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 Diana Billings Art Blog


French artist Claude Monet was a gift to us all with his ability to use colour like no-one else.

He taught the world that there is more to colour then we ever thought. For example he would paint the same or similar scene, sometimes in three colour pallets, all being as beautiful as the last. An example would be his painting “Evening at Argenteuil”. He painted seven different views of the Saint Lazare Railroad Station, changing the colour pallet on each and sometimes the view.

Evening at Argenteuil

Oscar Claude Monet was born in Le Havre, Normandy, the son of a merchant, on November 14th, 1840. Claude was expected to take over the family business. As a young man he was drawing sketches of people in his town and selling the drawings for 10 francs or more if he could. When he was 16 Claude’s mother passed away and he went to live with his aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre. While living with his aunt he went to Paris, thus changing his life. At 18 he enrolled at the Atelier Suiss but was only there for a short time before he joined the First Regiment of African Light Calvary and went off to Algeria. Two years in to a seven year commitment he contacted typhoid fever at which time his aunt bought him out of the army. Marie-Jeanne wanted Claude to attend a respectable art school. Claude was in disagreement with this and studied with Charles Gleyre in Paris. This is when he met Renoir, Sisley and other great French artists. This time is also when he met Camille Doncieux who became his favourite muse and later his wife. The painting “Woman in the Green Dress” 1866 is Camille.

Saint Lazare Railroad Station

Claude and Camille had their first son, Jean in 1867. A few years later in 1870 the Franco-Prussian War broke out. In July of 1870 Monet took Camille and Jean to London to escape conscription into the war. That same year Camille and Claude married. In London, Claude reunited with his friend Camille Pissarro while he discovered the works of John Constable and William Turner, two great English painters. Their landscapes influenced Monet. While in London in 1871 Monet wanted to exhibit his work in the Royal Academy, but he was rejected. In May of of that same year the family moved to Holland. There he was suspected by the authorities of revolutionary activities. While in Holland he completed 25 artworks.

In the fall of 1871 they returned to France, settling in the town of Argenteuil on the banks of the Seine River. There the Monet family remained for seven years. There, Monet painted scenes of modern life. Claude did take a short visit to Holland in1874 to paint. Claude exhibited in the 1874 Impressionist exhibition two paintings, “Impression” and “Sunrise”. He exhibited in eight Impressionist Exhibitions.

In 1876 Camille contacted tuberculosis and was very ill. On March 17,1878 Camille gave birth to a second son Michel, with Claude. This same year the family moved to Vetheuil. They became friends with the neighbours, the Hoschede family. Ernest Hoschede a wealthy business man and patron of the arts. Camille had never recovered from the tuberculosis, and she passed away September 5, 1879, at 32 years old. Alice Hoschede the wife of Ernst, helped Claude raise his sons after Camilles’ passing. In 1878 Ernst was bankrupt and left for Belgium leaving Alice and 6 children behind. After the death of Camille a romantic relationship started between Alice and Claude.

The time after Camilles’ death was very difficult for Claude, his grief and the family living in poverty, caused him great stress. But sometimes out of great strife comes great creativity and Claude produced some of his greatest works. Monet documented the French countryside, seascapes and made multiple series of paintings. Alice had taken her six children to Paris to live along with Claudes’ two sons. When Claude was feeling better Alice the children and Claude move to Poissy, which did not work for Claude. This is when they moved to Giverny, Normandy in 1883.

First renting a house for the family, Monets’ reputation was growing, his artwork was taking off. His painting were selling. Claude was thoughtful about his new wealth, he was shrewd and invested well. He was able to buy the house and gardens outright by the end on the 1880’s.

The house came with a barn which became the studio, land, a small garden, and orchards. The children were able to attend school. In 1892 Ernst died and this allowed Claude and Alice to marry. Claude was happy and inspired by the French countryside. Over time on the estate there was an addition of a greenhouse, more gardens were developed and a second studio was built. The first series of paintings while living in Giverny were “Haystacks” known for the different views and times of day painted. Followed by “Rouen Cathedral”, “Parliament”, “Poplar” and Morning on the Seine”. Let’s not forget the most famous works of “The Water Lillies”, which he starting painting in 1899 and continued to paint for the rest of his life.

Grainstack - Sun in the Mist

As Claude Monets’ wealth grew so did his gardens, and he employed seven gardeners. He maintained complete control over the design and architecture of the gardens.

In 1908 Monets’ last trip he made with Alice is when Monet worked on the Venice paintings- these being one of his most important contributions in his life as an artist.

Alice died in 1911 and his son Jean in 1914. This is when his daughter in law, Blanche came to look after a depressed Monet. During WW I,(in which his second son Michel was serving) between 1914-1918 he painted a series “Weeping Willows” as a sign of respect to the fallen soldiers of France.

As Monet aged he was starting to develop cataracts. Although they were causing him issues, he refused to get surgery, having known of other artists such as Mary Cassatt, in which the surgery failed. Finally in 1923 he had surgery. After the surgery he struggled with recovery using corrective lenses, but over time he gained back some of his eyesight and could repair some of the work of the previous years work. There was more blue in his water lilies then before.

Water Lillies Green Reflection

Monet continued to paint, working steadily until his death on December 5th, 1926 at the age of 86, due to lung cancer. Wishing for a small service he was buried in Giverny.

Monets’ house and gardens were left left by Michel Monet to the French Academy of the Arts in 1966. The Foundation Claude Monet opened the house and gardens to the public in 1980 after many restorations were complete.

In closing Monets’ works have sold for tens of millions of dollars. He was prolific and produced over 2000 paintings. There could have been more but Claude would destroy any he did not like. He has changed how we look at art. Many of us wish we could achieve what he did in his lifetime.

The creator of Impressionism.

Keep well, Diana

Source: Monet -The Great Artist Collection,

Published by Instinctive Product Development 2013.

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