bazille. He painted outdoors in the forest at Fontainebleau with Millet, Daubigny, Rousseau and Corot. They used vast amounts of light and open spaces in their work.
Monet Strives to 'Make It' as an Artist
- In 1865 came the Salon of Paris, an annual art show, where Monet exhibited. Impressionism had its roots here. Two of his landscape paintings received recognition at this show. However he did not receive much financial reward for his work at this time.
- He did many paintings in the studio as he sought recognition from the art world. One such work for which he received honour was ‘The Woman in the Green Dress,’ also known as ‘Camille.’ Monet was making some progress.
- Towards the latter part of the 1860s he started to express a style of his own. This entailed moving away from conventional ways of painting of the time, striving to use bold colours and a loose, fragmented style.
- In 1867 his mistress, Camille Doncieux bore them their first son Jean. The following year his finances were in bad shape – he suffered from depression and had suicidal tendencies. Louis Joachim Guadibert took an interest in Monet’s work helping him with his situation.
Soon Monet would meet the artist Edouard Manet at a place he often visited, the Café Guerbois in Paris. For a while he lived in Saint-Michel near Bougival painting with Renoir.
Marriage, London & The Netherlands
- Claude married Camille in 1870; he did several paintings of her two of which are ‘Woman in a Garden’ and ‘Camille Sitting on the Beach at Trouville.’
- When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in 1870 Monet moved with his family to London. Here he was able to view the works of John Constable, Joseph Mallard and William Turner. He acquired a sense of the use of colour from their paintings. He became acquainted with Paul Durand-Ruel in London – the latter became his first art dealer.
In 1871 he spent some time in the Netherlands painting; then returned to France. He was certainly a man who was passionate about his work.
'The Bridge at Argenteuil'
- In 1871 Monet’s father passed away and Claude moved to Argenteuil on the periphery of Paris. He lived there for seven years often painting on the banks of the Seine River. Here he worked with impressionist painters such as Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Gustave Caillebotte.
- ‘Impression Sunrise’ was exhibited at the Society in 1874. It is a misty scene of the port at Le Havre with the morning sky, an orange sun, the harbour buildings and cranes, as well as figures in boats on whitish-grey water. Some of his other works done in Argenteuil are ‘The Artists Garden in Argenteuil,’ ‘Regattas at Argenteuil’, ‘The Bridge at Argenteuil’ and ‘Argenteuil.'
- In 1875 Claude went to the Louvre in Paris to observe the works there; many were those of the Old Masters whom he no doubt admired, but did not want to merely copy their style. He chose to use a different, more abstract style which didn’t necessarily involve accurate detail of the subject matter.
- Monet met the collector Ernest Hoschede and his wife Alice in 1876 resulting in Claude becoming a family friend to them. He stayed with them in Montgeron; Hoschede bought some of Claude’s paintings but met with bankruptcy soon after this.
Monet’s financial woes dragged on – despite setbacks he continued to work tirelessly as an artist.
Camille Succumbs to Tuberculosis
- Claude and Camille’s second son Michel was born in 1878, however Camille’s health deteriorated and she died from tuberculosis in 1879.
From 1879 to 1881 he lived in Véteuil. Alice Hoschede who had six children began to look after Monet’s two sons after Camille’s death. They moved to Poissy but Claude did not like living there.
Monet's Years at Giverney
- In 1883 Monet moved to Haute-Normandie, Giverney with his sons and Alice Hoschedé and her six children. He rented a house on a property there which he was later able to purchase. He lived there for the next forty three years. Below the property was a railway line.
- Durand-Ruel helped Monet to exhibit his works in New York in 1887, an achievement on the part of the artist. In 1889 he exhibited alongside Rodin. Between 1889 and 1901 Monet went to London to paint views of Parliament, Charing Cross Bridge, and those of The Thames.
- Monet achieved fame and fortune in the early 1900s; he was recognized as an accomplished artist and could earn a satisfactory living from his work.
- In 1890 he bought the property with the house in Giverney and two years later he married Alice after her husband passed away.
- At Giverney he did a number of series of paintings, some of the subjects being - the Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, Haystacks, The Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies. This entailed painting the same subject matter under varying conditions of light.
- Here Monet also constructed a beautiful garden and did many paintings of it. He cleared an area, planted trees, new grass and flowers. He established a vegetable garden as well as a water garden with a pond and water lilies and constructed a Japanese Bridge.
- In 1907 his vision became problematic – cataracts were developing. Despite this he went to Venice, Italy and worked on a series of paintings.
- Then in 1911 his wife Alice passed away. Sadly a few years later his son Jean died.
- Monet constructed a studio at the top end of the garden at Giverny. He did twelve huge paintings which were displayed in the museum of the Orangerie in Paris.
- He had to have an operation for a cataract in one eye in 1923 which helped him to see better as the vision in this eye had deteriorated.
This prolific, enduring artist died from lung cancer in 1926 at Giverney in France. He left behind many completed works for art lovers to view with admiration.
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© 2016 David Edward Lynch