CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Oscar-Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, France. His father, named Adolphe Monet, was a grocer. His mother, named Louise-Justine Monet, was a singer. Young Monet grew up in Le Havre, Normandy. There he developed a reputation for the caricatures he loved to draw. He studied drawing with Jean-Francois Ochard, an apprentice of Jacques-Louis David. Then he studied painting 'en plein air' with marine painter 'Eugene Boudin'. After having served in the French Army in Algeria for two years, Monet was decommissioned after contracting a typhoid. In 1862, in Paris he joined the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he met Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille, and Auguste Renoir.
In 1865 Monet submitted his painting to the official Salon for the first time. His 'Le dejeuner sur l'uerbe' (The Picnic 1865), depicting his lady friend Camille Doncieux and artist Bazille, was gently criticized by Courbet; Monet modified the painting, then, still unsatisfied, dismissed it from the show. In 1866, he painted Camille Doncieux as 'Camille, ou la femme a la robe verte' (Woman in the green Dress), and in 1867, she bore their first child, named Jean. Monet's paintings were treated as inferior at the Salon shows. In 1868 he made a suicide attempt. With the modest financial support from Frederic Bazille, Monet survived the first attack of depression. In 1870 he married Camille Doncieux and they settled in Argenteul. There he painted from a boat on the Seine River, capturing his impressions of the interplay of light, water and atmosphere.
Claude Monet became enthusiastic over the London landscapes, when he took refuge in England, to avoid the Franco-German War of 1870-1871. In London he was joined by his friend Camille Pissarro and the two artists continued painting landscapes. At that time Monet became interested in the paintings of William Turner in London museums. Turner's influence on Monet remained noticeable, especially in some later more vivdly chromatic paintings of the Thames, which he made during his visits to London in the 1890's and 1900's. In 1899, in London, Monet painted the river Thames in the series of paintings of the Houses of Parliament with the reflections of light in the river and fog. Then Monet said, "Without the fog, London would not be a beautiful city."
Monet's painting 'Impression, soleil levant' (Impression, Sunrise 1872) was untitled until the first show in 1874, in the Paris studio of photographer Nadar. A title was needed in a hurry for the catalogue. Monet suggested simply 'Impression'. The catalogue editor, Renoir's brother Edouard, added an explanatory 'Sunrise'. From the painting's title, art critic Louis leroy coined the term "Impressionism", which he intended to be derogatory. Monet's title came under criticism which seized upon the first word. Monet with Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, were joined by Edgar Degas, and continued to exhibit together despite the financial failure of the first show.
Impressionists slowly gained recognition after 1880, when public begun to recognize the value of their works. In 1883 Monet was able to rent a house in Giverny, in Haute-Normandie. In 1890 Monet bought the house and expanded the garden into a beautifully landscaped park with a pond. There he painted many landscapes, and his water lily pond became the favorite subject of his paintings during the next 40 years of his life. Monet outlived his second wife and first son Jean. He suffered from cataracts, which affected his vision so that his later paintings had a general reddish tone. After two cataract surgeries in 1923, Monet even repainted some of the reddish paintings. He died on December 5, 1926, and was laid to rest at the Giverny church cemetery.
"My king is the sun, my republic is water, my people are flowers and leaves," said Claude Monet. He was the first artist to present his initial impressions as completed works. In 2004, his London painting 'Le Parlement, Effet de Brouillard' (The Parliament, Effects of Sun in the Fog. 1904), sold for over $20,000,000.
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