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 Claude (Oscar-Claude) Monet  (1840 - 1926)

/ moe-NAY/
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Lived/Active: France      Known for: impressionist landscape painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Claude Monet
Facts/Data
Birth
1840 (Paris, France)
 
Death
1926 (Giverny, France)

Lived/Active
France




Often Known For
impressionist landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Claude Monet was born in Paris on November 14, 1840.  When he was five years old, the family moved to the port town of Le Havre. For much of his childhood he was considered by both his teachers and parents to be undisciplined and therefore, unlikely to make a success of his life.  When he was a fifteen, scornful of the quiet earnest pictures Boudin was painting, they met and Boudin, overcoming the younger man's resistance, urged him to study landscape.  Together they worked outdoors in the lovely Norman countryside around Le Havre and Monet became a "plein-airiste" (open-air painter) almost against his will - an ironical fact since it was he who later so fanatically advocated the practice of painting out-of-doors.  Boudin generously and modestly taught Monet whatever he had gleaned, and long years afterward, when they were both successful, Monet acknowledged his debt.

Dissuaded by Boudin from going on with his lucrative but limited work in caricature, Monet determined to become a serious painter.  With this decision began years of struggle against poverty so bitter that he often had no food for himself or his family, and what was almost worse, no money for paints and canvas.  His parents were not initially against his going to Paris to study, but they imposed on him such stringent regulations about submitting to academic training that their attitude amounted virtually to opposition.  He refused to take regular courses at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, attending instead the so-called Academy Suisse, a kind of sketching class run by a former model, and exchanging ideas with the lively company that congregated at the Brasserie des Martyres, one of the eating places favored by artists and authors.

After doing military service in Algiers, he came to Paris for a second time and made the acquaintance of Renoir, Sisley and Bazille at Gleyre's studio.  He exhibited in 1865 at the Salon.  In 1871 he visited London with Pissaro where they both came under the influence of Turner.  The first showing of his collected work was held in 1880, although in 1877 he and his friends had already come to be known as the Impressionists.  Of them all, he was perhaps the most influential and the most versed in the various theories of the new technique.

Already revered as the quintessential impressionist when he moved to Giverny in 1883, Monet continued to develop different modes of painting even when surrounded by a stifling number of disciples.  In the 1890s he set himself the task of repeating mundane subjects under every conceivable kind of light.  Although Monet is usually depicted as a hermit isolated from social concerns, he subscribed to two clippping services, attesting to his keen interest in knowing how his works were received.  Moreover, he chose the subjects of his paintings of the 1890s with a "savvy eye toward the art market."

Monet's first wife, Camille Doncieux, bore him two sons, Jean and Michel.  His liaison with her had estranged him from his family.  She died in 1879, and on July 16, 1892, Monet married Alice Hoschede, whose sister Suzanne was Monet's preferred model.  Alice's husband, Ernest had left her when he had some financial reversals.  She was pregnant with her sixth child when he abandoned her; with eight children between them, Monet and Alice moved away and eventually settled in Giverny.

In 1883, Monet rented the property at Giverny, and seven years later he bought it. He became a model of the master of the house, a strong and loving father to all of their children and a devoted mate (he and Alice were to marry later).  Fame came to him as well as many shows and sales and a great deal of money.  He bought the property across the road where he enlarged a small pond to make his water garden.  Eventually he employed six gardeners.

Monet was a cultivated man with a cosmopolitan outlook. His friends, writers and artists, poets and composers, came to visit at Giverny where the food was good, with wine well chosen and the conversation relaxed. In 1923 he underwent two cataract operations.  They partially restored his eyesight but left him with veiled vision and distorted color perception.  Still he continued to paint; his internal vision seemed as clear as ever.

Monet was eighty-six, on December 5, 1926, when he died, a driven old man, almost blind with cataracts, preyed upon by terrible fits of depression.  He considered that his entire life had been a failure.  He insisted that his one achievement was to have worked directly from nature.  He often painted from memory in a manner identical to his paintings from nature.

One day in the late 1960s, Monet's son Michel Monet, then an octogenarian, was killed driving back from a visit to his wife's grave.  He had inherited his father's collection of paintings and kept most of it in his secluded country home and nobody had seen it for forty years.  He occasionally sold one of the paintings when he needed money.  But most of it was intact, and he respected his father's wishes in that he left the collection (which included some works by Delacroix, Boudin and Renoir) to the Musee Marmottan in Paris, a drab institute open to the public only occasionally.  His father never forgave the Louvre for ignoring him, and this was his way of getting back at the most famous museum in France.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources:
The Annenberg Collection: Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Masterpieces of Art: Catalogue of the New York World's Fair 1940
Master Paintings from the Phillips Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: French Impressionists
R.H. (Robert Hughes?) in Time Magazine, July 19, 1971
ARTnews, May 1990
Monet on the Mediterranean by Helen Dudar in Smithsonian Magazine possibly November 1994
"The Gardener of Giverny" by Mary Blume in ARTnews, April 1978

Biography from South Coast Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Oscar-Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris.  He spent his childhood in the Normandy coastal town of Le Havre, where his father prospered as a grocer and ship chandler.  In 1860 Monet met the landscape artist Eugène Boudin, who introduced him to plein-air painting, and he began to produce increasingly ambitious and naturalistic work.

In 1859, Monet moved to Paris, where he attended the Académie Suisse beginning in 1860.  He returned to Le Havre in 1862, and worked in the plein-air mode alongside Eugene Boudin and Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind.  In 1862 he returned to Paris to enroll in the studio of Charles Gleyre, where his fellow students included Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisley.  Despite some success, financial difficulties forced Monet to return to his family in Le Havre.

In 1878, with financial troubles looming and his wife gravely ill, the Monets embarked on an unorthodox joint household arrangement in Vétheuil.  By 1890 Monet was financially secure enough to purchase a house at Giverny, later adding adjacent land and installing both a water-lily garden and Japanese bridge, which he would later paint in series.

Monet passed away in December, 1926 at the age of 86.

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