○ Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son (1875);
○ Rouen Cathedral (1892-1894);
○ Water-Lilies (1915-1926)
Mediums: oil painting
Monet was a French painter, best known for founding the Impressionist movement, and standing by its philosophy of depicting the true visual perception of nature, a love for observation mostly seen in his landscape paintings.
Claude Monet, the leader of the French Impressionism and the one responsible, in some way, for providing its name. Some of the artist’s favourite subjects were light and atmospheric effects, which he tried to capture in his paintings. In order to study these effects, Monet painted the same subject multiple times, in many series of paintings. His mastery over colour, light and atmosphere make his style unique, and later, towards his death, his works became closer to the abstraction we know today, works that influenced the generations of abstract painters that followed.
19th century France suffered a period of political instability and social crisis, following the French Revolution of the previous century. The Revolution of 1848, known as the February Revolution (which catapulted a revolutionary and liberal wave across Europe, known as Springtime of the Peoples; at the same time Karl Marx wrote the Comunist Manifesto), ended the French Monarchy of King Louis Philippe, and established the Second Republic under the rule of Napoléon III (1808-1873) until 1851. The temporary and unstable republic was marked by the representation of the bourgeois and the lack of parliamentary voice of the working class. After Napoleon seized power in 1851, and could not resume his role through the proper channels, he took power by force and established a monarchy once again, proclaiming himself as the emperor of the Second French Empire. During his rule, France saw an increase of industrialization and an evolution of the commercial world, which would lead to new standards of consumerism. His rule ended when he was captured during the Franco- Prussian War, in 1870, when France regained independence from the Prussian monarchy. However, during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Paris became the art capital of the world, the birthplace of some of the most important movements of modern art, movements that are at the foundation of contemporary art, such as Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Fauvism and Cubism.
Monet was a charismatic man who motivated everyone around him, especially his fellow artists to pursue the endeavours of impressionism. Despite his success at the peak of his career, his extravagant lifestyle led him to live in debt and poverty during much of the artist’s life, leaving him with not much choice than to borrow money from his friends, as art was not sufficient to support his expensive tastes.After moving to his dream house in Giverny, Monet admitted to himself that he preferred the country life, rather than the decadence of the capital, affirming that he actually regretted some of his actions in Paris, having somewhat wasted a lot of his time, time he could have dedicated to painting. Monet also became a more endearing and caring person, having employed a large staff to take care of his Japanese garden and pond. At the end, Monet valued his time alone with nature, in his garden at Giverny.
Giverny House. (CC BY-SA 3.0, by Fondation Monet)
Garden, pond and footbridge at the Giverny House. (CC BY-SA 4.0, by AnaMary18)
Born in 14 november 1840, in Rue Laffitte 45, in Paris, Oscar Claude Monet was the second child of Claude Adolphe Monet, a successful grocer, and Louise Justine Aubrée. This was a time of political and financial stability, under the reign of Louis Philippe I (1773-1850), called the July Monarchy (1830-1848), in which the liberal tendencies reflected on French art. In the mid 1840s, upon the beginning of an economical crisis, the family moved to Havre, up north in Normandy. The artist’s first drawing classes were during school, teached by François-Charles Orchard (1800-1870), a former student of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), whose style reflected the tastes of those times. However, this did not influence the artist in any way. In fact, his first drawings, which became very popular in that town when he was fifteen, were comical and caricatures, primarily of teachers, having sold plenty of them, earning a good amount of money. During that time, while exhibiting his drawings in the windows of a local shop, alongside Eugène Boudin (1824-1898), his taste and views about art changed upon meeting the older artist, and painted with later on.
Caricature of Léon Manchon (c. 1855-1856).
Monet’s mother Louise died when he was just seventeen years old, in 1857 – the one that showed any interest in art, close to him. The artist’s aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre, was also very inclined to the artistic realm, becoming very close to him, even more, upon her husband’s death. Monet always had a difficult relationship with his father, an animosity which grew upon Monet leaving high school just short of finishing it in 1857. After that, and having spent time with Boudin, observing and painting landscapes, Monet decides to become a painter, a decision which his father vastley disapproves of – although he actually submitted two petitions in order to get a scholarship for his son, and enable him to study in Paris, which were rejected. In 1859, the young aspiring artist moved to Paris, where he explored the artistic scene, visiting the Paris Salon. Later, Monet joins the Académie Suisse, where he meets his close friend Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). During his years in Paris, he associated himself with the Realist movement, meeting writers and painters, including Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), although later. His stay in Paris was interrupted by his obligation to serve in the military in 1861, in Algeria – supposed to have lasted for seven years, being cut short by illness, and being paid off by his aunt to free him from military service. Upon Monet’s return to Paris, he rented a studio with Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) in the Rue Furstemberg 6, in the Batignolles neighbourhood, where many impressionists had their studios – this fact led to the naming of these artists as the Groupe des Batignolles. In the end of the decade, Monet moved to Ville-d’Avray, with Camille Doncieux (1847-1879), his future wife, to flee his creditors, having contracted a lot of debt in Paris. During his life, Monet established many friendships with fellow artists, both in Paris and in rural provinces (Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) and many others). In 1870, Monet went to London in order to escape the Franco-Prussian War, and later was joined by his wife, which he married on 8 June 1870, and their young son Jean (1867-1914). During his time there, the artist painted many of its scenes, such as Westminster Bridge (1871).
