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Claude Monet was the driving force behind the French Impressionist movement, which he also named. He was essential in uniting his followers as an inspiring talent and personality. Monet, fascinated by painting in natural light, achieved one of the technique's highest points in his series of paintings. He depicted the same subject from many perspectives and at different times of the day. His latter work frequently acquired a remarkable degree of abstraction, and he has been recommended to future generations of abstract painters for his mastery of color, light, and mood.
Monet, influenced in part by Édouard Manet, tried free handling, vivid color, and stunningly unorthodox compositions, breaking away from the unambiguous portrayal of forms and linear perspective standard in the established art of the period. Instead of accurately showing people, he began to capture the nuances of each scene's lighting and mood.
Monet's final years were also marked by a heightened awareness of color and form's ornamental characteristics. He started using more delicate brushwork, layering colors to create expansive fields and experimenting with the potential of a beautiful paint surface based on color harmony and contrast. His achievements, especially in the series of paintings of the 1890s, constitute a significant step forward for abstraction and contemporary artwork primarily concerned with surface effects.
As a pioneer and guiding force among his fellow Impressionists, he was instrumental in bringing together such luminaries as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro in Paris. Between 1874 and 1886, he played a pivotal role in forming the exhibition organization that would display the group's creations.
Oscar Claude Monet was born in Paris, but his family relocated to Le Havre, a port city in northern France, when he was five. His father had a prosperous grocery store before shifting his focus to shipping. When he was 15, his mother passed away. From a young age, he was profoundly influenced by the water and the cliffs and beaches of Northern France, and he would often skip class to go on walks along the shore. As a young man, he studied painting under a former student of the renowned Neo-Classical artist Jacques-Louis David at the College du Havre. A self-starter from an early age, he made 20 francs for each caricature and sold them in his leisure time. He used his early talent in the arts to amass sizeable savings via the proceeds of his artwork.
In 1856, a watershed moment happened when Monet became acquainted with Eugéne Boudin, a landscape painter known for depicting coastal communities in northern France. Painting en Plein air, as Boudin suggested, altered Monet's outlook on the creative process "This realization was like having the blinds drawn back from my eyes. Now I see the potential of art as a medium."
When Monet applied for a scholarship to Paris in 1859, he was turned down. However, instead of following the traditional route of a Salon painter and enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts, Monet went to the more progressive Académie Suisse, where he met fellow artists Camille Pissarro.
In 1861, Monet was deployed to Algiers as part of his military service. Like Eugène Delacroix before him, Monet found inspiration and had his worldview shaped by his time in north Africa. Following his military duty, he returned to Le Havre, where he was "finally educated of the eye" by Dutch marine and landscape painter Johan Jongkind. After that, he went back to Paris to study under Swiss artist Charles Gleyre, where he met future Impressionists like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley.
Two of Monet's seascapes were approved for presentation at the Paris Salon in 1865. Having previously painted outdoors, the artist found the confines of a studio to be too limiting, so he relocated to the outskirts of Paris, on the border of the Fontainebleau forest. Women in the Garden (1866–1877), a monumental piece in which he used his future wife Camille Doncieux as his only model, was a synthesis of the artist's past ideas and themes. Even though Monet had high hopes that this painting would be accepted into the Paris Salon, the piece was ultimately rejected because the jury did not like his manner. This was a period when Romanticism was still highly regarded in the official salon. (In 1921, Monet had the French government buy the painting for a whopping 200,000 francs to compensate for the insult committed 50 years before.)
After fleeing France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Monet found asylum in London, where he painted several famous works, including "The View from Westminster Bridge" (1871). He was joined by his new wife and their newborn son, Jean. His use of light owes a great deal to his exposure to the romantic realism of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, whose exhibits he viewed in London museums. Paul Durand-Ruel owned a brand-new contemporary art gallery on Bond Street and was the most crucial of these encounters. After initially championing Monet and Pissarro, Durand-Ruel expanded his support to include Renoir, Degas, and the rest of the French Impressionists.
After World War II ended, Monet and his family relocated to Argenteuil, a Paris neighborhood beside the Seine. Over the following six years, he honed his technique and painted over 150 depictions of the developing city. Friends from Paris also came to see him, such as Renoir and Manet. Even though Manet was ten years older and achieved artistic success far before Monet, they both had a profound impact on one another by the 1870s, with Monet having effectively converted Manet to Plein air painting by 1874.
In 1874, Monet and his friends mounted their show in the former studio of photographer and caricaturist Nadar as a protest against the salon system. The term "Impressionist" wasn't coined until after this show. Some of the earliest painters to react to the transformation of their city were Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro. Paris's modernity was reflected in the city's broader boulevards, which were required to handle the city's burgeoning public trends and consumer traffic. Both the topic and how it was presented were novel. The canvas was imprinted with the artist's intuitive feelings and the very nature of spontaneity, of the moment. Inadvertently, Monet gave the movement its name in his 1873 painting Impression, Sunrise, although critics of Impressionist art had previously used the term.
