Skip to main content
Select Source:

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

The French painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the seminal figure in the evolution of impressionism, a pivotal style in the development of modern art.

The second half of the 19th century witnessed profound and disrupting shifts within the larger course of Western art. Many artistic attitudes which had prevailed since the beginning of the Renaissance gave way to approaches which differed radically from the practices of the Old Masters. In painting, for instance, illusionism was one of the fundamental Renaissance values: paintings were regarded as windows through which one viewed the natural world. But in the 19th century a new approach gradually replaced the illusionist aim: paintings became increasingly two-dimensional, openly declaring flatness as an intrinsic feature of their identity. They became events in themselves, phenomena to be confronted rather than windows to be seen through.

Impressionism occupies a crucial, yet paradoxical, position in the 19th century's changing interpretation of the painting enterprise. In the hands of Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and others, the new style (it was not called impressionism until 1874) was initially conceived in the spirit of illusionism. As it evolved, however, certain of its tenets emerged as being, in effect, anti-illusionist. Monet's art reveals both the complexities and the paradoxes of this historical phenomenon. In addition, it reveals how impressionism constitutes a turning point in the development of modern art.

Monet was born in Paris on Nov. 14, 1840. In 1845 his family moved to Le Havre, and by the time he was 15 Monet had developed a local reputation as a caricaturist. Through an exhibition of his caricatures in 1858 Monet met Eugène Boudin, a landscape painter who exerted a profound influence on the young artist. Boudin introduced Monet to outdoor painting, an activity which he entered reluctantly but which soon became the basis for his life's work.

By 1859 Monet was determined to pursue an artistic career. He visited Paris and was impressed by the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, Charles Daubigny, and Camille Corot. Against his parents' wishes, Monet decided to stay in Paris. He worked at the free Académie Suisse, where he met Pissarro, and he frequented the Brasserie des Martyrs, a gathering place for Gustave Courbet and other realists who constituted the vanguard of French painting in the 1850s.

Formative Period

Monet's studies were interrupted by military service in Algeria (1860-1862). The remainder of the decade witnessed constant experimentation, travel, and the formation of many important artistic friendships. In 1862 he entered the studio of Charles Gleyre in Paris and met Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Jean Frédéric Bazille. During 1863 and 1864 he periodically worked in the forest at Fontainebleau with the Barbizon artists Théodore Rousseau, Jean François Millet, and Daubigny, as well as with Corot. In Paris in 1869 he frequented the Café Guerbois, where he met Edouard Manet.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Monet traveled to London, where he met the adventurous and sympathetic dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. The following year Monet and his wife, Camille, whom he had married in 1870, settled at Argenteuil, which became a semipermanent home (he continued to travel throughout his life) for the next 6 years.

Monet's constant movements during this period were directly related to his artistic ambitions. The phenomena of natural light, atmosphere, and color captivated his imagination, and he committed himself to an increasingly accurate recording of their enthralling variety. He consciously sought that variety and gradually developed a remarkable sensitivity for the subtle particulars of each landscape he encountered. Paul Cézanne is reported to have said that "Monet is the most prodigious eye since there have been painters."

Relatively few of Monet's canvases from the 1860s have survived. Throughout the decade, and during the 1870s as well, he suffered from extreme financial hardship and frequently destroyed his own paintings rather than have them seized by creditors. A striking example of his early style is the Terrace at the Seaside, Sainte-Adresse (1866). The painting contains a shimmering array of bright, natural colors, eschewing completely the somber browns and blacks of the earlier landscape tradition.

Monet and Impressionism

As William Seitz (1960) wrote, "The landscapes Monet painted at Argenteuil between 1872 and 1877 are his best-known, most popular works, and it was during these years that impressionism most closely approached a group style. Here, often working beside Renoir, Sisley, Caillebotte, or Manet, he painted the sparkling impressions of French river life that so delight us today." During these same years Monet exhibited regularly in the impressionist group shows, the first of which took place in 1874. On that occasion his painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) inspired a hostile newspaper critic to call all the artists "impressionists," and the designation has persisted to the present day.

Monet's paintings from the 1870s reveal the major tenets of the impressionist vision. Along with Impression: Sunrise, Red Boats at Argenteuil (1875) is an outstanding example of the new style. In these paintings impressionism is essentially an illusionist style, albeit one that looks radically different from the landscapes of the Old Masters. The difference resides primarily in the chromatic vibrancy of Monet's canvases. Working directly from nature, he and the impressionists discovered that even the darkest shadows and the gloomiest days contain an infinite variety of colors. To capture the fleeting effects of light and color, however, Monet gradually learned that he had to paint quickly and to employ short brushstrokes loaded with individualized colors. This technique resulted in canvases that were charged with painterly activity; in effect, they denied the even blending of colors and the smooth, enameled surfaces to which most earlier painting had persistently subscribed.

