Biography of Oscar-Claude Monet, The Life and Work of Claude Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet Biography

Self portrait of Claude Monet Oscar-Claude Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet is famous French painter who was born on 14 November 1840 in Paris as second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise-Justine Aubree. He was a founder of the Impressionism movement which had been called after his painting Impression, Sunrise. Although his parents cold him Oscar, he had become famous and known as Claude Monet. On 20 May 1841 Claude Monet was baptized at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. His godfather was Claude-Pascal Monet, a merchant from Nancy.

Until 1845 Monet lived in Paris with his parents and his older brother Leon. He was Parisian as his parents and grandparents had been. All four his grandparents settled in Paris around 1800. His mother was musical and her singing had been part of the background of Monet's childhood. His father was described as shop keeper in his official documents. Around 1845 Monet's father was offered a job by Jacques Lecadre, husband of his half-sister, Marie-Jeanne Gaillard who had lived in Le Havre. Claude Adolphe and his family moved to Le Havre, the Normandy coastal town, where Oscar-Claude had got primary education at private school.

On 1 April 1851 Claude entered the Le Havre "college communal" which had provided a "classical" education: with Latin and Greek from the first form on and also had housed a school of commerce and municipal drawing school. The school was on Rue de la Maillereaye, near Claude's home, so he could sleep at home. They had two classes in school, a little over two hours each: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, but Claude Monet had spent most of his time outdoors. Fifty years later he was to say: "I was naturally undisciplined. The school always felt like a prison, I could never resign myself to living there, even four hours a day." Monet went to the Le Havre port and beach, which were scarcely five minutes' walk from his school, but, also, to the Sainte-Adresse cliffs, three kilometers away. He claimed to have left school at 13-14 years old (1855-1856), but it is quite possible he stayed until 1856-1857. On 28 January 1857, Monet's mother died and his widowed, childless aunt had taken him into her home.

At the Le Havre school, drawing had been taught since 1829 by Francais-Charles Ochard. He was capable and very patient teacher, well able to hold his student's attention. Monet didn't mention this period under his teacher in his later recollections, because it had been completely different from famous and well-known Monet's stile. He would drown in pen or pencil, in single sketch-book, mostly sketches of people, boats, landscapes and, also, caricatures of his masters, but not during drawing classes. They were made usually on Sunday. Some of them had specified date. Monet became popular and demanded thanks to his caricatures handed out at school. He charged for portraits and made the most of his vogue in that way. Monet exhibited his caricatures at Gravier's, stationer, framer and ironmonger shop. Every Sunday new caricatures would go up, framed in gold beading. Unfortunately, less than hundred original works have survived.

Painting Impression: Sunrise by Claude Monet Impression: Sunrise

Mr. Gravier had an old friend he had wanted to meet Monet with. It was Monsieur Boudin who had become Monet's mentor and had recognized his gift. With Boudin, sixteen years old Monet learned the use of pastels and oils to fix the colors of the outside world. "If I become a painter", he told Jean-Aubry, "it is to Eugene Boudin that I owe the fact." Under Boudin's direction Monet experienced "en plain air" (in the open air) painting and also painted his first landscape "View from Rouelles" that had appeared as number 380 in the Le Havre municipal exhibition of August-September 1858. This painting was also known as "Vue des bords de la Lezarde" because it showed a valley and stream either the Rouelles or the Lezarde, which the Rouelles flowed into. Presumed lost, the painting was discovered after hundred years and positively identified.

On April 1859 Monet went to Paris to visit the Salon at the Palais de l' Industrie and to make contact with artists. There he met Amand Gautier, Lhuillier, Troyon and Monginot. The same year, in the winter, Monet definitively moved to Paris and had entered the private academy, the Academie Suisse where he had met Pissarro and Courbet. At the Academie Suisse Monet was constantly drawing figures, but none of these drawings had survived.

In June 1861 Monet was called up for National Service. He joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria, where he had spent one year. The landscapes and colors of Algeria presented an entirely different perspective of the world, one which was to inspire him for many years to come. Actually, Monet should have remained in Algeria for seven years, but upon his contracting typhoid, his aunt Madam Lecadre had intervened to get him out of the army. Her only condition was that Monet returned to Paris and completed an art course at a university. But, Monet did not enroll in l'Ecole des Artistes because it had traditional art taught which Monet had been very contradict and disillusioned with.

