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Claude Monet (1840-1926)





Claude Monet


Birth name Oscar Claude Monet

Born 14 November 1840, Paris

Died 5 December 1926, Giverny

Nationality French

Movement Impressionism


Claude Monet was born in Paris but spent part of his childhood at Le Havre. In 1858 he made the acquaintance of Boudin who encouraged him to paint and experiment with working in the open air. In 1859 Monet went to Paris to the Academie Suisse where he met Pissarro , and in 1862 moved to Sainte-Adresse to work with Boudin and Jongkind.  On his return to Paris he attended Gleyre’s studio and there made friends with Bazille, Sisley and Renoir. In 1863 at Easter he persuaded these three to paint with him out of doors at Chailly-en-Biere in the forest of Fontainebleau.  There he executed his great painting Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe during the summer of 1865. This work has since been destroyed, but there is a fragment of it in the Jeu de Paume museum, while a sketch for the painting is in the museum in Moscow. Like Courbet or his friend Bazille, he was absorbed in the problems of painting out of doors. He exhibited a Portrait of Camille (who became his wife in 1870) at the 1866 Salon, and finally worked up another large painting, Ladies in the garden, which he intended for the 1867 Salon, but it was not accepted. He found inspiration both in Paris and on the Normandy beaches; in 1866 he painted a number of views of Paris such as the Infanta’s garden at the Louvre and The Louvre with Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, and in 1867 painted by the sea, producing The shore at Sainte-Adresse and Le Havre: the Terrace. About this time he executed a beautiful snow scene, The Magpie (c. 1867-1870). And in 1867 went with Renoir to paint Les Bains de la Grenouillere at Bougival  with its marvellous effects of light reflected in the waters of Seine.
In 1870 Monet visited London where he met Pissarro again, and studied the paintings of Constable and Turner. His Westminster Bridge (1871) was painted during this visit before he went back to Paris in 1871 by way of Holland(View of Zaandam). He was Argenteuil from 1872 to 1878. This was a particularly prolific period; his vision was extraordinary keen and his technique, with fragmentation and innumerable little “comma” brushstrokes, bringing out his subtle sense of colours in juxtaposition, produced the most “impressionists” of all of his works, rivalling photography in pictorial quality and instantaneous effect. During a short visit to Le Havre in 1872 he painted a canvas which he showed, together with four others and seven pastel sketches, at the first manifestation of the Impressionists group in 1874; it is title Impression, sunrise gave the movement its name. Examples of this period : Quarries at Saint-Denis (1872) and the following , all painted at Argenteuil: Regatta at Argenteuil (c. 1872), Poppies (1873), Railway bridge at Argenteuil (c. 1873), Boats at Argenteuil regatta (1874), Argenteuil Bridge (1874), Le basin d’ Argenteuil (1875), Summer (1874) and Snow at Argenteuil (1875). During the same period hi did several Views of the Tuileries and Rue Montorgueil with flags (1878), while his set of paintings  of the Gare Saint-Lazare dates from 1877, a prelude to his great “series” master-pieces illustrating the new conception of painting.  Monet lived at Vetheuil from the beginning of 1878 until October 1881, and continued to paint rural and riversides scenes, especially along the Seine, with sparkling reflections of light on water. He was also absorbed in the problem effects of light on snow, in Vetheuil in Winter(1878), The church at Vetheuil: snow scene (1878-1879), The Outskirts of Vetheuil in snow (1879).  The winter of 1880 was particularly severe, and this suggested his first series of paintings on one theme that kept recurring like a leitmotiv until about 1893. The whole series was called “Ice breaking up on The Seine at Vetheuilwith Hoar frost, Ice breaking up and The Thaw (1881). In the autumn of 1881 Monet settled at Poissy, and visits to the Normandy coast in 1882 and 1883 produced The Cliff walk (1882), Cliff at Etretat (1883),  Etretat (1883) and  Etretat : the lower gate (1883). In the same year , 1883, Monet held a one-man exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, with fifty six paintings. Towards the end of the year he and Renoir went to stay on the Mediterranean coat, and in 1884 he went back to Bordighera and Mentone on his own (Bordighera; Cap-Martin, near Mentone).
In 1885, after an exhibition at Georges Petit Gallery, Monet went back to Etretat, and in 1886 to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, where he met Gustave Geffroy and painted two versions of The Rocks of Belle-Ile.  After that he went to Nonmoutier with Octave Mirbeau who was much impressed by his remarkable for the sea.
In the spring of 1889 Monet went to Fresselines in the Creuse, well before Guillaumin who lives near there later, at Crozant, from about 1904 onwards.
In June 1889 Monet held an exhibition with his friend Rodin, at the Georges Petit Gallery, with sixty-six exhibits. It was his first great success.
Monet at last was not so badly off, and in 1890 he was able to buy the house he had been living since May 1883 at Giverny on the bank of the Epte. In 1890 and 1890 he began two series of paintings at the same time, one of Haystacks and the other Poplars on the banks of the Epte.  In 1891 he exhibited twenty-two canvases at the Durand-Ruel Gallery; these included the complete Haystacks series of fifteen pictures, sold in the first three days at prises ranging from 3000 to 4000 francs. From 29 February to 10 march 1892 he showed has six Poplars canvases at the same Gallery.  His aim was, in these two series , to prove that objects, when seen from the same position , are transformed by light and reflection in a degree corresponding to their form and colour. Monet went on researching and investigation along these lines, and between 1892 and 1895 he undertook a new series The Cathedrals,  which consists of about forty canvases of the great west front of Rouen cathedral, painted from a house whose windows overlooked the façade. From 10 to 31 May he exhibited fifty pictures at Durand-Ruel’s, of which twenty from his Cathedrals series.
Monet visited London in 1900-1901 and painted his Views of the Thames in fog, completed from memory at Giverny. He paid a second visit in 1904 (Waterloo Bridge; London: the Houses of Parliament) and this series, consisting of thirty-seven canvases, was shown, again at Durand-Ruel’s , from 9 may to 4 june1907. In the autumn of 1908 and 1909 he was in Venice, where he was enchanted by the city and painted The Doge’s palace, Venice (1908), The Grand Canal, Venice (1908). In 1912 he held an exhibition consisting of twenty –nine views of Venice, at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery.
Monet completed this stage  of his work by painting a series inspired by water lilies in the ponds of his garden at Giverny. Monet began this last series as early as 1899 and went on working at it until his death in 1926.
So ended the career of a man who was ever alert to the world of sense and never gave up his search, reaching out and discovering its hidden poetry and mystery and enchantment.

Based on Phaidon encyclopedia of Impressionism, Maurice Serullaz, Phaidon, 1978


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