Claude Monet, 1840 – 1926

Claude Monet spent his youth in Le Havre, in northern France. At high school he was bored by his teachers and scribbled caricatures in his notebooks. He met the painter Eugene Boudin, who took him on trips to the country‚Aside, initiating him into the pleasures of painting a subject on site. By this time Monet was almost twenty and eager to learn to paint, but not in a conventionl art school, which he expected to find too rigid. Moving between Le Havre, Sainte-Adresse on the Norman coast (where his family had a summer house), and the forest of Fontainebleau south‚at least of Paris, he simply painted. He became friends with other painters, a few of them, like Courbet, already well known, and even more Manet, Renoir, Pissarro soon to become so. All roughly the same age, they often went together to the seashore or to suburban spots along the Seine, where restaurants and dance halls for weekend leisure provided them with subjects.

Despite his lack of money, Monet painted passionately and unceasingly. His large portrait of Camille, his companion, was admired by the critics ‚ at the Salon of 1866. The next year, however, to his great despair, his Women in the Garden was refused by a jury increasingly hostile to the young generation of experimenters.

Now a father, Monet was obliged to seek financial support from his friends. He found lodgings in Bougival, outside Paris, that would permit him to paint in the open air, as he wanted. Renoir was his closest neighbor. Together they went to La Grenouillere, a floating restaurant on the Seine frequented by Sunday canoers, where they used rapidly applied flecks and commalike brushstrokes of brilliant hue to convey movement and life, and especially to capture the effect of shimmering water.

The Franco-Prussian War erupted in July 1870. Monet left France for London, where he joined Pissarro and met the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who bought several paintings from him. Back in France, he settled with his family in Argenteuil, on the Seine close to Paris, where his painting acquired a new luminescence. He suppressed dark shadows and developed a deliberately imprecise manner of delineating form. He also juxtaposed bright colors, making them vibrate with one another by applying thick strokes directly onto a white ground.

Monet and his friends decided to organize an exhibition on their own, without jury or prizes, with, among others, Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, and Degas. The show opened its doors on April 15, 1874, in the studio of the photographer Nadar. It was on this occasion that a critic, commenting on Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, coined what was intended to be a derisive term, “Impressionist.” His response was typical; the press covered the exhibition with ridicule.

In 1877 Monet left Argenteuil to settle close to the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris. Like Gustave Caillebotte and Manet before him, he was tempted by the theme of the railroad. This aspect of modern life attracted him, he set up his easel beneath the large shed roof of the station to paint the locomotives arriving amid clouds of smoke.

Eventually Monet decided to return to the countryside, where he could paint nature. After the death of Camille in 1879 he travelled constantly, carrying his canvases and boxes of pigments with him. He finally found the house of his dreams in Giverny, on a stream close to the Seine, where he moved in 1883.

Monet was now fifty years old and already famous, with exhibitions of his work becoming more frequent. His [painting continued to evolve. In 1890 he began hi9s first series of grain stacks. Then, in 1895 another series, of Rouen Cathedral. The exhibition of these works, painted at different times of the day was a revelation to the public, who were astonished by their formal nuances and chromatic subtlety.

Giverny, where Monet planted an elaborate garden with a lily pond, now became his principal focus. In 1909 he exhibited a series of water lily painting as, in which the viewers gaze becomes lost in coloured reflections. Despite the death of Alice in 1910 and the outbreak of war in 1914 Monet continued to pain with passion.

In 1918, to celebrate the armistice, he presented France with an ensemble of panoramic water lily paintings now permanently installed in the Orangerie Museum in Paris. These constituted the final statement of the artist, whose innovative work here approached abstraction. Monet died at Giverny in 1926.

Article courtesy of ‘The beginners guide to Art’ , translated from the French by John Goodman, ediited by Brigitte Govignon. The article was brought to you by Blue Horizon Printing ,experts in premium quality canvas prints.