Claude MONET

Ansel Adams

John James Audubon Mary Cassatt Paul Cézanne Leonardo Da Vinci Edgar Degas The Hudson River School Michelangelo Claude Monet The Pre-Raphaelites Pierre-Auguste Renoir Vincent Van Gogh Frank Lloyd Wright

Claude MONET


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First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4640-5 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4632-0 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7178-0

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Developed and produced by National Highlights, Inc. Editor: Regency House Publishing Limited Interior and cover design: Regency House Publishing Limited Text © 2023 Regency House Publishing Limited

Front cover: Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge (1899) Page 1: On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt (1868) Page 2–3: Cliff Walk at Pourville (1882)


The Art of Monet 7 Series Glossary of Key Terms 92

Index 94 List of Plates 96


PLATE 1 Photograph of Claude Monet (1899)



Claude Monet was born in 1840 in Paris, France. His father, Adolphe, owned a shipping business. His mother, Louise, was a trained singer, but despite her talents, looked after the house and family. Monet had one older brother called Leon. After five years in Paris, the family moved to the town of Le Havre, on the seacoast. From an early age, Monet had a talent for drawing, something that his mother supported until her death in 1857. In the years that followed, and time spent in Paris, Monet continued to draw and paint and also served in the military. Eventually, he left the military in 1862, and went on to pursue his art full time, and then became the founder, and one of the most influential artists, of the Impressionist movement. Monet died in 1926 at the age of 86 at his home in Giverny,


T he Impressionist Revolution, one of the most dramatically successful and influential developments in the character of Western art since the beginning of the Renaissance, is encapsulated in the life and work of Claude Monet, recognized universally as the quintessential figure of the movement. The course of Impressionism is delineated through Monet’s working life, which covered the whole of the latter part of the nineteenth century and up to the second decade of the twentieth century. Monet and Impressionism are so inter related, and so much does he personify its characteristics and qualities, that it seems at times that he must have been the only Impressionist. His long life encompassed many domestic and personal difficulties during which he struggled to enlarge his art. The result was a consistent, if changing, development that ended with a series of massive panels epitomizing his philosophy and becoming the greatest single monument to the success of the Impressionist movement.

Of course, a whole art movement cannot be encompassed in the work of one artist. The wider the accepted generic coverage of any movement or period, the greater the number of artists who may be included and appropriately identified. For instance, in a broadly inclusive term such as “Renaissance,” many artists of different nationalities and pictorial intentions over a long time span may be included, with each contributing something significantly different to the general classification. When the grouping is numerically small, spans only a short period of time, consists mainly of one nationality, and has few formative figures (as in the case of Impressionism), the contribution of each individual artist will materially affect the perceived character of the movement. For that reason, it is essential to be clear about which artists may properly be included before one can establish the parameters of the movement. With Monet at the heart, we may confidently claim Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro as original participants and 7


PLATE 2 (right) Woman from Normandy in Profile (c. 1856–57) Black chalk, 9 7 ⁄ 8 x 6 1 ⁄ 4 inches (25 x 16 cm) PLATE 3 (far right) Young Dandy with Monocle and Cigar (c. 1856–57) Black chalk with color crayon, 9 7 ⁄ 8 x 6 1 ⁄ 4 inches (25 x 16 cm)

about fifteen, show him to be a caricaturist beyond normal expectation, and indeed his drawings at that time also showed academic ability. This form of portrait illustration was popular in the nineteenth century, and such figures as Spy achieved a considerable reputation from similar treatment of famous figures of the day. Nevertheless, the influence of Boudin soon redirected Monet to more serious painting.

These two examples of Monet’s early artistic interest, as well as of his financial enterprise, made when he was

determinants, while Degas, although always claiming to be an independent and not liking the term “Impressionist,” was clearly associated and a contributor. It has been said that any attempted definition of Impressionism that definitely excluded him would be inadequate, although few of his paintings are even close to the evident intention and character of Monet’s work. Another artist usually included in the Impressionist net is Manet, eight years older than Monet and the recognized leader of the group of independent painters from whom the Impressionists emerged. Manet’s association is even more questionable than that of Degas. He did not exhibit in the first Impressionist show in 1874, but he was a friend of Monet’s. His painting philosophy and practices were never close to those of the Impressionists, and he is now regarded more as an influence than as a participant. Other painters are also usually included, such as Cézanne,

who certainly had a short connection through Pissarro; Bazille, who died in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 before the first “Impressionist” exhibition; Van Gogh and Gauguin, inaccurately but because of their association with the group; a number of others because of a perceived Impressionist character in their work, such as the two sculptors Auguste Rodin and Medardo Rosso; and even others because they exhibited in the first Impressionist exhibition. Thus, in attempting to identify Impressionism and its artists, it is essential to identify what it is first, and we are confronted with a chicken-and-egg situation, an unresolvable problem. It has usually been helpful to examine Monet’s contribution as an a priori situation. Claude-Oscar Monet was born on Rue Laffitte, Paris, on November 14, 1840, into the petit bourgeoisie. His father and uncles were all grocers and ship chandlers, living comfortably without ambition or wide interests,



and except for one aunt, who was an amateur painter, the family had no interest in the arts. When Monet was five, the family moved to Le Havre, a port on the north coast of France at the estuary of the Seine, and his father entered a partnership with his brother-in-law, a well-to-do ship’s chandler. Monet was unhappy at school, learned little, and spent his time on the beaches and cliffs or in boats on the water whenever possible. It was at that time that his interest in the movement of water began, and with