Despite somewhat middle-class origins, Monet spent most of his life in poverty and debt due to his penchant for excessive spending. Since he did not make much money from his paintings, he often had to borrow from acquaintances. Monet had some financial success in the 1870s thanks to several commissions, but he was in straitened circumstances by the decade's close.
The Monets shared a home in Vetheuil, France, with Alice Hoschede and her six children in 1877. The Hoschede family was longtime supporters of Monet until the patriarch's company collapsed and he abandoned his family. Monet had to look for a cheap place to live with his big family. Their second child, Michel, was born to Camille in 1878. After Camille's death, approximately a year and a half later, Monet shifted his attention to the transient nature of experience and the moderating roles of atmosphere and personality in his paintings. By 1892, Alice was Monet's legally recognized second wife after he had already married his first wife (after Ernest Hoschede died).
In 1883, Monet and Alice and their (total) eight children were on the hunt for a new home. A house in the tranquil French village of Giverny, home to just 300 people, came into his sights. In 1890, he rented the home and garden he would eventually purchase (and significantly enlarge).
Monet spent the final three decades of his life painting at his Giverny estate. He built an arched bridge over a pond stocked with water lilies to create a Zen-like atmosphere in his Japanese garden. Famously, he said, "My garden is my greatest artistic achievement. Regular, loving labor goes into my garden. I need some flowers right now. Always. Giverny will always have a special place in my heart; maybe the flowers there inspired me to take up painting."
Finally, it was at Giverny that Monet achieved his most significant level of accomplishment. The demand for his works increased, both internationally and domestically. In his later years, he developed into quite the gentleman, hiring a large household staff that included six gardeners to tend to his cherished garden and lily pond.
Monet was more interested in mood and setting than in contemporary subject matter. His paintings of grain stacks at various times of the day sold well and were appreciated by critics, collectors, and the general public at the Durand exhibition. Ruel Then moved on to Rouen Cathedral, where he conducted equivalent examinations of the building's front at various times of day and year to see how weather, light, and emotion affected it. Dozens of paintings with vivid, somewhat exaggerated hues resulted, serving as a visual memory of experiences.
End of Life and Old Age
Monet sought peace in the outdoors in his latter years. After the loss of his second wife and his son Jean, he is seen here in the late 1910s.
In the end, Monet preferred spending time alone in nature and painting to engaging in theoretical or critical debates inside the Parisian art and culture scene. Whereas he spent the 1880s and 1890s going from London to Venice to Norway and across France, he finally settled in Giverny in 1908 and remained there till the end of his life. Their second wife, Alice, and their son, Jean, passed away in 1911. Monet's creative output was severely curtailed when he saw the deaths of loved ones, witnessed the horrors of World War I, and had a cataract on one of his eyes.
French leader and friend of Monet, Georges Clemenceau, requested him to do a painting to cheer France up during the Great War. Despite protests that he was too old and unqualified, Monet ultimately agreed to work on what Clemenceau dubbed "the big adornment" after the French leader coaxed him out of his grief. Monet saw a hidden world within his oval salon, shown in a series of waterscapes. Monet had a new studio built with a glass wall facing the garden to capture the ever-changing light and perspective of his water lilies. Despite suffering from cataracts (one of which he had surgically removed), he could move a portable easel to various locations within the studio. He kept at his water paintings until the very end of his life.
The final design for the Orangerie museum included two elliptical chambers specifically for displaying Monet's water lilies. The overarching arrangements of the paintings and the carefully crafted spaces made it seem as if the observer were submerged in the water among lush vegetation. Many commentators praised the finished work, with Surrealist writer and artist Andre Masson dubbing it "the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism."
Impressionism and Its Legacy: Claude Monet
Monet's immense fame today is commensurate with his long life and prolific body of work. His contribution to Impressionism, of which he is a cornerstone, remains one of the most widely adored art movements of all time, as is proven by the huge sales of calendars, postcards, and posters featuring his work. Of course, you can find a Monet in every significant global museum, and his works fetch exorbitant sums at auction.
For quite some time after Monet's death, he was only well-known amongst connoisseurs of art, even though his paintings are now canonized. The Abstract Expressionists gave his art a tremendous revival in New York. Monet's massive, semi-abstract, all-over compositions influenced artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock and critics like Clement Greenberg. Monet's haystacks were also a source of inspiration for pop artists like Andy Warhol, whose work often features recurring images. As an analogy, many Minimalists also sequentially displayed things. Impressionism and Monet are central to practically every art history overview since they are widely acknowledged as the foundation for all modern and contemporary art forms.
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