Pierre- Auguste Renoir’s painting of his life long friend Claude Monet reading, 1872.
On the 5th December, 1926, the world lost one of history’s greatest artists. By the time of Claude Monet’s death, aged 86, he had painted hundreds of paintings, including some 250 lily paintings, which today hang in museums and art galleries around the world. He was also a founding member of the movement of painting known as Impressionism. The term Impressionism was taken from the title of Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (below).
Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise”, 1872.
Claude Monet was born on 14th November 1840. He grew up in the French port Le Harve on the Normandy coast. He despised school but loved drawing and painting.
After an unsuccessful stint in the French Cavalry in Algeria, where he contracted typhoid fever and was discharged with the help of his aunt, he went onto study at a traditional art school. After a while, he became disillusioned with its stale and old fashioned methods and instead decided to become a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met among others Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Both of them shared a passion for painting outdoors, and often took trips to the countryside. Monet and Renoir spent hours studying the effect of sunlight and the weather, which then became an inspiration to their bright, sketchy style.
Monet’s Haystack paintings are arguably the most celebrated of all the impressionist artists contribution to landscape painting. Image above of “Wheatstacks (End of Summer)” 1890-91.
In the early years, Monet didn’t sell many paintings. He struggled bitterly at times with money, but always found pleasure in his art. Like Renoir, he too, fell in love with one of his models, Camille Doncieux. He would marry her just before the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. Monet and his wife would flee France for the safety of England.
After the war, Monet returned to France, but still continued to struggle to find success. Many official exhibitions were simply not interested in his sketchy style of painting. With a group of fellow artists they opened their own exhibitions in 1874. Monet’s paintings met with some initial criticism, described as ‘palette-scrapings’, but many other critics praised his work. Sure enough, in time, he began to sell his paintings.
By the early 1880’s, Monet had found both critical success, particularly in London and New York, and financial security. His wealth allowed him to embark on one of his greatest projects, to create a dream garden at Giverny, in France. Monet was able to dam a river at Giverny to create a massive pond with an amazing assortment of water lilies. In his enormous studio that he built, he was known to paint all day and into the night. Many of his huge canvas water lily paintings were worked on in this studio.
Monet’s water lily painting, Le Bassin Aux Nympheas, 1919, Image Wikipedia
Monet would succumb and eventually die from lung cancer at the age of 86. His contribution and legacy to art history is immense. His popularity today as an artist is undeniable, especially with the crowds of people that frequent his exhibitions in museums and art galleries worldwide. Sales of his paintings can fetch upwards of 20 million dollars. To the casual admirer who buys reproductions and Monet calendars, we simply love and enjoy his bright colourful sun filled landscapes and portraits.
Categories: Art History