all nature, it remained with him throughout his long life. Indeed, most of the characteristics that he revealed in his mature life were already evident in the child. He was independent, in little need of praise or social approbation, irreligious, and concerned only with what he learned from his own experience. Perhaps most fortunately for him, he was stimulated by antagonism and adversity, both of which he was to experience early in his working life as a painter. On the 9


other hand, he was self-indulgent—some said he ate enough for four ordinary appetites—could be vindictive and taciturn, and was crafty and manipulative with money. When only fifteen, he was selling caricatures of locals for twenty francs in the small stationery and framing shop in Le Havre, which had been owned by the painter Eugène Boudin. Boudin was a landscape painter of the local coastal scenery and, importantly for Monet’s development, painted en plein air— on site in the open air. He quickly transmitted his love of the coast he knew so intimately to Monet. Boudin himself had been encouraged to paint by some of his customers, painters

who themselves had an influence in Monet’s life, such as Thomas Couture, a well-known academician, with whom Manet was a pupil for six years; Jean-François Millet, a painter of genre subjects of peasant scenes of pathos and simplicity; and Constant Troyon, a painter of animals— particularly cattle—in quiet landscapes. Painting outdoors with oil paint was not common or very practical until the convenient means of transporting the paint in tubes was introduced in the 1840s. Boudin was a determined practitioner who convinced Monet that it was essential to capture “one’s first impression.” That was the one essential principle that guided Monet and



PLATE 4 (left) Still Life with Bottle, Carafe, Bread, and Wine (1862) Oil on canvas, 16 1 ⁄ 8 x 23 1 ⁄ 2 inches (41 x 60 cm) Monet painted this still life in the traditional style. This painting was influenced by his attendance at the Académie Suisse.

PLATE 5 Trophies of the Hunt (1862) Oil on canvas, 41 x 29 1 ⁄

2 inches (104 x 75 cm)

This work, painted when Monet was still studying at Gleyre’s atelier , is an indication of the academically based influence under which he produced his first works. It is painted in the traditional tonal structure and representational presentation, which was the only valued approach at that time. It was against this restrictive practice and exhibitionist intention that the young painters who later became the independent group, of which Monet was a member, rebelled. The values of this painting indicate that Monet already had control of his technique and was capable of academic draftsmanship, despite the short training that he had received. It may not be an inspiring work, but it is clearly competent. Gleyre, commenting on one of Monet’s paintings, observed, “Not bad! Not bad at all, that thing there!” was perhaps the subconscious reason that he called his painting, in the first exhibition of the independent group in 1874, Impression: Sunrise, and Impressionists became the name by which the group was subsequently known. Louis Le Roy, a well-known critic, wrote a review of the exhibition, which he entitled “The Exhibition of the Impressionists,” not the name that the group had chosen nor did it represent the content of the exhibitors’ work.

In May of 1859, Monet visited Paris, went to the Salon, and admired the work of the Barbizon painters Daubigny and Troyon. He also attended the Académie Suisse, where he met Pissarro and visited the Brasserie des Martyrs, where the Realist group gathered around Courbet. During the winter, he saw a number of Delacroix’s paintings at a loan exhibition. In the fall of 1860, he was called up for military service and chose to serve in Algeria “because of the sky.” He was excited by the light and color he found there. He was, however, sent home on sick leave in 1862, and his family bought him out of the army, so he never completed his military service. In the summer of the same year, while painting





PLATE 6 (left) Spring Flowers (1864) Oil on canvas, 9 7 ⁄ 8 x 6 1 ⁄

4 inches

(25 x 16 cm)

The beautiful, light-flecked still life of flowers, painted while Monet was staying in Normandy in 1864, shows no signs of the “appalling difficulties” he told Bazille he was experiencing with many of his paintings at this time. PLATE 7 The Woman in the Green Dress (1866) Oil on canvas, 89 1 ⁄ 4 x 58 5 ⁄ 8 inches (228 x 149 cm) In setting Camille Doncieux in a dark neutral background, Monet ensures that the viewer’s attention will be on the model’s face and her magnificent green silk dress. The result is a most striking portrait that

had immediate success when exhibited in the 1866 Salon.



on the coast with Boudin, he met Johan Barthold Jongkind, a Dutch landscape and seascape plein-air painter who worked mainly in France, anticipating Monet’s later practice of painting the same subjects in different atmospheric conditions. Thus, at the beginning of his professional life, Monet had already been introduced to the two features that became the central foundation of his art, and thus of Impressionism. Monet returned to Paris in 1862 and, though he had been advised by Troyon to study with Couture, joined the atelier of Charles Gleyre. It is interesting to speculate what the effect on Monet—and on Impressionism— would have been had he chosen Couture. Gleyre was a

PLATE 8 Still Life: The Joint of Beef (1864) Oil on canvas, 9 x 13 inches (24 x 33 cm)

Monet undertook a number of small studies of grouped objects, particularly (as here) of meats and vegetables. As artificially arranged objects, as nature morte rather than living nature, they allowed him to concentrate on the intrinsic character of the objects he was exploring. The resulting work has some of the qualities of surprise and originality that already suggest that Monet was not content to follow a traditional painting career. It has also been noted that these paintings owe much to Chardin, whose still life paintings are among the most admired legacies of eighteenth-century French art.


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