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Introduction to Claude monet – The Great French Artist

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:58 AM

Introduction to Claude monet – The Great French Artist

Claude Monet

Claude Monet was the most dedicated and single-minded of the French Impressionists. He was brought up on the Normandy coast, and the beautiful scenery there inspired him to devote his life to landscape painting. Fired with a desire to capture nature's most fleeting effects, he painted out-of-doors in all weathers. When he moved to Paris he worked with the other great artists of his circle  Renoir, Manet and Pissarro.

Today Monet is almost universally admired, but at first he was misunderstood and mocked. Estranged from his wealthy family, he endured misery and poverty in his early career, and was in his forties before his work began to I ell. By the end of Monet's long life he was a wealthy man and a revered artist, but success never spoiled him. Even in his 80s he still worked tirelessly, despite his failing eyesight.

The Pioneer from Normandy

The struggling artist at the age of 28, a year after he painted the scene on the right, Monet was still struggling to make his living as an artist. He had a young son by his mistress Camille but. Remained dependent on his father, who prevented their marriage until 1870? At the age of 18, Monet left a prosperous family home in Le Havre for a bohemian life in Paris. His willingness to sacrifice everything for his art had set the pattern for his career.

Claude-Oscar Monet was born in Paris on 14 November 1840, the elder son of a grocer and former sailor, Adolphe Monet. In 1845 Adolphe took over his family's flourishing grocery and ship-chandlering business in Le Havre, and it was in this busy port at the mouth of the River Seine that Claude (or Oscar, as his family called him) spent most of his happy childhood and youth.

His aunt, Sophie Lecadre, was an amateur painter and she no doubt encouraged the talent for drawing he showed as a boy. When he should have been attending to his lessons, Monet was often filling his books with caricatures, and by the time he was 15 such drawings had won him a local reputation and his first earnings as an artist.

A prosperous background Monet's father was a successful grocer with a seaside property at Sainte Addressee, near Le Havre. He is seen there in The Terrace (1866), sitting in a basket chair. Monet's mother had died 10 years earlier.Monet's drawings were displayed in the window of a local picture-framer's shop, and this led to the great turning point in his life. The landscape painter Eugene Boudin, a native of nearby Honfleur, also showed his work there, and when he met Monet he took the young man (16 years his junior) under his wing and encouraged him to paint alongside him. At this time most landscape paintings were produced in the studio, but Boudin, a specialist in sea and beach scenes, liked to paint in the open air, saying Everything that is painted directly and on the spot always has a force, a power, a vivacity of touch that is not to be found in studio work.'

Monet at first found Boudin's painting 'distasteful', but he was soon converted to his friend's way of thinking, and in the summer of 1858, at the age of 17 he found that landscape painting from nature was his true vocation. 'Suddenly a veil was torn away. I had understood - I had realized what painting could be. By the single example of this painter devoted to his art with such independence, my destiny as a painter opened out to me.



The capital of art in 1859, when Monet moved to Paris, the city dominated the international art world painters flocked there from all over Europe. The population at the time was about 11/2 million. The superb scenery of his Normandy home and the rapidly changing weather typical of coastal areas provided ideal material for Monet's new-found love. But Paris - the artistic capital not just of France but of the whole world was a lure for all aspiring artists, and in 1859 Monet went there to pursue his studies, armed with letters of introduction from Boudin and his aunt. His father wanted him to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the official state school of art, but Monet was always strongminded and self-confident and (3 preferred to study at the Atelier Suisse. Named a; after its founder Charles Suisse, this was an g independent academy where models were provided but there were no examinations and no formal tuition. Monet's father cut off his allowance because of his disobedience.

At the Atelier Suisse, Monet met Camille Pissarro, who was to become one of the central figures of the Impressionist movement, and he frequented the Brasserie des Martyrs in Montmartre, a favourite meeting place of Gustave Courbet, Edoulard Manet and other avant-garde A artists. Monet's growing involvement in the agcultural life of Paris was halted when he was conscripted into the army, and in 1861-62 he Served in Algeria. He developed anaemia and went to convalesce at home, where his family offered to buy him out of the army if he would undertake to study with an established painter.

