"It really is appallingly difficult to do something which is complete in every respect, and I think most people are content
with mere approximations. Well, my dear friend, I intend to battle on, scrape off and start again..."
(Claude Monet)

Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1840 on the 5th floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On 20 May 1841, he was baptized in the local parish church, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, as Oscar-Claude, but his parents called him simply Oscar. His father, Adolphe Monet, was a grocer. In 1845 the family moved to Le Havre, France, where Monet's father and uncle ran a business selling supplies for ships. In 1845, when he was five years old, his family moved to the town of LeHavre, on the northern coast of France, where Monet spent the majority of his youth. In 1851, at the age of eleven, Monet began his studies at the Le Havre school for the arts and began selling charcoal paintings to locals in the area. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857 he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin who became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet "en plein air" (outdoor) techniques for painting.

His early experimentation with art was in drawing caricatures of his teachers, and other local individuals. He exhibited his caricatures at Gravier's, stationer, framer and ironmonger shop. Every Sunday new caricatures would go up.

Monet stated: "I started selling my portraits. Sizing up my customer, I charged ten or twenty francs a caricature, and it worked like a charm. Within a month my clientele had doubled. Had I gone on like that I'd be a millionaire today. Soon I was looked up to in the town, I was 'somebody'. In the shop-window of the one and only framemaker who could eke out a livelihood in Le Havre, my caricatures were impudently displayed, five or six abreast, in beaded frames or behind glass like very fine works of art, and when I saw troops of bystanders gazing at them in admiration, pointing at them and crying 'Why, that's so-and-so!', I was just bursting with pride."
Unfortunately, less than hundred original works have survived.


Monet painted on canvas which was a light color, such as white, very pale gray or very light yellow, and used opaque colors. A close-up study of one of Monet's paintings will show that colors were often used straight from the tube or mixed on the canvas. But that he also scumbled colors -- using thin, broken layers of paint that allows the lower layers of color to shine through. Monet painted many pictures of the same things.

Monet said: “Color owes its brightness to force of contrast rather than to its inherent qualities … primary colors look brightest when they are brought into contrast with their complementaries.” The Impressionists created violet by glazing cobalt blue or ultramarine with red, or by using new cobalt and manganese violet pigments that had become available to artists. A close-up study of one of Monet's paintings will show that colors were often used straight from the tube or mixed on the canvas.

Monet painted his moody interiors of Saint-Lazare station, where the steam ascending from trains and glass roofs created dramatic highlights and shadows, without earth pigments. His astoundingly rich array of browns and greys were created by combining new synthetic oil-paint colors (colors we today take for granted) such as cobalt blue, cerulean blue, synthetic ultramarine, emerald green, viridian, chrome yellow, vermilion, and crimson lake. He also used touches of lead white and a little ivory black. There was no shadow was considered as being without color, and the deepest shadows are tinged with green and purple.

To capture the fleeting effects of light and color, however, Monet gradually learned that he had to paint quickly and to employ short brushstrokes loaded with individualized colors. Over the years, Monet developed a personal style: broad, visible brushstrokes, and pale, modulated tonalities. Monet used quite a limited palette, banishing browns and earth colors and, by 1886, black had also disappeared. Asked in 1905 what colors he used, Monet said: "The point is to know how to use the colors, the choice of which is, when all's said and done, a matter of habit. Anyway, I use flake white, cadmium yellow, vermilion, deep madder, cobalt blue, emerald green, and that's all." An analysis of Monet's paintings show Monet used these nine colors:

In several series he began painting in the 1890s, he explored the changes of light and colour under various atmospheric conditions and at various times of day. Living in LeHavre, Monet had plenty of occasion to observe the appearance of the sea and sky as well as the effects of light upon the water. Monet loved the water all of his life. Jokingly he said that he would like to be buried in a buoy.

Cezanne supposedly said of him, "Monet is just an eye - but God, what an eye!" At age 16, he met an artist Eugin Boudin who gave him some art lessons. It was Boudin's opinion that an artist should paint from his first impression of a scene. Monet's life long career in art was spent "capturing" these first impressions on canvas. He also told the young Monet that he should be painting out of doors. The youth seems to have immediately put this advice into practice. By 1858, he was exibiting at the Le Harvre art exhibition. " Monet decided early in life that he wanted to become a painter. His aunt, Marie-Janne Lecadre, (who was also a painter) encouraged him in the field of art.

