Claude Monet was born on 14th November 1840. He grew up in the French port Le Harve on the Normandy coast. If we are to remember anything about his early years it would be that he truly despised school but loved drawing and painting.
As a young man, 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. But not long after entering art school, 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. Interestingly, both Monet and Renoir shared a passion for painting outdoors, and often took trips to the countryside. Both men would spent hours studying the effect of sunlight and the weather, which ultimately became an inspiration to their bright, sketchy style.
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, whom he would eventually marry just before the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.
Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise”, 1872.
At the end of war of 1870, Monet would still continued to struggle to find success. Many official exhibitions were simply not interested in his sketchy style of painting. So, with a group of fellow artists, Monet and friends would end up opening their own exhibitions in 1874. Interestingly, Monet’s paintings met with some initial criticism, described as ‘palette-scrapings’, but many other critics praised his work which eventually led to Monet being able to sell more and more of his paintings. (It was around this time that Monet along with Renoir and others became associated with the term Impressionism. In fact, the term Impressionism was taken from the title of Monet’s 1874 exhibition paintings Impression, Sunrise.)
By the early 1880’s, Monet had found both critical success, particularly in London and New York, and financial security. His wealth in particular 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 Lilies and the Japanese bridge, 1897-1899.
In short, after an astonishing career behind the canvas, having painted hundreds of paintings, including some 250 lily paintings, Monet would succumb and eventually die from lung cancer at the age of 86, in 1926, leaving behind his immense contribution and legacy to art history. His popularity today as an artist is even more 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. Thank you Mr. Monet.