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Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, “soleil levant” or “Impression, Sunrise”, which was exhibited in 1874. Monet adopted a method of painting in which he painted the same scene many times to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Monet is known for having produced a series of paintings all versions of the same subject and perspective. Examples include his series of the “Valley of the Creuse” series and his famous series of “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” paintings.

From 1883 Monet lived in Giverny, where at his home, he developed a garden landscape which included the lily ponds that would become the subjects of his best-known works. In 1899 he began painting the water lilies, first with a Japanese bridge as a central feature, and later in the series of large-scale paintings, with the water lilies as the main feature. This series occupied him for the last 20 years of his life.

Claude Monet’s Masterpieces

  • Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond
    • “Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond” by Claude Monet is a monumental triptych portraying of a water-lily pond, from Monet’s garden in Giverny, with the sky and clouds reflecting off the lily pond. Monet’s aim was to give: “the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank.”
  • Farmyard in Normandy
    • “Farmyard in Normandy” by Claude Monet is one of his very early paintings. Monet produced a surprisingly small number of pictures during his early years as an artist. By studying the masters of earlier generations, Monet learnt to start with a quick sketch and then complete the painting with paint patches and dabs to create a complete piece that captured the scene. This painting was made when he was twenty-three at the start of his career.
  • The Basin at Argenteuil
    • “The Basin at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet was painted during the period when he lived in Argenteuil, from December 1871 until 1878. Monet painted outdoors, and he would set up his easel out in the countryside or his garden. He would then carefully reworked the details of his canvases in his studio.
  • A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur
    • “A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur” by Claude Monet depicts a cart on the snowy road at Honfleur, in northern France’s Normandy region. This painting illustrates how Monet was influenced by Japanese prints and how he integrated what he had learnt from the study of Japanese art into this scene. Claude Monet realised that painting could most effectively evoke the required atmosphere if it relied on the viewer’s ability to interpret basic signs from their relationships to the whole picture.
  • Water Lilies, (National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo)
    • “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet portrays the water-lily pond, from Monet’s garden in Giverny, with the sky and sun reflecting off the lily pond. Monet attempted to capture the continually changing qualities of light, colour, water, sky, and lilies by dissolving all the elements in: “the refuge of a peaceful meditation in the centre of a flowering aquarium.”
  • Camille Monet on a Bench
    • “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet is an impressionist painting showing Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux (1847-1879), whom he depicted in many of his paintings. The garden is in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, which was associated with the house where Monet, his wife and young son Jean had lived since 1871. This garden together with Camille appears in many Monets paintings depicting the pleasures of country life. However, this picture is invested with a more gloomy mood, because it was painted shortly after Camille received the news that her father had died. In her visible hand, she holds the letter with the message, and it is shown as a horizontal white brushstroke. The man has been interpreted as the messenger of death.
  • The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog) – (MET)
    • “The Houses of Parliament” by Claude Monet is one in a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, created during the early 1900s while Monet stayed in London. All of the series’ paintings share the same viewpoint from Monet’s terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames and the approximate similar canvas size. They depict different times of the day and weather conditions.
  • “Houses of Parliament, London” (Art Institute of Chicago)
    • This painting’s viewpoint was close to that of J. M. W. Turner’s paintings, which Monet admired, of the fire that had destroyed much of the old Parliament complex in 1834. Also, James McNeill Whistler’s artworks of the Thames also inspired Monet.
  • “The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” (National Gallery of Art, DC)
    • By the time of the Houses of Parliament series, Monet had ceased his earlier practice of completing a painting on the spot in front of the subject. Monet continued refining the images back at his home base in France and sometimes used photographs to help in his task. Some purist criticised this new approach, but Monet replied that his means of creating a work was his own business and it was up to the viewer to judge the final result.
  • “London, Houses of Parliament. The Sun Shining through the Fog” (Musée d’Orsay)
    • Monet produced nearly a hundred views of the Thames River in London. He painted Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge from his room in the Savoy Hotel and the Houses of Parliament from Saint Thomas’s Hospital. The artist continued to refine the paintings and wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel: “I cannot send you a single canvas of London … It is indispensable to have them all before me and to tell the truth not one is definitely finished. I develop them all together.”
  • “Seagulls, the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament” (Pushkin Museum)
    • Monet’s first painting series exhibition in 1891 was of fifteen Haystack paintings, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. Two years later he produced twenty-six views of Rouen Cathedral. In this series, Monet also experimented with cropping the Cathedral so that only certain parts of the façade is depicted on the canvas. Again these paintings focused on the effects of light and shade in the composition. Monet travelled to the Mediterranean, where he painted landscapes, and seascapes, including a series of paintings in Venice. In London, he painted four series: the Houses of Parliament, London, Charing Cross Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, and Views of Westminster Bridge. Other series by Monet include Poplars, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies.
  • Haystacks at Scottish National Gallery
    • Haystacks by Claude Monet is part of a series of stacks of harvested wheat or barley and oats. The original French title, Les Meules à Giverny, means The Stacks at Giverny. The series consists of twenty-five canvas which Monet began near the end of the summer of 1890 and though Monet also produced earlier paintings using this same stack subject.
  • Stacks of Wheat (End of Day, Autumn) at Art Institute of Chicago
    • The impressionist series is famous for how Monet repeated the same theme to show the differing light and atmosphere at different times of day, across the seasons and in many types of weather. Monet’s Haystacks series is one of his earliest to rely on repetition of a subject to illustrate a subtle difference in colour perception across variations of times of day, seasons, and weather.
  • Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer) at Art Institute of Chicago
    • The stacks belonged to Monet’s neighbour, and Monet noticed from his farm the way the light changed on the stacks. Monet started with two canvases, a sunny and an overcast version. But Monet soon found he could not catch the ever-changing light and mood on just two paintings. Thus Monet’s daily routine involved carting paints, easels and many unfinished canvases back and forth, working on whichever canvas most closely resembled the scene of the moment as the conditions and light fluctuated. Although he began painting the stacks en plein air, Monet later revised his initial impressions in his studio, both to generate contrast and to preserve the harmony within the series.
  • “Meules, milieu du jour” (National Gallery of Australia)
    • The Haystacks series was a financial success for Monet. When the Haystack series was first exhibited in 1891, every painting sold within days. The show met with great public acclaim and as most of the pictures sold quickly, Monet’s prices began to rise steeply. As a result, he was able to buy outright for his house and grounds at Giverny and to start constructing a waterlily pond. After years of mere subsistence living, he was able to enjoy financial success.
  • “Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning” (Getty Museum)
    • Monet undertook to capture the Haystacks in direct sunlight and then to explore in his art the same viewpoint in the various light and atmospheric conditions. Sometimes Monet would search of harmonious transitions within the series and alter the canvases back in his studio. For Monet, the concept of producing and exhibiting a series of paintings related by subject and vantage point began in 1889, and his interest in the serial motif continued for the rest of his career.
  • Garden at Sainte-Adresse
    • “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet was painted in the summer of 1867 at the resort town of Sainte-Adresse on the English Channel, near Le Havre, France. Monet depicted a garden with a view of Honfleur which is located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine across from Le Havre. Monet combines smooth, traditional rendering with sparkling passages of rapid, separate brushwork, and spots of pure colour.
  • Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny
    • “Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet was painted in 1885 in a region that is just 80 km (50 mi) northwest from Paris, with rolling hills and cultivated fields of poppies and wheat. Monet roamed this region during his first few years after arriving at the village of Giverny. Although Monet had started to plant in his garden shortly after he moved in Giverny, his garden had not yet developed and bloomed to a stage that it could match the surrounding countryside. Monet instead turned to the nearby poppy fields, which offered a dynamic and varied display of natural colour and beauty for his inspiration.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet Timeline