Portrait of Jean Monet (1880).
Westminster Bridge (1871).
When he returned to France, after the war had ended, they moved to a suburb in Paris, Argenteuil, close to the Seine River. During the 1870s, Monet got many commissions, which presented him with financial stability, although he would be in debt by the end of the decade. He then proved to be a valuable resource in setting up the exhibition society that would showcase the paintings of the impressionists between 1874 and 1886. By 1877, his family was living with Alice Hoschedé (1844-1911) along with her six children, in Vetheuil (a family who were Monet’s patrons and his great friends) – although Camille’s family thought the bankrupt artist had abandoned his mistress and child.While staying there, in 1878, the Monets second son, Michel (1878-1966), was born. However, Camille would perish not long after, dying a year and half later. The families continued to live together, and Alice would later become Monet’s second wife in 1892, after the death of Ernest Hoschedé (1837-1891).
The Woman in a Green Dress (1867).
Michel Monet au chandail bleu (1883).
Alice Hoschedé au jardin (1881).
Between the 1880s and 1890, the artist traveled to many places, around France, Venice, London and even Norway. Meanwhile, in 1883, Monet and his family moved to the quiet town called Giverny, with a total of 300 inhabitants. It was there he would fall in love with the famous garden house, renting it first, and buying it later in 1890, which he vastly expanded. It was in the small town that the artist ultimately found his greatest success, starting selling his works abroad, to England and the United States. In 1908, the artist would eventually settle for good in the Giverny house, where he developed cataracts over one of his eyes, after the loss of his second wife, in 1911, and his son Jean. He was then forced to stop painting, and died on December 5, 1926.
Monet was influenced by many artists, but the years he spent in Havre, looking at the Seine river flow into the Atlantic ocean, in his childhood, was the determinant factor that led him to paint so many portions of the river from several towns, perspectives and daytimes. Eugène Boudin was the one that opened Monet’s mind to landscape painting, and the importance of painting in situ – method conveyed more vivid and accurate paintings than the ones produced solely in a studio. Boudin showed the young artist to observe the colour hues, the perspective and the light hitting the landscape.
View At Rouelles, Le Havre (1858).
Upon his first arrival to Paris, Monet rejected the academic route proposed by Constant Troyon (1810-1865), and instead joined the Académie Suisse, where explored his art with total freedom. His early paintings of still life (1860s) were influenced by Courbet and his vision, that even gravy and vegetables were worthy of being painted – depicting, mainly, pieces of meat, fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, Jongkind’s ability to capture the subtle atmospheric phenomenon of seascapes full of air and light, with few marks of brushwork, teached Monet the true ways of the impressionism. At this stage, the artist already showed a great affinity with nature, going on walks and trips to paint the scenery, mostly seascapes, from which a couple were admitted to the Paris Salon in 1865. Up until this year, the artist produced mainly still life, landscape and seascape paintings.
Still Life with Meat (1861).
La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide (1865).
After that, Monet introduced the human figure into his work. The academic insertion of the figure was counterposed by the deep depth conveyed by the landscape perspective. At this point, the artist felt restrained by working in a studio, and looked for a better experience of commune with nature, moving further from the center of Paris, to the edges of the Fontainebleau forest. There he painted one of his most ambitious works, Women in the Garden (1866), in which he used his Camille Doncieux (his future wife) as a model, synthesizing all of his ideas and showcasing his earlier style the best way. During his earlier career, he was influenced by Édouard Manet’s (1832-1883) technique, Courbet’s realistic vision, and by th colour theory of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) – having created his own impressionist colour palette, in 1867, from Delacroix’s use of complementary colours to accentuate the subjects depicted.
Women in the Garden (1866).