Wife and son Monet's lifelong friend Auguste Renoir painted this picture of Madame Monet and her son lean in their garden at Argenteuil in 1874. This was one of the happiest periods of Monet's life. Monet agreed, but before returning to Paris he met the Dutch painter Johan Barth°Id Jongkind, who was working at Le Havre and who with Boudin was to be the great mentor of Monet's early career. The novelist and critic Emile Zola wrote in 1868 of the astonishing breadth' and 'masterly simplifications of Jon kind’s paintings, 'rapidly brushed for fear of losing the first impression', and in 1900 Monet said that he owed to him 'the definitive education of my eye'.

Key Dates 

1840 born in Paris
1845 family moves to Le Havre
 1858 meets Eugene Boudin who encourages him to paint in the open air
1859 moves to’ Paris
1863 meets Renoir, Sisley and Bazille
1867 his son Jean born to Camille Doncieux
1870 marries Camille. Visits England
1871 moves to Argenteuil
1874 first Impressionist exhibition in Paris
1879 Camille dies
1883 settles at Giverny
1892 begins Rouen Cathedral series. Marries Alice Hoschede
1900 enlarges waterlily pond in his garden
1908 begins to suffer from cataracts on eye
1911 Alice dies 1914 builds studio for series of Waterlilies
1926 dies at Giverny



A floating studio When Monet moved to Argenteuil on the Seine in 1871 he built a special floating studio so he could work on the river. This painting, made by Edouard Manet in 1874, shows Monet on the boat with his wife Camille. In 1862 Monet began to study at the Paris studio of Charles Gleyre, a successful painter of conventional portraits and figure compositions. Monet was not happy following the normal academic training of painting from the nude model, but as his fellow-student Pierre-Auguste Renoir remarked, if Gleyre was 'of no help to his pupils', he at least had the merit 'of leaving them pretty much to their own devices'. Other students included Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley, who with Monet and Renoir would evolve the Impressionist style of painting. They painted together in the Forest of Fontainebleau, and Bazille, who came from a wealthy family, helped Monet finandaily until his death in 1870.

Gleyre was forced to close his studio in 1864 because of an eye ailment and Monet's family, dismayed at his bohemian lifestyle, again cut off his allowance. His financial problems continued to be acute throughout the 1860s and even led to a half-hearted attempt at suicide. In 1867 his mistress Camille, of whom his family disapproved, gave birth to his son, and Monet, who was staying at SainteAdresse near Le Havre, was so abjectly poor that he could not even raise the money to go to Paris to see them.

Paul DurandRuel DurandRuel was the earliest and most important of the Impressionists' dealers. After his death in 1922, Monet told his son 'I shall never forget all that my friends and I owe to your father.' In 1870 Monet married Camille, but when war broke out between France and Prussia in the same year, he left her with his son and went to England to avoid having to fight. In London, where his family joined him later, Monet studied the work of Constable and Turner and painted some views of parks and the River Thames, but the most important aspect of his stay was meeting the French picture-dealer Paul DurandRuel, who was the first dealer consistently to support the Impressionists. Although Monet would still know poverty after DurandRuel began buying his pictures, his life was no longer the tale of unremitting destitution it had been through so much of the 1860s.

Visits to Venice Monet visited Venice in 1908 with his second wife Alice and they returned the following year. He worked hard during these visits, but is seen here with Alice in lighter mood, feeding the pigeons in St Mark's Square. In 1871 Monet returned to France via Holland and rented a house at Argenteuil, a village on the Seine a few miles from Paris. This was one of the most fruitful periods in Monet's life: he was happily married and comparatively prosperous (Camille inherited some money in 1873), and the pleasures of life on the river and along its banks provided him with an abundance of subjects. His friends often visited him, and the bridges and boats of Argenteuil appear again and again in the Impressionist paintings of Renoir and Sisley.


