Claude Monet: 1840 – 1926

Born on November 14, 1840,  in Paris, France, Oscar Claude Monet was a founder and leader of the Impressionist art movement in France. The name Impressionism is derived from his 1873 painting Impression, Sunrise. Monet grew up in Le Havre on the Normandy coast. His mother died in 1857 and it was his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre who supported his desire to become an artist.

From 1862 – 64, Monet studied art intermittently in Paris under Charles Gleyre where he met fellow students Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisley. Also during this time, he developed a friendship with the painter Johann Barthold Jongkind that influenced his direction as a landscape painter. In these early years, Monet became known for his charcoal caricatures, which he would sell for a small fee. In 1856/57, he met the artist Eugène Boudin who introduced Monet to plein-air painting.

Monet gained some recognition in 1865, when two of his works were exhibited at the Salon.  The latter half of the 1860s was a period of experimentation for Monet. He pursued his interested in contemporary subject matter and “he further explored the nature of Realism as embodied in plein-air painting.” However, Monet’s financial difficulties led him to return to Le Havre, leaving his pregnant companion, Camille-Léonie Doncieux, in Paris. She gave birth to their first son, Jean in 1867, and their second son Michel in 1868. The couple married in 1870.

In the summer of 1870, the Franco-Prussian War broke out and Monet fled with his family to London in the autumn to avoid conscription. Monet remained in London for about nine months, and he painted numerous views of the Thames River.  He reconnected with Camille Pissarro and met Paul Durand-Ruel, who became his first dealer.  After spending the summer painting in Holland in 1871, Monet returned to Argenteuil, an industrial town and boating centre on the Seine west of Paris. He remained here until 1878.

Monet joined with other artists in the formation of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs etc, which held its first exhibition in April 1874.  Monet showed his painting Impression, Sunrise and the group emerged from the exhibition with the name “the Impressionists” dubbed by the critic Louis Leroy.

In 1878, Monet’s financial troubles his wife’s illness led the family to enter a household arrangement in Vétheuil with the family of former patron Ernest Hoschedé. After Camille’s death in 1879, Monet and Alice Hoschedé continued to live together, waiting until Ernest Hoschedé died before marrying in 1892.

Monet exhibited with the Impressionists intermittently and showed his work at the Salon in 1880.  He had a solo exhibition at Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1883, and at several of Georges Petit’s Expositions Internationales de Peinture. In 1889 Galerie Georges Petit held a major retrospective of his work, showing 145 paintings. In 1891, Durand-Ruel had an exhibition of Monet’s first series paintings, Grainstacks, which were met with great critical acclaim.

“By 1890 Monet was financially secure enough to purchase a house at Giverny, later adding adjacent land and installing both the water-lily garden and Japanese bridge, which he would later famously paint in series. Over the next decade he completed more series studies of the lily garden at Giverny, which he continued to enlarge.”

“From 1903 to 1908 Monet concentrated on the enlarged pond with its floating pads and blossoms set in orderly clusters against the reflections of trees and sky within its depths. The results were seen in the largest and most unified series to date, a suite of 48 canvases known as Waterlilies, a Series of Waterscapes shown at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in May 1909.”

After the death of his wife Alice in 1911 and subsequent death of his son Jean in 1914, Monet began work on an expansive new garden studio, in which he would fabricate his Grandes-Décorations, the large-scale water-lily series that he worked on until his death. He continued his work despite suffering increasingly from cataracts, for which he had three operations on his right eye in 1923.

In 1918 Monet announced that he would donate Grandes-Décorations to the State. The Orangerie at the far end of the Tuileries Gardens from the Musée du Louvre was decided as the location for the murals.

Claude Monet died on December 5, 1926 of lung cancer at the age of 86.  He is buried in the Giverny church cemetery. On 16 May 1927, five months after Monet’s death, Grandes-Décorations opened to the public for the first time. The Musée Claude Monet, his house and gardens at Giverny, was refurbished and opened to the public in 1981.

For a full biography of Claude Monet, visit the source links below.

Sources: MoMA, Guggenheim, Wikipedia, Artcyclopedia