Claude Monet was a French painter and a leading artist of the Impressionist style. It was from his work “Impression, Soleil Levant” that the name Impressionism was derived.
Early Life and Education
Oscar-Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris. His father, Adolphe, worked in the family business and mother, Louise, was a trained singer and had an interest in poetry. The family moved to La Havre in the Normandy region when Claude was five years old. He had an early interest in art and was encouraged by his mother, whose death in 1857 had a deep impact on him. However, his father wanted him to join the family business.
In Normandy, Monet met Eugène Boudin, who became his mentor and introduced him to painting “en plein air,” which would influence his work for the rest of his life.
Monet studied art seriously after moving to Paris in 1859. He was enrolled at the Académie Suisse and later, while studying under Charles Gleyre, came to know other young artists of the time such as Camille Pissarro, Jean Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The landscape painter Johan Barthold Jongkind was an important influence for the young artist.
Monet first exhibited his paintings at the Paris Salon in 1865 and the following year too, the jury selected two of his works. The selected works in 1866 comprised a landscape and a portrait of Camille Doncieux, his muse and future wife, entitled “Camille” or “The Woman in the Green Dress.” The couple’s first son, Jean, was born in 1867 and they married in 1870, just ahead of the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Monet faced financial hardship in this period and creditors confiscated many of his paintings. His distress at the situation led him to attempt suicide by drowning in River Siene in 1868. He and Camille were helped through the crisis by the patronage of Louis-Joachim Gaudibert, who provided Camille with a house to care for the newborn Jean.
With the outbreak of the war in 1870, Monet and Camille sought refuge in England. Here, Monet met his first art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, and also studied the landscapes of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.
Beginning of Impressionism
Monet returned to France in 1872 and settled in the industrial town of Argenteuil, west of Paris. He renewed contact with Pissarro and Renoir, meeting them as well as Édouard Manet regularly. Manet and Monet would often meet at the latter’s studio on a boat and paint each other, as well as the surrounding view. Monet began to develop an individual artistic style in this period.
Monet was an important figure, along with Sisley, Renoir, Pissarro and Edgar Degas in forming the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs in 1874. The aim of the society was to promote the avant-garde in art and move away from the constraints of art presented in the traditional, annual Salon. The first exhibition of the society, popularly called the first Impressionist Exhibition, was held in 1874 in Paris. The name Impressionism, which came to define a style of art with small, defined brushstrokes, natural depiction of light, and scenes from modern life, was derived from Monet’s 1872 painting, “Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise),” though it was first used in a negative sense by critics of the group’s art.
Monet and Camille’s second son was born in 1878, but this was also a difficult time for the family. Camille, whose health had been failing for some time, was diagnosed with uterine cancer and died in 1879. Before her death, the family moved to the village of Vétheuil, where they lived with Ernest and Alice Hoschedé and their six children.
Monet and Alice became romantically involved after Camille’s death, moving with their children to Giverny in 1883, though Alice never divorced Ernest. It was only in 1893, after Ernest’s death, that Alice and Monet married. Monet was to live the rest of his life in Giverny, although he traveled to other parts of Europe to seek inspiration. Many of his later paintings of outdoor gardens, Japanese bridges and water lilies were inspired from the landscape at Giverny. The impact of light at different times of the day under varying conditions was a constant theme in his work.
In his later years, Monet suffered from poor eyesight as well as depression. He died at his home in Giverny on December 5, 1926. His home now houses the Claude Monet Foundation.
Born:November 14, 1840
See his work at:
LONDON: The National Gallery
NEW YORK: Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
PARIS: Musée Marmottan Monet, Musée d’Orsay
SAN FRANCISCO: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Died:December 5, 1926
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