Claude Monet is recognized as the founder of Impressionism in France. He believed that the key to painting landscape portraits successfully is in the painter’s ability to depict light and the overall atmosphere of the surrounding accurately. For him, it is the fleeting movement of living things and the air which gives true value to the painting.
Monet’s idea of painting what he sees and his first impression about it is what shaped the artistic movement he founded. As a matter of fact, his Impression painting of 1872 is where “Impressionism” derived from. The painting depicts the sunrise over the harbor of Le Havre, France. He used freer brushstrokes, suggesting that the painter was trying to capture the subject as it happens or spontaneously. Impression was then submitted to the Salon and was exhibited in 1874 together with other works of Impressionist painters.
Claude Monet wanted to capture the 19th century French countryside in a manner that the end-result would be unique for each painting depicting the same subject. He wanted to record a series of scenes of a particular place as well as to observe how the changing of light and seasons will have an effect on his Impressionistic art. So he settled in Giverny and started painting a large number of landscapes there, in which lily ponds would become his major subject.
Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris to husband and wife, Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubree. His family’s business was a grocery in Paris but Claude moved to Le Havre in Normandy when he was five years old. The place would become his easiest access to the French countryside and his inspiration to many of his earlier works.
In stating precisely, Le Havre’s rough coastline and harbor had struck his interest in observing nature. At some point he would skip his class to go out for long walks by the beach and cliffs. During this period he was receiving his education from the Le Havre secondary school of the arts. Monet was already popular around the town for his drawing skills so he specialized in drawing caricatures using charcoal as a medium. Monet would put these caricatures up for sale for 10 to 20 francs.
He was able to sell those drawings by exhibiting them at an ironmonger shop called Gravier’s. He would put them up for display every Sunday and each of those had already been framed in gold detailing. However, only a few of the drawings have survived today.
When he reached adolescent years, Mr. Gravier introduced the young Monet to local painter Jacques Francois Ochard, a notable student of Jacques David. In 1856 he befriended Eugene Boudin, who was his senior and so he became his mentor in oil painting, which resulted to the creation of the View from Rouelles. It was also Boudin who taught him how to paint outside of the studio, and then after a while, he was mentored by another Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind.
For Monet, he did recognize Boudin as his true master, as such in his own words: “…by there completing the teaching which I had received from Boudin, he was from this moment my true Master, and it is to him that I owe the final education of my eye”.
Monet took a break from school as he entered the military but once he got out of the enlistment he went to the country capital to study at the School Fine Art of Paris. There he joined the circle of the Swiss artist, Charles Gleyre, and it is through him he met other notable Impressionist painters like Alfred Sisley, Renoir and Frederic Bazille. In 1860, the quartet attended the Café Guerbois art shows and meetings. They presumably have befriended other prominent figures there such as Emile Zola and Edouard Monet.
By 1865, Claude Monet had begun working on his own representation of Le dejeuner sur I’herbe, with a goal to have it exhibited at the Salon. It was such a bold move of Monet for two years earlier, Edouard Manet’s version of the said painting was rejected by the Salon jury. However, the painting was an ambitious attempt to impress the jury. He wanted the painting to reach a colossal size but he had little time to do it because the deadline was fast-approaching already.
Monet deliberately submitted Camille or The Two Woman in the Green Dress instead of his original plan. His wife, Camille Doncieux, modeled for the painting and she would later prove to be a profound inspiration for Monet’s succeeding works. Few examples include Women in the Garden and On the Bank of the Seine in 1868. The marital affair bore a child named Jean in 1867 and the two officially got married on June 28, 1870 few days before the Franco-Prussian War broke out.
Monet lived in poverty throughout the 1870’s probably because of his lack of patrons. The Salon would still reject some impressionist paintings or most that were exhibited did not became a top-selling piece because the audience was not used to seeing landscapes or common individuals as subjects.
The outbreak of the said civil war prompted Monet and his family to settle in England in September 1870. There, he studied the works of prominent English landscape artists such as William Turner and John Constable. He was particularly interested in the coloring techniques of the said artists which had a profound effect on his style later on. In 1871, Monet refused to accept the exhibition offer made by the Royal Academy.