In June 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for a seven-year commitment, but, two years later, after he had contracted typhoid fever, his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at an art school.

After the premature passing of his mother Louise in 1857, young Oscar-Claude developed a closer relationoship with his aunt who gave him money to study art in at the Swiss academy "Atelier Suisse," in Paris when he was nineteen years old. During the 1960s, Claude Monet was constantly traveling, having become captivated by natural light, atmosphere, and color. He spent a year on military service in North Africa, fie returned to Normandy in 1862. The artist continually sought to convey the remarkable variety and subtle particulars of each new landscape. Terrace at Sainte-Adresse (1867) exemplified this experimentation with its shimmering array of bright, natural colors, eschewing the somber browns and blacks of the earlier landscape tradition. His art education was interrupted by when he spent two-years in military service stationed in Algeria, a period of time resulting in typhoid fever. Monet's aunt intervened in obtaining his release from military duty on the condition that he enroll in the formal l'École des Artistes for an art education. Monet however, chose to study at Gleyre's salon and studio, where he established lifelong friendships with Frédéric Bazille, Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. The three began painting together en plein aire (in the outdoors) in the forest of Fontainbleau, south of Paris.


Monet a young woman named Camille Doncieux. They fell in love, and married just before the war (28 June 1870). In 1876 the Monets met a banker and his wife, by the name of Ernest and Alice Hoschedé, with whom they enjoyed a lasting friendship. One of Monet’s interests, in addition to painting and gardening, was collecting Japanese art. His home had 231 Japanese woodblocks. The most obvious and indisputable proof of Monet being influenced by the art and culture of Japan is his work, "Madame Monet en Costume Japonais (La Japonaise)." Monet exhibited this work in 1876 at the second group show of the Impressionist painters, where it attracted much attention. Large-scale figure paintings had traditionally been considered the most significant challenge for an artist. Using this format, Monet created a virtuoso display of brilliant color that is also a witty comment on the current Paris fad for all things Japanese. The woman shown wrapped in a splendid kimono and surrounded by fans is Monet's wife, Camille, wearing a blond wig to emphasize her Western identity.

In his painting "Women in the Garden," Camille was the subject for all four women. Two sons were born of their union, the first son Jean was born in 1867, and second son Michel in 1877. In 1878 the Monets were invited to move into the home of the Hoschédés, in Vétheuil. From the moment of the second infants birth, Camille’s health began deteriorating. Monet was experiencing difficulty selling his paintings and, Camilles illness caused her to need constant care. The majority of the money Monet made from his paintings went for paints, art supplies and medicine. As their financial condition became worse, the rent payments fell behind. Camille died a year after the move to Vetheuil.

In 1862, Monet entered the studio of Gleyre in Paris. Monet settled in the village of Saint-Michel, and during that summer he worked alongside Renoir and began to emerge as the leading figure in the new techniques of outdoor impressionism. Camille Doncieux was still in her teens when Monet met her around 1865. Although she was of humble origins and worked as a model, she was an attractive, intelligent girl with dark hair and wonderful eyes according to Monet. Camille was seven years younger than Monet who was just a poor painter at that time. Camille soon became his mistress and model. Meanwhile, Monet's father was not thrilled with his son's lifestyle; when Camille was pregnant with Monet's child, his father forced him to come home, leaving Camille to fend for herself.

When the baby was born, Monet had the heavy responsibility of caring for them both, with the earnings of a very young, very unsuccessful painter. He carried this burden for many years, and struggled mightily with poverty and the stress caused by Camille's poor health, and his inability to pay for her medical care. Shortly before leaving Paris for Trouville, Camille and Claude were married in a civil ceremony performed at the town hall of the eighth arrondissement. The French painter Gustave Courbet was one of the witnesses. Camille's parents were present, and the affair was conducted with proper formality. However his family would not accept Doncieux or their child. They threatened to discontinue Monet’s allowance unless he abandoned Doncieux. Monet stayed with his family but wanted to be at the bedside when his child was born. As a result, his allowance was cut off. Unfortunately, this made life much more difficult for Monet and the three of them suffered extreme financial hardship, sometimes unable to afford food and often unable to afford paint.

