Claude MonetThe Classical Impressionist

Claude Monet, Nadar (1899)

"I would like to paint as the bird sings."

-Claude Monet

Claude Monet also known as, Claude Oscar Monet or Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the most famous painters in the history of art and his works can be viewed in museums around the world. He was the figurehead of the movement of Impressionism following the movement’s philosophies and perceptions towards nature.

Younger Years:

Claude Monet was born on November 14th, 1840 in Paris, France. His father, Adolphe, worked in the family shipping business where his mother, Louise, was a trained singer and looked after the family. In 1845, Monet and his family moved to a port town called Le Havre in Normandy. Monet did not enjoy being controlled in a classroom and was most happy outdoors. At a young age he developed a love of drawing. Many of his schoolbooks were filled with sketches and caricatures.

Monet Painting in His Floating Studio, Manet (1874)
His mother supported his artistic efforts on the other hand Monet’s father wanted him to join the family business. In his community he became well know for his charcoal sketches of many residents, which he would sell from ten to twenty francs. Sadly in 1857 his mother died causing great suffering for Monet . After meeting a local landscape artist, Eugene Boudin, Monet became inspired by nature in his works. He also introduced Monet to painting outdoors or ‘plein-air’ painting, as is depicted in the image on the right.

The Birth of Impressionism:

In 1859, Monet decided to move to Paris to pursue his career in art. He became a student at the Academie Suisse. While living in Paris Monet visited the Louvre and witnessed many artists recreating the works of old masters. Instead of doing this common task Monet would sit by a window and paint what he saw.

Impression, Sunrise, Monet (1873)
While living in Paris he became acquaintances withfellow artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fredric Bazille and Alfred Sisley.They eventually became close friends and formed what was to be known as the impressionists. They shared new techniques of painting nature, more contrasts between light and dark and choppy brushstrokes. They, including Monet, wanted to capture the spirit of nature using bright colours and bold brushstrokes. Subject matter usually reflected happiness in the artists life such as nature or their family. They turned away from more classical styles forming the unique movement of Impressionism.

In 1873 Monet painted his most crucial piece. He created Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise) portraying a port in Le Havre. In 1874 it was displayed in the first impressionist exhibition. Art critics used the title of his painting to name the group and evaluating their works as being unfinished. The term was fitting and it stuck. Harsh criticism from society did not stop Monet from creating his works.

Please enjoy this video displaying Claude Monet at work:

Later Years:

Camille Monet with a Child, Monet (1875)

Camille Doncieux served as a model for many of his painting and as a muse. Monet was undergoing finical struggles at this time.They married before the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. They and their son Jean fled to London then back to France after the war settling in Argenteuil. They had a second son, Michel but sadly a year later in 1879 Camille Monet died of tuberculosis. Monet painted Camille Monet on her death bed as a final tribute to her life. Camille’s death took a great toll on Monet and as a result he became more determined to create masterpieces.
Bridge Over A Pool Of Waterlilies, Monet (1899)

He and his children moved into the home of the Ernest and Alice Hoshede, patrons of the arts. He grew closer Alice and eventually in 1892 they married, after the death of her husband. Together they raised their respective children in Giverny, France. His home with Alice served as great inspiration for him, as is depicted in the painting to the left.

In 1911, Monet became depressed after the death of his beloved Alice and was also plagued by eye problems; cataracts. Paintings done while the cataracts affected his vision have a reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims and after his operations he repainted some of these paintings

Giverny, France:

Monet (right) in his garden (1922)

Monet spent most of his time painting outdoors and recreating the gardens in Giverny. It was a small village located on the banks of the Seine River. It consisted of two acres of land with a barn used as a painting studio, gardens and an orchard. At first he rented the land but as Monet grew more successful he was able to buy the land and the house in 1890. Monet expanded upon and designed the gardens surrounding his home. It consisted of a vast flower garden and a Japanese inspired water garden. He did not organize the grow of the plants but rather let them grow freely and arranged them according to colour. Monet also improved on the house such as painted it to compliment his gardens.

Monet in his salon (1915)
Monet's garden consisted of willow trees, bamboo, cherry trees, poplar,peonies, tulips, waterlilies, roses and irises. In addition to planting the garden himself he also tended to his plants; watering and weeding them. He found much inspiration in his waterlily pond and a Japanese style bridge and over five hundred of his paintings contain the subject of his garden. His lavish garden and home directly mirrored his success as an impressionist.