Painting View from Rouelles by Claude Monet View from Rouelles

He joined the studio of the Swiss-born painter Charles Gleyre in Paris, in 1862, where he had been for approximately two years. There he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley. All four of them had new approaches to art and they all painted the effects of light "en plain air" with broken color and rapid brushstrokes. That's exactly what became known as Impressionism. They made frequent trips to the nearby forest of Fontainbleau - located South-East of Paris. It had been a popular venue for artists for a number of years. However, this new group broke the tradition of their predecessors' paintings by replacing subdued colors and dark shadows with open spaces and sunlight. When Monet was not fulfilling his need to be outdoors by going to Fontainbleau, he was visiting his old friend, Boudin, in Le Havre.

Although Monet understood and loved nature and outdoors world, he wanted to make a name for himself, so he had painted a number of pictures indoors, which had been in traditional style and very successful. But his larger piece drew some criticism. Despite that, Monet persisted in his efforts to appeal to the Academie and during the period from 1865 to 1866 he had painted a number of subjects with varying degrees of success. His last entry to the Salon 1866 was with painting: Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La Femme a la Robe Verete), which had been painted in four days and had brought him recognition and, also, introduction to his mistress, Camille Doncieux. Monet was determined to achieve complete success. He immersed himself in his next project and entry to the Salon for the following year: Women in the Garden. The Salon, however, rejected the painting when it was finally entered for the following season.

Shortly after the Salon's decision, Camille becomes pregnant. They had little money and were largely dependent on Monet's friends. Monet's aunt took him in to her house, at Sainte-Adresse, but Camille was forced to remain in Paris where she had borne their first child, son Jean in 1867. In that time, Monet interrupted his outdoors work, because he had eyesight troubles.

Painting Camille or The Woman in a Green Dress by Claude Monet The Woman in a Green Dress

Due to financial problems, Monet attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Seine in 1868. After that, Monet received a pension from Mr. Gaudibert, what allowed him to pursue his work and to paint in Fecamp and Etretat. During 1869, Monet was settled in the village of Saint-Michel near Bougival where he painted in company of Renoir.

In 1870, Camille Doncieux and Claude Monet married. Courbet was Monet's best man. Soon after the wedding, the Franco-Prussian War started and they left France and took refuge in England, London. In London, Monet met English landscape painters: John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Their works inspired Monet to do some innovations in the study of color. Monet, also, met Pissarro and Daubigny, as well as Mr. Durand-Ruel who had bought several of his canvases and had been exhibited his works numerous times. The same year, 1871, Monet's father died.

Monet traveled to the Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium, and after these journeys he returned to France and settled with his family in Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris. They had lived there from 1871 to 1878. During his stay in Argenteuil, his friends often joined him and painted with him: Renoir, Manet, Caillebotte and Sisley.

This period was very important; it was the culmination point of the movement Impressionism and some of Monet's best works had been painted in Argenteuil. One of the most famous Monet's painting is Impression, Sunrise (Impression: soleil levant) painted in 1872 or 1873, from whose title the entire movement had got name. It was art critic Louis Leroy, who coined the term Impressionism, and it had been derogatory, but, Impressionists had liked it and had found it very appropriate for them. The painting Impression, Sunrise was exhibited 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition in the studio of Nadar. Today, it is displayed in the Musee Marmottan-Monet in Paris.

That first Impressionist exhibition was organized by Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Monet and it had been a complete disaster. Financial problems appeared again and caused insecurity for Monet's family. Thanks to his friend Manet, Monet had stayed in Argenteuil for four years more.

Monet, also, made a sale of his paintings at the Hotel Drouot, but it had been a failure, too. Despite all of this, Monet's painting never became morose or somber. On contrary; he immersed himself in the task of perfecting a style which still had not been accepted.

During the 1870s and 1880s Monet gradually refined this technique, and he made many trips to scenic areas of France, especially the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, to study the most brilliant effects of light and color possible. Never completely satisfied, Monet went to Dieppe, Pourville and Varengeville-sur-Mer, too.

In 1876 Monet met Ernest Hoschede, businessman and collector, and his wife Alice. Ernest Hoschede invited him to the château of Rottembourg in Montgeron. He became a family friend and met Edouard Manet, Carolus-Duran and many others there. Family Hoschede bought some of his paintings. A year later, Ernest Hoschede bankrupted and they had been forced to sell their collection of Impressionist paintings for a nickel and a dime.

On March 17, 1878 Monet and his wife Camille had got their second son, Michel. The same year Madame Hoschedé and Madame Monet decided to spend the summer together. They rented a house in Vétheuil alongside the Seine, thanks to the purchases by Manet. At the fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879, several paintings of that period were presented.