In 1877 Camille gave birth to her second son, Michel. Soon Camille's health deteriorated. On August 31, a priest was called to the house to administer the last rites and to sanction her marriage to Monet (which had been conducted in a civil ceremony in 1870). Monet was devastated. On September 5, five days later, Camille died at the age of 32, one year after giving birth to their son.


Alice Hoschede, took over care of the 2 sons of Monet, along with her own six children. She was born Angélique Émilie Alice Raingo on 19 February 1844 in Paris to Denis Lucien Alphonse Raingo and his wife Jeanne Coralie Boulade. In 1876, Ernest Hoschedé commissioned Monet to paint panels for his salon in the château de Rottembourg at Montgeron, near Paris. Ernest Hoschedé went bankrupt in 1877. Ernest, Alice, and their children moved into a house in Vétheuil with Monet, Monet's first wife Camille, and the Monets' two sons, Jean and Michel. Ernest, however, spent most of his time in Paris. Ernest Hoschedé died in 1891 and Alice eventually agreed to marry Monet in 1892.

Monet married Alice Hoschedé the 16th of July 1892. The witnesses were the painter Caillebotte and Helleu. Despite Claude Monet’s objections to his stepdaughter Suzanne Hoschedé, he finally agreed after discovering the wealth of Butler’s family. Beckwith added to the union. The marriage needed to occur after Claude Monet’ own wedding. After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (July 19, 1870), Monet took refuge in England in September 1870. While there, he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet's innovations in the study of color. Trouville in the painting on the right resembles an old-fashioned British seaside resort on this stretch of the coast by the long promenade. The grand hotels have been converted to posh apartments, including the Hôtel des Roches Noires Trouville (right), brilliantly depicted by Monet in 1870 with its flags stretched taut by the sea breeze.

Monet stayed in a more modest establishment and left for England in a panic without paying his bill when the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Many of Boudin's scenes of the beautiful people gathering on the sands were painted here, while Courbet typically ignored high society and focused on the empty beach or the fishing boats. In the Spring of 1871, Monet's works were refused authorisation to be included in the Royal Academy exhibition.His father's death in 1871 meant the end of family support; friends helped financially and the dealer Durand-Ruel had begun to buy paintings from him but it was to be some years before Monet escaped the handicap of poverty. Claude Monet and his family lived in several locations, mostly in Argenteuil, from 1871-1878.

In 1874, Monet together with some other artists, formed the Société Anonyme des Artistes. He submitted his painting Impression, Sunrise for the group’s first exhibition. It was actually an early painting of Monet's for which the term "impressionism" was coined. The painting was of a sunrise, so Money entitied it "Impression: Sunrise." Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. Monet created the "Grandes Décorations" (1918-1926) on a large-scale. These paintings which reflected the light captured in his lily pond, were painted on panels larger than 6 feet high and 9 feet wide.

During a trip made by rail in 1883, as Monet sat gazing out of the train window, he discovered the village of Giverny, located in a rural farming community on the River Seine, 40 miles Northwest of Paris. He liked the picturesque village with it's quaint stone cottages, terraced gardens and 300 inhabitants, who were mostly farmers, with a few middle-class families. He rented a large farm house wich he purchased 7 years later, as his financial situation improved. The house overlooked a valley of the Ru, with a small stream on the property that is a tributary of the River Epte. By the end of April had moved in. The house had vegetable garden and an orchard. Monet cultivate a water-lily garden. Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, where he painted landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two important series — views of Parliament building and views of Charing Cross Bridge.