In summer of 1871, he moved to Zaandam, Netherlands to pursue some commissioned works there. He made a total of 25 paintings while in Netherlands and then decided to return to France by November of that same year. However, instead of settling down in central Paris, he opted to stay at Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878, a small town on the bank of the Seine River.
The views of the Seine River inspired him to produce more paintings and this time, he included some more figures in his work. He also tried to develop a new style that would distinguish his works from others. In 1873, he conceived an idea of building a floating studio where he would paint landscapes and portraits of his friends and family members.
Around 1872 and 1873, Claude Monet was painting one of his most important works, the Impression, Sunrise. The painting marked the beginning of an artistic movement that would last for approximately three decades. The name of the movement was derived from the title of Monet’s sunrise painting, but it was actually art scholar Louis Leroy who coined the name Impressionism.
Impression, Sunrise was included in the first ever Impressionist exhibition of 1874. It is now considered as a breakthrough work and a relic of the glorious past of the Impressionist Masters. The said exhibition was led by Cezanne, Sisley, Degas, Manet, and Pissarro, but the attempt was had been somewhat problematic for the artists really found it difficult to raise funds for the exhibition.
After the Impressionist exhibition, Monet still experienced a few setbacks in his career. But this did not stop him from wanting to succeed. He continued refining his en-plein air technique and went on a series of trips across France, particularly those areas near the Atlantic coasts and Mediterranean Sea. He studied how to accurately depict light and color from nature. Additionally, he paid a visit to Pourville, Varengeville sur Mer, and Dieppe too.
Claude Monet was introduced to a wealthy art collector, Ernest Hoschede in 1876. The art collector invited him to come over to Rottembourg in Montgeron to meet the other artists there. Hoschede had then bought Monet’s paintings but a couple of years later he went bankrupt and the patronage on Impressionist paintings stopped.
In 1878, Camille gave birth to Michel but she died of tuberculosis a year later. Alice Hoschede, who really became a great family friend to the Monet’s, helped out in rearing the Claude’s two sons. They would become new parental figures to their respective children. In 1881, Monet and Alice together with their family moved to Poissy, a town near Giverny.
The views of Giverny had been a recurring subject to the later works of Monet. He even rented a house there, where he would spend the remainder of his life. The property was originally owned by Louis-Joseph Singeot but had transferred the rights to Monet so that the painter could expand it to two and a half acres. The estate has an uphill and downhill, wherein the end of the downhill is called chemin du Roy.
Adjacent to the chemin du Roy was a railway that connects Gasny and Vermon. The surroundings was such a sight to behold for the painter. He would even design its landscape himself by building a large garden and made it his inspiration for his works. This was the time his subject shifted to depicting water lilies and ponds. He painted The Water Lily Pool in 1900 as his last major art work, which is a series of paintings exclusive to lilies and garden.
Few years before retiring at Giverny, in 1887, Monet had been given the opportunity by Durend-Ruel to hold an exhibition in New York. This was followed by another exhibition in 1889 organized by Galerie Georges Petit which showed 145 Monet paintings. These exclusive art shows earned him a good amount of fortune that he was able to buy a private estate at Giverny. He built 3 greenhouses, a Japanese inspired bridge and other cottages around the area.
From 1892 to 1898, Claude Monet had been contracted by the Rouen Cathedral to paint a series of portraits of the church. During this period he also decided to marry Alice Hoschede and peacefully retired in his estate. Monet’s circle of artists grew, adding to list were Clemenceau, Matisse, Mary Cassatt and a couple of art critics. His friends showed great appreciation of his contribution to the French art that during his final years, they stood by him.
The 1900’s had been quite a series of unfortunate events in Monet’s life. In 1904 he was still able to travel to Madrid to observe the paintings of Velanquez. After three years, he contracted cataract that affected the quality of his vision significantly, however this didn’t become a hindrance to his desire to travel across Italy.
In 1911, Alice Monet died and three years later his son Jean would soon follow. Around 1914, he built a large workshop at Giverny which featured a garden of water lilies. This would become his primary motif for a series of paintings from 1916 to 1926, although he went almost blind halfway through this decade.
During the early months of 1926, Claude Monet contracted lung cancer and before the year ends, on December 5, 1926, he died of the said disease. He was 86 years old at the time and his remains were interred at the Giverny church cemetery.