After this, the artist started to show hints of abstraction, stylizing the foliage and the sky – using thick patches of paint, attributing a descriptive role to the brushwork. The artist started playing more and more with light and shadow, applying smooth paint in large areas, and texturizing small parts of the painting. He painted the studies outdoors and finished the painting in the studio. From this, Monet’s method evolved to the abandonment of detailed drawing and the tri-dimensionality, favouring the draft-looking aesthetic – which became the premisse and mark of impressionism. Monet became an influential and one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement, drawing in Bazille, Renoir, Sisley, Manet and Pissarro to work along each other, a relationship that began in the free studio of Charles Gleyre, 1862, and surpassed their time in that studio. This decade proved crucial in the artist’s career as he found his individual and unique style, growing lighter, brighter and more contrasting. In the beginning of the 1870s, after moving to London, Monet visited its museums and discovered the romantic naturalism of John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, artists that would influence Monet’s treatment of light. There he met Paul Durand-Ruel, a gallerist who would later greatly support him, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas and other Impressionists.Over the next six years, after moving back to France, to Argenteuil, the artist captured the changing landscape of the town over 150 paintings, and was later joined by Renoir and Manet.
In the 1870s, the close relationship between him and Manet would result in mutual influence, despite the fact the latter had become a renown artist well before Monet, having surpassed the success of the older artist by 1874. That year, Monet and his friends pursued their efforts against the Salon, and arranged an independent exhibition, which was later known as the first Impressionism exhibition, in the studio of Nadar (1820-1910), a caricaturist and photographer. There, Monet showed Impression, Sunrise(1872), the painting that would coin the movement, even though the term was initially used to mock the new aesthetic by critics.
Impression, Sunrise (1872).
In 1879, upon the death of Camille, the artist switched direction, and started exploring the effects of light and atmosphere in a more experimental way. Later, from 1890 forward, the garden house at Giverny, became his main source of inspiration. It was there he created some of his most cherished series based on his beloved Japanese garden, The Japanese Bridge and the Water Lilies. Still, in the beginning of the decade (before settling in Giverny), Monet dedicated his time to studying the light in the Rouen Cathedral (1892-1894), producing a series of more than 30 paintings. After that, and at the end of his life, the artist retreated to his house, and dedicated the rest of his life to the depiction of water and its different light effects. Monet also became more intuitive towards the understanding of colour and shape, and their ornamental qualities as pure visual elements. He explored this side, by introducing broader fields of colour formed by small brush strokes of colour contrasts and harmonies. These experimental series proved essential for the progression of abstraction, representing a setting stone for modern abstract art.
Woman with a Parasol, Madame Monet and Her Son (1875).
Rouen Cathedral, Effect of Sun, End of Day (1892).
The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny (1899).
Along Monet’s career, he strove more and more towards the intuitive expression of nature’s reality. Spontaneity proved to be a key point in the development of his style, as it was the only way he could portray the briefness of the moment. The artist spent much of his life chasing the study of atmospheric and light effects of nature.
Monet is best known for his continuous exploration of light and atmospheric effects, and the true translation of colour, something fundamental in the work of Impressionists. Monet started to look at reality as colour and form, defining his shapes by colour and not by the line of the objects. He mainly achieved this through the employment of the impasto technique, adding interesting texture to his works as well. His works are full of colour and expressive brushwork, referring to his style of painting in a very peculiar manner: “I like to paint as a bird sings.” The artist’s ideals are better expressed in his multiple series, recording changing landscapes, changing lights, and changing times, in examples such as The Cliffs of Etretat, the Water Lilies and The Haystacks. His works are a testimony of precise observation of reality in visual terms, and the intrinsic brevity of time, translated into movement of light, mists and shapes.
Early on in his life, at his first contact with art, Monet became almost a disciple of Eugène Boudin, who introduced him to landscape painting. At the beginning of his career, Monet was greatly influenced by Manet’s bold colour technique and compositions, Courbet’s realistic vision about the world, and by the colour theory of Delacroix. In 1867, the artist went on to create his own colour palette, borrowed from Delacroix’s use of complementary colours, in order to accentuate the painted subjects. The artist was influenced by the Japonism trend that flourished in Paris at time, an influence seen in Camille Monet in Japanese Costume (1876), and his later works inspired in his Japanese garden. Later in his career, his exploration of the artistic London scenery made him become fascinated with the works of the naturalist and romantic artists John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, influencing Monet’s own treatment of light.
Antwerp, Boats on the Scheldt (1871) by Eugène Louis Boudin | The Zaan at Zaandam (1871) by Claude Monet.
Camille Monet in Japanese Costume (1876).
Stratford Mill (1819-1820) by John Constable | The basin at Argenteuil (c. 1872) by Claude Monet.
Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche and Thunderstorm (1836-1837) by J. M. W. Turner | White frost (1880) by Claude Monet.
During his time, Monet influenced many of his fellow artists and friends, such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, and even his first wife Camille Pissarro. He went later to influence Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne as well. Nowadays, Impressionism, and Monet’s works in particular are some of the most popular in our culture, present in museums worldwide. His full frame works with a more abstract treatment of form and colour, went on to deeply influence Abstract Expressionism, and artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. The vastly acclaimed art critic Clement Greenberg was also impressed by his works, from which he based much of his knowledge. Monet’s method of working in series are also a reference in Andy Warhol’s repetitive portraits, and in Minimalist objects. Monet and the Impressionist movement are now considered as the foundations of Modern and Contemporary art, setting the precedents for Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Fauvism, Cubism, Abstraction, Pop-Art and Minimalism.
During Monet’s first years in Paris, the artist grew fond of Delacroix and Daubigny’s works, which led to his aunt to give Monet a painting by the latter, she had in her possession, a gesture he appreciated.
Looking back, the artist was not keen on the bohemian life, having admitted his occasional visits to the Brasserie in Rue des Martyrs, were actually a waste of his time. That also reflects on the predicted subjects of nature and rural landscapes, instead of the busy atmosphere of the city life, which excited fellow artists like Manet and Degas, having later in his life moved to the countryside, rejecting that life.
The recent method of painting in situ, was only made possible in the 1840s, when oil paint started being sold in individual and portable tubes.
Monet was often described as stubborn, tenacious and persistent. Openly atheist, he only believed in physical and direct experiences, and the knowledge subsided from it. He was a man with a big appetite, very conservative when it came to family and tradition, but could be very petty and spiteful about finances.
The studio in the Rue Furstemberg 6, was owned previously by Delacroix, where, in the lower floor, he had painted his masterpieces until he died, two years before Monet and Bazille rented the place.
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.
No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.
Monet: The Triumph of Impressionism By Daniel Wildenstein (2014)
Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature By Ortrud Westheider, Michael Philipp, Christoph Heinrich (2019)
Monet: Masters of Art By Simona Bartolena (2011)
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The Zaan at Zaandam Date: 1871 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 42 x 73 cm Location: Private Collection
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Port of Le Havre Date: 1874 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 60.38 x 101.9 cm Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The Sea at Le Havre Date: 1868 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 60 x 81.6 cm Location: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Impression, Sunrise Date: c. 1872 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 49.5 x 65 cm Location: Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Sunrise (Marine) Date: 1873 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 50.2 x 61 cm Location: Getty Center, Los Angeles, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The basin at Argenteuil Date: c. 1872 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 60 x 80.5 cm Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Michel Monet au chandail bleu Date: 1883 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 46x 38 cm Location: Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Portrait of Jean Monet Date: 1880 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 46x 37 cm Location: Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Alice Hoschedé au jardin Date: 1881 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 81 x 65 cm Location: Private Collection
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Camille Monet in Japanese Costume Date: 1876 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 231.8 x 142.3 cm Location: Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Still Life with Meat Date: 1861 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 24 x 33 cm Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide Date: 1865 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 90.2 x 150.5 cm Location: Kimbell Art Museum, Texas, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Woman with a Parasol, Madame Monet and Her Son Date: 1875 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 100 x 81 cm Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Caricature of Léon Manchon Date: c. 1855-1856 Medium: Charcoal with stumping, heightened with white chalk on blue laid paper (discolored to gray) Size: 61.2 x 45.2 cm Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Water Lilies Date: 1906 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 89.9 x 94.1 cm Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The Woman in a Green Dress Date: 1867 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 231 x 151 cm Location: Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Rouen Cathedral, Effect of Sun, End of Day Date: 1892 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 100 x 65 cm Location: Musée Marmottan Monet
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Women in the Garden Date: 1866 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 255 x 205 cm Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The Cliffs at Etretat Date: 1885 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 65 x 81.1 cm Location: Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts
Artist: Claude Monet Title: View At Rouelles, Le Havre Date: 1858 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 46 × 65 cm Location: Museum of Western and Oriental Art, Kyiv
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Water-Lilies Date: after 1916 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 200 x 427 cm Location: National Gallery, London
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Argenteuil Date: 1875 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 61.8 x 82.5 cm Location: Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Massachusetts, USA
Artist: Claude Monet Title: The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny Date: 1899 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 89.5 x 92.5 cm Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Artist: Claude Monet Title: Haystacks, White Frost, Sunrise Date: 1889 Medium: Oil on canvas Size: 65 x 92 cm Location: Hill-Stead Museum, Connecticut, USA