Oscar-Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1840. While his artistic portfolio over the years is indeed impressive, Monet is arguably just as famous for being the man who founded the Impressionist style of painting.
To this very day, he is one of the most well-known painters in the world and his works continue to influence many modern artists.
Monet was born in the ninth arrondissement (district) of Paris to Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Monet. Although he was baptised as a Catholic, he would later turn to atheism later in his life. When Monet was six years old, he and his family moved to Normandy here he would go on to attend art school. Even at an early age, Monet was already exhibiting talent; selling charcoal sketches for tidy sums of money to local residents. It was during these formative years that he would meet Eugene Boudin. Boudin was a talented artist in his own right and he would serve both as a mentor and as a friend to Monet. It is also worth noting that Boudin taught his young apprentice outdoor painting techniques; a talent which would later serve Monet extremely well.
Monet would travel to Paris during his early teenage years. He witnessed many painters copying the works of other museum pieces. As opposed to adopting this style, he would instead paint what he witnessed when looking outside nearby windows. Monet would also meet a fellow artist by the name of Edouard Manet. Manet was also known for his impressionist style.
Unfortunately, his stint as a budding artist would prove to be cut short when he was summoned for mandatory military duty with the French army for a period of no less than seven years. Monet would be shipped to Algeria and during this time, he created several portraits of officers and landscapes. All of these works have since been lost. Monet contracted typhoid fever after his first year of service and with the help of an influential aunt, he was allowed to be discharged from the army on the condition that he attend a formal art school.
Known for a slightly rebellious nature, Monet was disillusioned with the techniques taught at contemporary art schools. It was therefore indeed fortuitous that he would study under the tutelage of Charles Gleyre; another artist known for his break from tradition. It was during this time that Monet would become acquainted with other famous names including Alfred Sisley and Auguste Renoir. This group shared many new ideas. These particularly revolved around the effects of light, broken colours and short brush strokes. These would serve as some of the fundamental principles of what would later be dubbed Impressionism.
Initial Works and Marriage
Monet was commissioned to complete a painting destined to be hung in a salon. However, the piece was too large to be placed upon the wall. He instead submitted a piece titled The Woman in the Green Dress. A model by the name of Camille Doncieux was used as the subject. In 1866, he employed her services again when creating Women in the Garden and On the Bank of the Seine. The two soon became romantically involved and Camille gave birth to their first child in 1867. They married in 1870 immediately before the initiation of the Franco-Prussian War.
They briefly travelled to London before settling in Argenteuil in 1871. While this can be considered to be the most prolific period of his life, the couple lived in poverty for the majority of the time that they were together. This is an unfortunate fact, as some of his works (particularly those depicting maritime themes) were quite popular. Monet even won a silver medal at Le Havre during this time. Still, outstanding debts and creditors would haunt Monet; these companies seizing many of his works.
Nonetheless, Monet continued to develop his talents while in England. He would study the works of contemporary painters such as Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable; both of which would influence his own style. Unfortunately, Monet was thwarted once again in 1871 when his works were not permitted to be displayed in an exhibition taking place at the Royal Academy. Some scholars believe that this was the ultimate reason why he decided to live in Zandaam (a city in the Netherlands) in the summer of 1871. While here, Monet would produce 25 paintings and it can be argued that his true impressionist style emerged during this time.
The Relationship Between Monet and Impressionism
One of the reasons why Impressionism took hold is due to the fact that Monet and many fellow artists experienced a significant amount of commercial rejection while in Europe. For example, the reputable Academie de Beaux-Arts refused to accept any of his works. This was considered to be a very influential exhibition and as opposed resubmitting their pieces, Monet and friends departed from established traditions.
The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers (Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs) was established in 1873. Monet was one of the original members along with Camille Pisarro, Alfred Sisley and Auguste Renoir. The first exhibition was held in 1874 and this event contained a piece by Monet entitled Impressions, Sunrise. This is thought to be the origin of the term "Impressionism" itself.
Monet began to enjoy some success during this time period and he was able to purchase a small boat to be used as a floating studio. It was from this tiny vessel that some of the most well-known works of Monet would be created. He also created portraits of friend Edouard Manet along with his wife; a slight break from the landscapes that Monet would later become famous for.
Family Troubles and Grief
Like many other artists, Monet suffered losses during his life. Camille was found to have contracted tuberculosis in 1876 (a very dangerous ailment at the time). Her condition worsened after she gave birth to their second child in 1878. Soon after, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Camille Monet died at the age of 32 on 5 September 1879.
