When artwork from the period based on Impressionism is discussed the one artist that is mentioned the most is Claude Monet. He was born in Paris, France in 1840. Like so many other artists before him, Monet was not born into a wealthy family. Usually, it is the hardships and struggles that have created the very best artists.
What Is In a Name?
The Monet family was Catholic and they taught their religion to their son at an early age. When Claude Monet was baptized he was given the name Oscar-Claude and his parents always called him Oscar. The reason for this was that his father was also known as Claude. Of course, we know that others attach the junior to the son’s name. As an artist, he became known as Claude Monet.
Even though he was raised strictly as a Catholic Monet, later on, chose to not believe in God. He renounced the church and became an Atheist. It is not really known why he came to this decision but in some of his artworks one can see a certain kind of spirituality in the paintings which came from within the artist himself and this he found as being meaningful.
Dad Hated His Work
By the time that Monet turned five, he was already drawing. Most of his drawings at that time were caricatures of his school teachers. As time went on his school books were filled with his drawings. When the Monet family moved to Le Havre, Claude became famous for the drawings he created of the town’s residents. However, while others delighted in his artistic talent his father hated his son’s drawings and his creativity. He wanted his son to one day join him in his grocery business. I suppose most every father hopes his son will follow in his footsteps. Luckily for Claude, his mother loved and supported his artistic endeavors.
The Military and Typhoid
Claude Monet’s mother died when he was 17 and he was sent away to live with his aunt so that he could pursue an education in art in Paris, France. Even though this presented him with a great opportunity he chose to join the military in 1859. He agreed to serve for seven years however in his second year in the military he came down with a bad case of typhoid fever. His aunt pleaded for the military to release Monet and they agreed on the condition that he completes an art course at an accredited art school.
Hated Modern Art
The biggest problem that Monet faced was that he hated modern art. To him, the traditional techniques appeared to be bland and most boring. Therefore he chose to become an apprentice under Charles Gleyre, who was a Swiss artist and liked to experiment with all kinds of new techniques. As time went on Monet made friends with other artists, who thought the same way that he did. His discussions with these artists about what would really impact the art world led to the foundations of Impressionism.
Loved to Paint His Wife
Monet enjoyed painting his family more than anything else. This is the reason why his wife appears in many of his paintings as a model. It could also be a matter of finances since hiring models cost money but Monet was satisfied with having his wife pose for him. She is featured in paintings like “Women in the Garden” and “On the Bank of the Seine”.
A Most Intense Painting
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In 1878 their second son was born and Monet’s wife started to suffer from ill health. She had tuberculosis and was late on diagnosed with uterine cancer. While she was on her deathbed Monet painted her and this has become one of his most intense paintings.
Scorn Brings Fame
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Monet painted a view of the harbor that he could see from his window. This artistic work is called “Sunrise”. Because in the painting there was the hint of a harbor instead of distinct shapes this painting was referred to as an Impression. A critic said that this painting was not good and not worth anything. However, this was written in an article titled “The Exhibition of the Impressionists” and in this way, the movement got its name and became popular.
Thirty Years of Art Work
It is not the early work of Monet but his later artwork that gets mostly displayed in museums and is admired. Altogether Monet painted around 250 oil paintings. It is amazing that he was able to accomplish this as he had severe cataracts that greatly limited his vision. Even though he could barely see his paintings all have amazing detail.
The Houses of Parliament
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Monet really admired the Gothic spires that were part of the Houses of Parliament in London, England. He became entranced by the buildings and over four years he painted them four different times only in different environmental conditions. Among his paintings of The Houses of Parliament are the buildings in fog, on a stormy night and at sunrise and sunset.
Designing His Own Gardens
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Even though Monet never got his own hands dirty in his garden he saw that he didn’t like how his garden was being designed. He made his own designs as to how he wanted his garden to look and had hired hands to follow them. A lot of his masterpieces came from the designs that he saw in his gardens at Giverny, including the famous painting of water lilies and which is considered to be Monet’s lifetime masterpiece.
Just One of the Guys
Monet didn’t look down on people because he was a talented artist. Instead, he was just a regular guy who wanted to make a living so that his family could live comfortably. He had his share of tragedies becoming a widower twice. In his final twelve years of life, his stepdaughter took care of him due to his severe cataracts. In 1914 his oldest son died twelve years before Monet would die himself from lung cancer. It would have greatly surprised him to know that one of his paintings sold for $40 million in 2008 but I believe that he knows this and is amazed.
A Fascination With Death
A common theme in Monet’s painting was the exploration of death, his own death. At one time the artist considered suicide and wanted to jump into the Seine because he couldn’t pay his bills. It was wrongly believed that because his home and his grounds were bequeathed to the French government and that a foundation was created in his name Monet lived well and could paint without worry. This was far from the truth.
A Second Monet or a Third
An amazing fact is that when Monet was not happy with a painting he would just paint over the existing canvas. As a result, many of his paintings have several layers and perhaps there are several great works of art in one painting. Monet created a large portfolio of his artwork and it is greatly treasured today and his paintings are on display in museums all around the globe. You can see the spirituality and emotion of the artist in every one of his brush strokes.