Presently Monet's home and garden at Giverny are open to the public. After Monet died in 1926, his step-daughter Blanch and son Michel cared for the property until he died in 1960. Upon Michel's death, the property was deeded to France's Academie de Beaux Arts who let it detoriate due to lack of funds and interest. In 1977 the curator created a great fundraising effort backed by both American and French contributors. The gardens and home of Claude Monet were restored to its original condition and were opened to the public in 1980. His home and studio have been converted into museums, including the famous "yellow room". In addition to souvenirs of Monet and other objects of his life, the house contains his collection of Japanese prints. The house is one of the main attractions of Giverny, which hosts tourists from all over the world. His home and garden receive over five hundred thousand visitors each year.

Please watch this video to view present day Giverny:

Famous Works:

The country side of Giverney, his garden and his home inspired many of Monet's paintings. Aside form his crucial painting Impression,Sunrise he created several other successful works.
Waterlilies (detail), Monet (1914-1917)
onet's series of waterlily paintings were created at the height of his career and he created approximately two hundred and fifty impressions of the ponds. He reflects on his subject stating, "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." He painted a series of waterlilies among these he painted La Bassin Aux Nympheas which sold in 2008 for $ 80.4 million to a private collector. Though Monet painted many subject in Giverny, the waterlilies were his most frequent and celebrated inspirations.
Musee de l'Orangerie

He created a final series of twelve waterlily paintings commissioned by the Orangerie des Tuileries, a museum in Paris. His paintings known as Nympheas (waterlilies) consists of eight paintings displayed in two oval rooms along the walls. He chose to make them on a very large scale, designed to fill the walls of a special space for the canvases in the museum. The paintings remain in the same oval shaped room as was designed for them in the 1920s, even as the museum under went expansion the paintings remained in their place to to their vast size. He wanted the works to serve as a "haven of peaceful meditation".

Haystacks are an example of another of Monet’s favorite subjects. During 1890 and 1891, Monet returned repeatedly to the fields sur
Haystack at Sunset, Monet (1891)
rounding his home to paint haystacks in a variety of light and weather conditions. The result was a series of twenty-five paintings which, deonstrated Monet’s ability to capture detail. Each painting represented specific light conditions and sometimes could only work for a few minutes a day, while the lightening was perfect. He would return to the scene for a brief moment of work each day over the course of weeks or months

Though at the beginning of his career Monet's work was not acepeted in the art world it changed drastically. He had supporters buying and collecting his works, most notably from individuals living in the States. As his works became more famous he held exhibits to display them. Towards the end of his life he became a very wealthy man and a successful impressionist. To see where you can view Monet's works please click here.

Other works by Claude Monet include:

The Woman in the Green Dress (1866)
Wild Poppies, near Argenteuil (1873)
Madame Monet in a Japanese Costume (1875)
Woman with a Parasol (1875)
Self Portrait with a Beret (1886)
Rouen Cathedral (1892-1893)
Poplars on the Epte (1900)
Blue Waterlilies (1919)

To view all of Monet's paintings click here.
Monet retouches the Arch of flowers (1923)

Death and Legacy:

Despite his feelings of despair and depression, Monet kept working on his paintings until his final days as it gave him true joy in his life. He died on December fifth, 1926 at the age of eighty-six.

Monet's grave in the cemetary of Giverny
He is buried at the cemetery of the Giverny church and he insisted on a simple occasion thus fifty people attended his ceremony. His remaining family and heirs bequeathed his Giverny home and gardens to the Academie de Beaux Arts in 1966.

He helped change the world of painting by changing the conventions of the past. A revival of interest in his work occurred in the 1950s. By dissolving forms in his works, Monet opened the door to further abstraction in art. He set the foundations for the period of Post-Impressionism inspiring artists such as Vincent van Gogh. Popular exhibitions of his work toured the world during the last decades of the 20th century sustaining his reputation as one of the most significant and popular figures in modern painting .

For more images of Monet during his life click here.
For more information about the life of Monet click here.

Monet and his Waterlilies in his studio (1923-24)


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