It was at this period that the Impressionists were most united and in 1874 they held their first exhibition as a group. The show was a commercial failure, as was a group sale in the following year, and when debts began to mount, Monet's idyllic Argenteuil period drew to a close. In 1878 he moved to Vetheuil, still on the Seine, but farther from Paris, and in 1879 Camille died after a long illness. Monet's burden of grief and responsibility (by now he had a second son) was eased by a woman called Alice Hoschede, the wife of a collector of Impressionist paintings, with whom Monet had begun an affair in 1876. She nursed Camille, looked after the children and assumed Monet's debts. Monet eventually married her in 1892 after she had become a widow.

In the next few years Monet moved to various places, including Dieppe, Pourville and Varengeville, all on the Normandy coast. Then in 1883 he finally settled at Giverny, about 40 miles from Paris, on the River Epte, with Madame Hoschede, his children and her children. By this time the original Impressionist group had virtually broken up, and only Monet continued to pursue the Impressionist ideal the acute scrutiny of nature.

The Savoy Hotel On his later visits to London, Monet stayed at the Savoy, one of the grandest hotels in the capital, from which he had a good view of the river. When the American painter John Singer Sargent visited Monet there, he found him 'surrounded by some 90 canvases'. Monet did not have time to finish the paintings in London, hut shipped them back to France and completed them in his Giverny studio.
Monet now had a settled home, but his tremendous energy led him to travel widely in search of subjects, and in the 1880s he worked extensively on the Mediterranean coast as well as in Brittany and Normandy; he also visited Holland and Italy. In the same decade his reputation began to grow and his fortunes to prosper, thanks in great measure to the efforts of DurandRuel, who in 1883 alone organized exhibitions of Impressionist paintings in Berlin, Boston, London and Rotterdam. By 1890 Monet was secure enough financially to buy the house at Giverny he had previously rented, and in 1891 an exhibition of his paintings at DurandRuel's gallery in Paris sold out only three days after opening. All the paintings at this exhibition were of haystacks, and this marked the beginning of the most original feature of Monet's later career the production of several series of paintings in which he represented the same subject d't different times of the day under different lighting conditions. Monet spent much of his time in his studio developing these series for although he still loved painting out of doors, he now realized that he could more easily obtain the effects he wanted when he had time to reflect away from the subject.



As he advanced in years, Monet continued to travel; he visited Norway in 1895 as the guest ofQueen Christiana, London three times between 1899 and 1904, Madrid in 1904 and Venice in 1908 and 1909. However, his attention was focused mainly on Give my, and particularly on one part of his home the water garden that he had developed during the 1890s on a strip of marshland next to his house. Monet had diverted a stream through it and created an exotic world of weeping willows, bamboo and floating lilies. He began painting the garden in about 1899, and from about 1906 it became the centre of his artistic life, for in the water lilies, with their ever-changing patterns of colour and light, he had found an inexhaustible subject: 'my pond had become enchanted'. The first paintings of the garden were about three feet square, but they became larger as Monet's absorption increased, and in 1914 he had a special studio built so he could work on a huge scale. His wife had died three years earlier, but he had the love of his devoted step-daughter, Blanche Hoschede-Monet, herself a painter, to support him, and he worked with unflagging energy.

Waterloo Bridge (1903) Waterloo Bridge was among Monet's favourite subjects in London. In 1904 he exhibited 37 views of the Thames at DurandRuel's gallery in Paris 18 were of this bridge. The exhibition catalogue said the paintings were the result of 'four years of reflective observation, strenuous effort, prodigious labor'. Monet obtained the high viewpoint from a balcony (no longer in existence) at the Savoy Hotel. By this time Monet was the grand old man of French painting, and it was at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau, one of the many distinguished visitors to Give my, that he decided to present several of his waterlily paintings to the nation in the form of an enormous decorative scheme. Monet's sight was failing, his work on the paintings was delayed while he had a cataract operation, and he did not live to see their unveiling in the Orangerie in Paris (part of the Louvre complex) on 17 May 1927. He died aged 86, on 5 December 1926 at Give my and was buried beside the small village church. In the last year of his life, Monet described his aim as being `to render my impressions in front of the most fleeting effects', words he could equally have used at any stage during more than half a century of ceaseless creativity.

Writer-A Marshall Cavendish

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