  • 1840 – Monet is born in Paris, France.
  • 1845 – Monet’s family move to the Normandy region of France, where he grows up.
  • 1856 – Monet takes painting lessons, including painting en plein air (outdoors).
  • 1861 – Drafted into the military and spends two years in Africa. After becoming sick, he was sent home to recover.
  • 1862 – Studies under Charles Gleyre in Paris. Becomes friends with Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, and Frédéric Bazille.
  • 1870 – Marries Camille Doncieux in Paris.
  • 1870 – Monet travels to England and explores paintings by John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Meets Pissarro.
  • 1871 – Monet travels to the Netherlands and explores Dutch painters.
  • 1871 – Moves to Argenteuil, France where he lives until 1878.
  • 1872 – Painted Impression, Sunrise the painting that gives Impressionism its name.
  • 1874 – First Impressionists exhibition.
  • 1879 – Monet’s first wife, Camille Monet, dies.
  • 1890 – Monet purchases land in Giverny and begins developing his garden. Begins painting the Haystacks series.
  • 1892 – Monet marries Alice Hoschedé. Starts painting the Rouen Cathedral series.
  • 1897 – Starts paints Water Lilies series.
  • 1900 – Begins Houses of Parliament series.
  • 1908 – Travels to Venice and paints Venice.
  • 1911 – Monet’s second wife, Alice dies.
  • 1916 – Monet begins painting his large Water Lilies and his panorama paintings and triptychs.
  • 1926 – Monet dies of lung cancer at the age of 86.