Monet would go on to paint a portrait of Camille on her death bed and he would relate to a friend years later that this project was both the greatest joy and the greatest torment of his life. Monet would remain grieving for his young wife for a few additional months before returning to the canvas.
The 1873-1879 Period
Perhaps as a means to divert his focus away from such a loss, Monet began to paint several landscapes and seascapes during the first half of the 1880s. His intention was to document and record the French countryside around the town of Vetheuil at the time. He also painted the same scenery many times in order to illustrate the effects of changing light upon colours and tones.
Monet found it difficult to raise his two children without additional help and employed a woman by the name of Alice Hoschede (the sister of friend Ernest Hoschede). Alice and the two subsequently moved to Paris to live with her children while Monet continued to paint in Vetheuil. In 1880, Alice and all of the children left Paris to live together with Monet. The group took a trip to Normandy in 1883 where Monet discovered a town by the name of Giverny. He was immediately enamoured with the natural ambiance and it was not long before he, Alice and the children moved into a nearby home. He would remain at this residence for the rest of his life. The husband of Alice Hoschede would pass away in 1892 and soon after, she and Monet would marry.
Changing Fortunes and Comfort
Giverny and its nearby surroundings proved to reflect a more peaceful time in the life of Monet. With the help of Alice and the children, they would renovate their home and plant large gardens. His paintings likewise enjoyed mainstream success and he as able to purchase the house in 1890. He also procured the surrounding land in order to experience a greater sense of peace and tranquillity. The garden in particular was quite large and Monet gave daily instructions in regards to its layout and the plants that should be present.
Perhaps due to his appreciation for landscapes and nature, Monet continued to devote a great deal of time developing his garden and the nearby properties. He initiated a large landscaping project in 1893 and it was during this time that his paintings of lily ponds would come into existence (some of his most famous works). By the turn of the twentieth century, many contemporary critics felt that Monet had created a completely new and fluid style of art.
Unfortunately, Monet was not immune from suffering additional tragedies. His second wife Alice passed away in 1911 and his eldest son died three years later. Soon after, Monet began developing the first symptoms of cataracts (a condition that was not easily treated at the time). Many analysts note that the paintings completed during this time have predominantly reddish tones; characteristic of those suffering from cataracts.
With the onset of World War I, Monet began painting weeping willow trees as an homage to the numerous fallen French soldiers on the western front. Monet decided to undergo surgery for his cataracts in 1923 and after what appears to have been a successful operation, he actually modified some of his previous works to include more shades of blue.
Claude Monet died on 5 December 1926 due to inoperable lung cancer. He was 86 years old. Staying true to form, he did not desire any pomp and circumstance to be associated with his funeral. Only close friends and family were allowed to attend. He was interred at Giverny cemetery. His home as well as his sizeable property holdings were bequeathed to the French Academy of Fine Arts in 1966. In 1980 and after a significant amount of restoration, these lands were opened to the general public. This is one of the largest tourist attractions in Europe and millions of individuals from across the globe have visited this small property in Giverny.
Impact Upon the World of Art
Besides possessing a great deal of talent, Claude Oscar Monet is considered to be the founder of Impressionism and therefore, he has had a pronounced impact over the years (both before and after his death). There have been many studies highlighting the importance of his works in regards to twentieth-century artists.
In particular, many have noted that he seems to have relied more upon the purity of sensation as opposed to any preconceived set of rules. Thus, there is a great deal of fluidity in his paintings over the years. This is actually a feature of many impressionist painters in modern times. They desire to move ahead quickly with little contemplation while still being able to capture the essence of the moment itself. Such approaches can be seen in other famous personalities such as Degas, Van Gogh and Seurat.
Posthumous Sales and Fame
Like many other artists, Monet achieved the greatest amount of financial success after his death. For example, a painting known as London, the Parliament, Effects of Sun in the Fog was sold for $20.1 million dollars in 2004. Another work known as Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil (a painting of a railway bridge in the town of Argenteuil) was sold for no less than $41.4 million dollars in 2008. Le bassin aux nymphéas (one of his works within his series of water lily paintings) set a record when it was auctioned off for an incredible $80,451,178 dollars in June of 2008. Not only do these figures represent the talent of Monet, but they serve to reinforce the fact that Impressionism is still very much alive and well into the present day.