Claude Monet also known as Oscar-Claude Monet or Claude Oscar Monet (November
14, 1840 – December 5, 1926) was a founder of French Impressionist painting,
and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy
of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air
landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his
painting Impression, Sunrise.
Monet was born on November 14, 1840 on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in
the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude-Adolphe
and Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On
May 20, 1841, he was baptized in local parish church, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette as
Oscar-Claude.  In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father
wanted him to go into the family grocery store business, but Claude Monet wanted
to become an artist. His mother was a singer.
On the first of April 1851, Monet entered the Le Havre secondary school of the
arts. He first became known locally for his charcoal caricatures, which he would
sell for ten to twenty francs. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons
from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the
beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857 he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin who
became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet "en
plein air" (outdoor) techniques for painting.
On 28 January 1857 his mother died. Now 16 years old he left school, and went to
live with his widowed childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.
When Monet traveled to Paris to visit The Louvre, he witnessed painters copying
from the old masters. Monet, having brought his paints and other tools with him,
would instead go and sit by a window and paint what he saw. Monet was in Paris
for several years and met several painters who would become friends and fellow
impressionists. One of those friends was Édouard Manet.
In June of 1861 Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in
Algeria for two years of a seven-year commitment, but upon his contracting
typhoid his aunt Madame Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he
agreed to complete an art course at a university. It is possible that the Dutch
painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, whom Monet knew, may have prompted his aunt on
this matter. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at universities, in
1862 Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste
Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches
to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken color and rapid
brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.
Monet's 1866 Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La Femme à la Robe Verte),
which brought him recognition, was one of many works featuring his future wife,
Camille Doncieux. Shortly thereafter Doncieux became pregnant and bore their
first child, Jean. In 1868, due to financial reasons, Monet attempted suicide by
throwing himself into the Seine.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), Monet took refuge in England.
While there, he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William
Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet's innovations in
the study of color.
After a brief stay in Zaandam (where the police suspected him of revolutionary
activities) and a first visit Amsterdam, Monet lived from 1871 to 1878 at
Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris, and here were painted some of his
best known works. In 1873 or 1874, he briefly returned to Amsterdam.
In 1872 (or 1873), he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression: soleil levant)
depicting a Le Havre landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in
1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris. From the
painting's title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term "Impressionism", which
he intended to be derogatory, however the Impressionists appropriated the term
In 1870, Monet and Camille Doncieux married and in 1873 moved into a house in
Argenteuil near the Seine River. They had a second son, Michel, on March 17,
1878. In that same year, he moved to the village of Vétheuil. Madame Monet died
of tuberculosis in 1879.
Monet moved into the home of Ernest Hoschedé, a wealthy department store owner
and patron of the arts. After her husband was bankrupted, Alice Hoschedé,
continued to live in their home in Poissy with Monet and helped to raise his two
sons, Jean and Michel, alongside her own six children. They were Blanche,
Germaine, Suzanne, Marthe, Jean-Pierre, and Jacques. In April 1883 they moved to
Vernon, then to a house in Giverny, Eure, in Lower Normandy, where he planted a
large garden where he painted for much of the rest of his life. Following the
death of her estranged husband, Alice Hoschedé married Claude Monet in 1892.
In the 1880s and 1890s, Monet began "series" paintings, in which a subject was
depicted in varying light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as
such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different
times of the day. Fifteen of the paintings were exhibited at the Durand-Ruel in
1891. He later produced series of paintings of Rouen Cathedral, poplars, the
Houses of Parliament, mornings on the Seine, and the waterlilies on his property
Monet was exceptionally fond of painting controlled nature: his own garden in
Giverny, with its water lilies, pond, and bridge. He also painted up and down
the banks of the Seine.
Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, where he painted
landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an
important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two
important series — views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. His
wife Alice died in 1911 and his oldest son Jean, who had married Alice's
daughter Blanche, Monet's particular favourite, died in 1914. After his wife
died, Blanche looked after and cared for him. It was during this time that Monet
began to develop the first signs of cataracts.</ref>
During World War I, in which his younger son Claude served and his friend and
admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, Monet painted a series of Weeping
Willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers. Cataracts formed on
Monet's eyes, for which he underwent two surgeries in 1923. The paintings done
while the cataracts affected his vision have a general reddish tone, which is
characteristic of the vision of cataract victims. It may also be that after
surgery he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are
normally excluded by the lens of the eye, this may have had an effect on the
colors he perceived. After his operations he even repainted some of these
paintings, with bluer water lilies than before the operation.
Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in
the Giverny church cemetery. Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple;
thus, only about fifty people attended the ceremony.
His famous home and garden with its waterlily pond were bequeated by his heirs
to the French Academy of Fine Arts (part of the Institut de France) in 1966.
Through the Fondation Claude Monet, the home and gardens were opened for visit
in 1980, following refurbishment. In addition to souvenirs of Monet and
other objects of his life, the home contains his collection of Japanese woodcut
prints. The home is one of the two main attractions of Giverny, which attracts
tourists from all over the world.
In 2004, London, the Parliament, Effects of Sun in the Fog (Londres, le
Parlement, trouée de soleil dans le brouillard) (1904), sold for U.S. $20.1
million. In 2006, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society published a
paper providing evidence that these were painted in situ at St Thomas' Hospital
over the river Thames.