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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Claude Monet


Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

Claude was the second son of wholesale grocer Claude Adolphe Monet and singer Louise Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians.

He was baptized in the local parish church, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, as Oscar-Claude, but his parents called him simply Oscar.

In 1845, Claude's family moved to Le Havre in Normandy.

For much of his childhood, Claude was considered by his teachers and parents to be undisciplined and unlikely to make a success of his life.

The only subject that interested Claude was painting. He developed a reputation at school for the caricatures he was fond of creating.

On January 28, 1857,  Claude's mother died. At the age of sixteen, he left school and went to live with his widowed, childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.


Claude Monet met Eugène Boudin on the beaches of Normandy. He taught him en plein air (outdoor) techniques for painting, rather than painting in a studio.

Claude's father wanted him to go into the family grocery business, but Monet wanted to become an artist.

Monet went to Paris to begin the serious study of art in 1859. He spent most of his time in a café frequented by artists and intellectuals.

In the spring of 1862, Monet was called up for national service with a prestigious regiment Les Chaussures d’Afrique. He went to Algeria for a year.  Upon his contracting typhoid, Monet's aunt Madame Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at a university.

Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at universities, instead in 1862 Monet joined the studio of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley.

By the late 1860s, Monet was deeply in debt especially after his huge painting Women In The Garden was rejected at the 1867 salon.

In 1874, an exhibition of open air pictures was held by Monet and his friends, Cezanne, Degas, Renoir and others in the Boulevard des Capucines, Paris. It included one by Monet with the title Impression: Soleil levant, and the group became known as the Impressionists. However few of their paintings sold and Monet grew increasingly in debt to his friends.

By the mid 1880s, as the result of a growing market for his works in America, Monet was beginning to enjoy some financial success.

Claude Monet, photo by Nadar, 1899.

In 1891 Monet won 100,000 Francs in a state lottery which meant he was financially independent and could spend his life the way he wanted to wandering around and painting the French countryside.

Monet visited London three times between 1899-1901 each time he stayed at the Savoy Hotel and painted views of the Thames including over 30 Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Railway Bridge. In the 1901 census he was recorded as living in the London parish of St Clement Danes.


Monet was obsessed with the optical effects of light and color. He aimed to emphasis the impression the painting intended to convey rather than its detail. He carried his original fragmented technique to the final extreme with paintings such as Water Lilies.

Monet would work on five or six paintings at the same time. As the weather changed he would switch from one canvas to another.

In 1866 Monet submitted his Pre impressionist painting of Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La femme à la robe verte), one of many works using his future wife, Camille Doncieux, as his model. It was his first painting to earn recognition and was hung in the salon.

Monet's Women in the Garden took him a long time to finish as the artist would only paint when the light was falling correctly on every aspect of the painting’s subject matter. In order to complete the top of his canvas Monet dug himself a ditch so that he could continue to paint the scene from the same perspective.

Monet's 1872 painting Impression: Soleil levant (Impression Sunrise) gave the movement its name. A critic complained that it reminded him of wallpaper.

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The title Water Lilies refers to a series painted by the father of French Impressionism between 1900-1926. Monet painted countless individual water lilies in around 250 oil paintings, where nature as a subject begins to be less significant than color.

On one occasion in 1908, while getting 15 of his Water Lilies pictures ready for an exhibition at the Durand-Ruel gallery in Paris, Monet decided that his canvases were not worthy of him. In the space of a few hours with a knife and brush the French artist rendered the fruit of three years labor useless.

By 1912, Monet was earning 369,000 francs - when the average annual income for a laborer in Paris was 1,000 francs.

Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge, 1897–99, Princeton University Art Museum

During World War I, in which Monet's younger son Michel served and his friend and admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, the French artist painted a series of weeping willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers.

Throughout the war, Monet never stopped working. His barber had to cut his hair as he painted.

Monet was painting a portrait of a high oak tree when bad weather for three weeks interrupted his work. When the French artist returned to the site the tree was in full bloom. At the request of Monet the Mayor of the village organised a working party that proceeded to remove every single leaf from the tree. Monet then proceeded to continue the painting of the barren oak from where he had left off.

Monet's 1874 painting Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sail Boat needed two years of repairs after a man punched a hole through it in 2012.

Paul Signac said of Monet: "He paints as a bird sings."


Despite being baptized Catholic as a baby, Monet later became an atheist.

Monet ate and drank in huge quantities, starting the day with a glass of white wine.

During Monet's time in England, he grew very fond of Yorkshire Pudding.

Monet had an interest in cookery and claimed to have originated ceps (an edible fungi) in olive oil.

Back home in France, Monet served beautifully prepared home-made meals using whatever his garden or farmyard could supply.


Monet's 1866 Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La femme à la robe verte) depicted his mistress Camille Doncieux. Shortly thereafter Doncieux became pregnant and she gave birth to their first child, Jean in 1867.

The Woman in the Green Dress, Camille Doncieux, 1866, Kunsthalle Bremen

The impoverished Monet and Camille were without a permanent home in the late 1860s and they were forced to lodge with friends.

Monet and Camille married on June 28, 1870. After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in the following month, Monet and his family took refuge in England.

After their excursion to London  Monet and Camille rented a house in Argenteuil near the Seine River in December 1871. They spent their next six years there.

They had another son, Michel, on March 17, 1878, but Camille’s health declined following the birth of their second child and she died of uterine cancer on September 5, 1879 at the age of thirty-two.

Claude Monet, Camille Monet on her deathbed, 1879, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Alice Hoschede, the widow of a former friend and benefactor. decided to help Monet by bringing up his two children together with her own. They lived together in Poissy, which Monet hated.

In April 1883 Monet and Alice moved to a house in Giverny, Eure, in Haute-Normandie.

Monet and Hoschedé married in 1892.  Alice died nineteen years later in 1911.


The beauty of the French village Giverny in Haute-Normandie, struck Monet when he passed through on a train. The artist was so inspired that in 1883 he rented a house there. By 1890, he and Alice were able to afford to purchase the property.

Monet imported water lilies for his Giverny garden from Egypt and South America. He remodeled almost his entire estate-creating an island to obtain the effects he needed for a series of pictures depicting the reflection of clouds on water. By exploiting his wonderful understanding of color . Monet created one of the most admired of all gardens. This water garden with its famous Japanese bridge formed the inspiration for many of his works.

Monet hired a gardener to dust the water lilies in the center of the pond in his Giverny garden. Monet wouldn't paint them till they were clean.


Monet's oldest son Jean, who had married Alice's daughter by her first marriage Blanche, died in 1914.

Jean Monet on his hobby horse, 1872, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts, and Blanche looked after and cared for the ailing French artist.

In 1923, the increasingly blind artist underwent two operations to remove his cataracts. The paintings done while the cataracts affected Monet's  vision have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims.

The Japanese Footbridge, 1920–22, 

Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.

The statesman Clemenceau raced to Monet's deathbed and ensured that the coffin was decorated with a cloth embroidered with periwinkles and hydrangeas."No black for Monet," he decreed.

Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple; thus only about fifty people attended the burial ceremony.

After his death, Monet's Water Lilies series were largely ignored for many decades, but in the 1950s, curators rediscovered the French Impressionist. By 1955, the Museum of Modern Art had purchased their first Monet from his Water Lilies series, and it quickly became one of the famed museum’s most popular holdings.

Sources Daily MailFood For Thought by Ed Pearce,

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