In 1879 Monet's wife Camille died of tuberculosis at Vetheuil. Alice Hoschede decided to help Monet and took care of his two sons along with her own six children. In 1881 all of them moved to Poissy which Monet hated. From the doorway of the little train between Vernon and Gasny he discovered Giverny.

In April 1883 they rented a house in Giverny, in Haute-Normandie, from Louis-Joseph Singeot. Monet lived there the next 43 years, until his death. The property spread over almost two and a half acres and sloped down towards the bottom of the village. At the lower end is the "chemin du Roy", along which ran a small local railway connecting Vernon and Gasny, and at the upper limit was the "rue de Amsicourt", now called the "rue Claude Monet". Monet devoted himself to gardening and planted a large garden which he painted for the rest of his life and which had provided a motif for his last important work: The Water Lily Pool. He worked on that series of paintings almost exclusively from 1900 until his death. In that period he also painted his other celebrated groups of paintings which representing the same object: haystacks, poplars, the river Seine, seen in varying light, at different times of the day or seasons of the year.

Thanks to Durand-Ruel, Monet exhibited in New York in 1887.

In 1889 Galerie Georges Petit staged a major retrospective of Monet's work, showing 145 paintings. Same year Monet also exhibited with Rodin.

By 1890 Monet was financially secure to buy a house in Giverny and then he altered the garden: he constructed three greenhouses and had started the digging basin for the water lilies and building the Japanese Bridge on a plot of land which he had bought. He finally built bridge, after countless administrative difficulties, in 1895.

Between 1888 and 1891 Monet painted the series of twenty-five Haystacks (Meules). Fifteen paintings of those twenty-five were exhibited at the Durand-Ruel in 1891. The same year Ernest Hoschede died.

In 1892 Monet exhibited Poplars (Peupliers) alongside the Epte River at the Durand-Ruel. From 1892 to 1898 Monet painted other series of paintings: Rouen Cathedrals, The Houses of Parliament, Mornings on the Seine and Water lilies.

In 1892 Monet painted the series of the Cathedrals (Rouen Cathedrals). Same year in July Monet married Alice Raingo, Ernest Hoschede's widow, with whom he had had got an affair during his marriage to Camille.

In 1894 Mary Cassatt, Rodin, Clemenceau, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Matisse, John Singer Sergent, the critic Gustave Geffroy and Octave Mirbeau visited Monet at Giverny. Georges Clemenceau became Monet's intimate friend who showered him with admiration and affection until his death.

In 1900 Monet painted several views of The Japanese bridge, started the composition of The Water lilies and had traveled to London three times from 1899 to 1901 to paint the views of the Thames, views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge.

In 1904 Monet traveled to Madrid where he admired Velasquez paintings.

In 1907 Monet had problems with his eyesight and first symptoms of cataract. But, it didn't stop him to travel to Venice, Italy, and made an important series of paintings. Between 1883 and 1908 Monet traveled to the Mediterranean where he had painted landmarks, landscapes and seascapes, such as Bordighera.

In May 1911 his wife Alice died at Giverny.

In 1914 Monet's firstborn son Jean died and Monet's daughter-in-law, Blanche Hoschede-Monet, moved to live near him and looked after him for the rest of his life.

From 1914 to 1915 Monet decided to build a large studio at Giverny: 23m x 12m, at the top of the garden, on the left side. He wanted to make his dream come truth: to create The Water Lilies (Decorations des Nympheas).

He started this series of paintings in 1916 and had painted them till 1926. Monet worked on twelve large canvases. In 1918 he donated them to France, following the signing of the Armistice. These paintings were installed in an architectural space designed specifically for them – two oval rooms - at the museum of the Orangerie in Paris.

In 1923 Monet was nearly blind and had an operation from cataract in one eye. His sight improved after that.

At the beginning of the year 1926, in February Monet had still painted, but he had suffered from lung cancer. On December 5, 1926 Monet died at Giverny at the age of 86. He was buried in a simple ceremony in his family grave in Giverny church cemetery. His friend Georges Clemenceau attended the ceremony.


  1. Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein, Taschen Wildestein Institute
  2. Claude Monet at Wikipedia
  3. Biography of Claude Monet at
  4. Claude Monet at
  5. Claude Monet Triada Art Gallery
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Apple Trees in Blossom by the Water by Claude Monet Argenteuil, Late Afternoon by Claude Monet Asters by Claude Monet Banks of the Seine at Jenfosse: Clear Weather by Claude Monet Boats at Rouen by Claude Monet Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet Fishing Boats Leaving the Port of Le Havre by Claude Monet Landscape: Parc Monceau, Paris by Claude Monet Meadow by Claude Monet
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