Rouen, a walled city until the 18th century, was named the "the city of 100 spires," by author Victor Hugo. It's perched elegantly along the Seine, France's longest river. Rouen's (pronounced Roo-aw) narrow, winding cobblestone streets are delightfully walkable. In this city, Normandy's signature medieval half-timbered houses stand in the shadow of its soaring and bewitching centrepiece -- Notre Dame Cathedra, with its Tour de Beurre (heavily damaged in the war, but now fully restored). The 9-year-old heroine Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the village marketplace for heresy in 1431. Twenty-four years after her death, Joan was pardoned -- and then canonized in the early 1900s.

Monet’s renowned series of the cathedral at Rouen are seen under different light effects and were painted from a second-floor window above a shop opposite the façade. The choice of the cathedral was a change for Monet, who had hitherto painted mostly landscapes. He made eighteen frontal views. The Rouen Cathedral paintings, more than thirty in all, were produced in late winter in 1892 and 1893. The series captures the façade of the cathedral, tracing changes in its appearance under different lighting conditions. Preliminary work on the paintings was done during late winter in 1892 and 1893, then reworked in Monet’s studio in 1894. Monet rented spaces across the street from the cathedral, where he set up temporary studios for the purpose. Changing canvases with the light, Monet had followed the hours of the day from early morning with the façade in misty blue shadow, to the afternoon, when the sunset, disappearing behind the buildings of the city, weaves the weathered stone work into a strange fabric of burnt orange and blue: The Rouen Cathedral. Portail. The Albaine Tower. 1893-1894, The Rouen Cathedral at Noon (1894), The Rouen Cathedral (1893-1894), The Rouen Cathedral at Twilight (1894), The Rouen Cathedral in the Evening (1894).


Giverny is a small village on the banks of the Seine River. Monet began renting a house there in 1883 and bought it in 1890, living with his second wife Alice Hoschedé (whom he married in 1892) and their combined eight children. The local scenery, such as wheatstacks in the neighbors fields, inspired Monet's famous series paintings. Monet designed and planted an extensive garden area which became the primary subject of his painting by the late 1890s.

In 1896, Monet began an art study of the Seine river near his home at Giverny, arising before sunrise so as to be at his easel when the sun arose. After sharing breakfast with his step-daughter Blanche, who was also a painter, Monet would climb into the flat-bottomed boat anchored to the river bank, from which he would sketch and paint.

In 1899, Monet first turned to the subject of water lilies: The White Water Lilies (1899), The Japanese Bridge (1899), Water-Lilies (1914), Water-Lilies (c.1917), Water-Lilies (1917), the main theme of his later work. Fourteen large canvases of his Water lilies series, started in 1916, were bequeathed by him to the State. In 1927, shortly after the artist’s death, these canvases were placed in two oval rooms of the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens.

From around 1910, the Japanese bridge he had built at Giverny, his flower beds and paths arched over with trees, above all his waterlily pond flanked by weeping willows, became his prime and obsessional motifs. His paintings grew in area, soon demanding two, three even four canvases per image and a specially constructed studio, and they gave rise to the idea of a gallery in which they would envelop the spectator. Between 1883 and 1908 (In 1905 his first signs of cataracts appeared) Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, Venice, and London. When he traveled to the Mediterranean he painted landmarks, seascapes, and landscapes. He returned to London and painted the Houses of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. He journeyed to Venice, Italy with his wife, Alice.

In his late years Claude Monet suffered from physical problems. After 1907 a bad eyesight and rheumatism made it more and more impossible for him to paint. He was diagnosed with a cataract in his right eye in 1912, and this condition spread to both eyes, forcing him to rely upon his memory of colors and shapes to paint his artwork. In the 1920's, even while Monet was going blind, he began an art project consisting of 12 large canvases (each measuring 14 feet in width) of water lilies, which he planned to donate to France. To complete them, he fought against his own failing eyesight and the fact that he had no experience in creating large-scale mural art. In effect, the task required him to learn a new kind of painting at the age of eighty. The paintings are characterized by a broad, sweeping style and depend almost entirely on color. Monet worked on the water lily paintings until his death on December 5, 1926. His doctor estimated that Monet was entirely blind in his right eye and had only 10 percent vision in his left. In 1923 he had eye surgery to remove the cataracts from his eyes. But Monet continued to paint until the year of his death. He died on December 5, 1926 from lung cancer and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.


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