Claude Monet – Facts

  • Monet was Paris-born but was raised on the Normandy Coast.
  • Monet began drawing as a young boy, sketching his teachers and neighbours.
  • Monet had an estranged relationship with his father. His father did not support his artistic passion and was unwilling to help him financially.
  • In 1858, Monet met Eugène Boudin. Boudin became his mentor, and encouraged him to paint “en plain air.”
  • In 1861, Monet was drafted into the army and join the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry, he served in Algeria, a territory that was then controlled by France.
  • Monet lived in Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878, where he was drawn to the natural beauty, and he painted 170 canvases during his time in Argenteuil.
  • For the year of the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Monet painted the Argenteuil Bridge seven times.
  • Japanese art fascinated Monet, attending a Japanese exhibition in the 1890s. He amassed a collection of more than 200 Japanese prints over the years.
  • France’s traditional art institutions were not fans of the Monet’s style. The saw his style as “casual” and “incomplete.”
  • His style focused on perception, capturing outdoor scenes by using rapid brush strokes.
  • In his late 20s, Monet was depressed and struggling to support himself and his family financially, Monet jumped off a bridge in 1868. Fortunately, he survived his fall.
  • Monet destroyed hundreds of his works due to bouts of frustration and self-doubt.
  • Monet was baptised Catholic, but he went on to become an atheist.
  • Monet disliked traditional art schools. So he became a student of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre. It was here that Monet met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley.
  • With the younger artists,  Monet explored new approaches to art like distinctive brush strokes and accurate depiction of light and unusual visual angles.
  • Outdoor painting was critical in developing his style. He created a series of pictures where he explored the effects of rain, mist, smoke, and steam on landscapes and objects.
  • The term “Impressionism” was used as a derogatory label in a critical review of artists who used the Impressionists style; it was borrowed from Monet’s painting title called “Impression: Sunrise.”
  • Monet claimed that he titled the painting Impression, Sunrise due to his hazy painting style in his depiction of the subject.
  • In his most famous series of twenty-six views of Rouen Cathedral, he broke tradition and cropped the Cathedral views, so that only a portion of the facade is seen on the canvas.
  • Monet’s favourite model was his first wife, Camille Doncieux. She appeared in around 32 paintings.
  • Monet’s second wife, Alice Hoschedé, was irrationally jealous of his first wife who had died.
  • Monet suffered from cataracts in his later years.
  • In 1883, Monet moved to the small village in Giverny and spent ten years building the water garden where he painted perhaps his most famous works.
  • As Monet’s garden expanded, he hired six gardeners to tend to it.
  • One gardener’s job was to paddle a boat onto the pond each morning, washing and dusting each lily pad.
  • Monet’s series of Water Lilies consists of about 250 oil paintings which were painted during the last thirty years of his life.
  • Monet’s famous Japanese bridge over his Giverny pond remains to this day at his home in Giverny.
  • For the last 25 years of his life, Monet painted the water lilies in a series of paintings that water lilies in different light and textures.
  • In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer, at the age of 86.
  • Monet is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.
  • In 1980, his former home in Giverny was opened to tourists to see his gardens, woodcut prints, and souvenirs.
  • Monet’s Giverny garden, bedroom, studio, and blue sitting-room are open for tours.

A Tour of French Artists

Claude Monet Quotes

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“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand as if it were necessary to understand when it is simply necessary to love.”

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“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in the corner of nature.”

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“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”

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“I can only draw what I see.”

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“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”

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“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

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“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly. ”

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“It took me time to understand my waterlilies. I had planted them for the pleasure of it; I grew them without ever thinking of painting them. ”

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“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.”

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“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.”

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“Everything I have earned has gone into these gardens.”

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“Colors pursue me like a constant worry. They even worry me in my sleep. ”

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“One can do something if one can see and understand it…”

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“I despise the opinion of the press and the so-called critics. ”

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“I am very depressed and deeply disgusted with painting. It is continual torture.”

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“I will do water – beautiful blue water.”

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“I’m never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel. ”

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The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. ”

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“No, I’m not a great painter. Neither am I a great poet. ”

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“My work is always better when I am alone and follow my own impressions.

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Reflections

  • For the last 25 years of his life, Monet painted the Water Lilies series in different lights, compositions and textures.
  • Monet. – “I am very depressed and deeply disgusted with painting. It is continual torture.”  Moral: Never give in to the dark side.

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“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand,
as if it were necessary to understand when it is simply necessary to love.”

– Claude Monet

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Photo Credit: 1) Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain]

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