Yet, in spite of these differences, the new style was illusionistically intended; only the interpretation of what illusionism consisted of had changed. For traditional landscape artists illusionism was conditioned first of all by the mind: that is, painters tended to depict the individual phenomena of the natural world—leaves, branches, blades of grass—as they had studied them and conceptualized their existence. Monet, on the other hand, wanted to paint what he saw rather than what he intellectually knew. And he saw not separate leaves, but splashes of constantly changing light and color. According to Seitz, "It is in this context that we must understand his desire to see the world through the eyes of a man born blind who had suddenly gained his sight: as a pattern of nameless color patches." In an important sense, then, Monet belongs to the tradition of Renaissance illusionism: in recording the phenomena of the natural world, he simply based his art on perceptual rather than conceptual knowledge.

Works of the 1880s and 1890s

During the 1880s the impressionists began to dissolve as a cohesive group, although individual members continued to see one another and they occasionally worked together. In 1883 Monet moved to Giverny, but he continued to travel—to London, Madrid, and Venice, as well as to favorite sites in his native country. He gradually gained critical and financial success during the late 1880s and the 1890s. This was due primarily to the efforts of Durand-Ruel, who sponsored one-man exhibitions of Monet's work as early as 1883 and who, in 1886, also organized the first large-scale impressionist group show to take place in the United States.

Monet's painting during this period slowly gravitated toward a broader, more expansive and expressive style. In Spring Trees by a Lake (1888) the entire surface vibrates electrically with shimmering light and color. Paradoxically, as his style matured and as he continued to develop the sensitivity of his vision, the strictly illusionistic aspect of his paintings began to disappear. Plastic form dissolved into colored pigment, and three-dimensional space evaporated into a charged, purely optical surface atmosphere. His canvases, although invariably inspired by the visible world, increasingly declared themselves as objects which are, above all, paintings. This quality links Monet's art more closely with modernism than with the Renaissance tradition.

Modernist, too, are the "serial" paintings to which Monet devoted considerable energy during the 1890s. The most celebrated of these series are the haystacks (1891) and the facades of Rouen Cathedral (1892-1894). In these works Monet painted his subjects from more or less the same physical position, allowing only the natural light and atmospheric conditions to vary from picture to picture. That is, he "fixed" the subject matter, treating it like an experimental constant against which changing effects could be measured and recorded. This technique reflects the persistence and devotion with which Monet pursued his study of the visible world. At the same time, the serial works effectively neutralized subject matter per se, implying that paintings could exist without it. In this way his art established an important precedent for the development of abstract painting.

Late Work

Monet's wife died in 1879; in 1892 he married Alice Hoschedé. By 1899 his financial position was secure, and he began work on his famous series of water lily paintings. Water lilies existed in profusion in the artist's exotic gardens at Giverny, and he painted them tirelessly until his death there on Dec. 5, 1926. Still, Monet's late years were by no means easy. During his last two decades he suffered from poor health and had double cataracts; by the 1920s he was virtually blind.

In addition to his physical ailments, Monet struggled desperately with the problems of his art. In 1920 he began work on 12 large canvases (each measuring 14 feet in width) of water lilies, which he planned to give to the state. To complete them, he fought against his own failing eyesight and against the demands of a large-scale mural art for which his own past had hardly prepared him. In effect, the task required him to learn a new kind of painting at the age of 80. The paintings are characterized by a broad, sweeping style; virtually devoid of subject matter, their vast, encompassing spaces are generated almost exclusively by color. Such color spaces were without precedent in Monet's lifetime; moreover, their descendants have appeared in contemporary painting only since the end of World War II.

Further Reading

An excellent monograph on Monet is William C. Seitz, Claude Monet (1960). The most comprehensive survey of Monet's art in relation to impressionism is John Rewald, The History of Impressionism (rev. ed. 1961). A well-written and well-illustrated but less scholarly survey is Phoebe Pool, Impressionism (1967). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Claude Monet." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Claude Monet." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/claude-monet

"Claude Monet." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/claude-monet

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Monet, Claude

Claude Monet

Born: November 14, 1840
Paris, France
Died: December 5, 1926
Giverny, France

French painter

The French painter Claude Monet was the leading figure in the growth of impressionism, a movement in which painters looked to nature for inspiration and used vibrant light and color rather than the solemn browns and blacks of previous paintings.

Background and early influences

Claude Monet was born in Paris, France, on November 14, 1840. His father, Adolphe Monet, was a grocer. In 1845 the family moved to Le Havre, France, where Monet's father and uncle ran a business selling supplies for ships. By the time he was fifteen Monet had become popular as a caricaturist (one who makes exaggerated portraits of people). Through an exhibition of his drawings at a local frame shop in 1858, Monet met Eugène Boudin, a landscape painter who became a great influence on the young artist. Boudin introduced Monet to outdoor painting, an activity that soon became his life's work.

By 1859 Monet was determined to pursue an artistic career. He worked at the free Académie Suisse in Paris, and he frequented the Brasserie des Martyrs, a gathering place for Gustave Courbet (18191877) and other French painters of the 1850s.

Early period

Monet's studies were interrupted by military service in Algeria (186062). In 1862 he entered the studio of Charles Gleyre in Paris and met Pierre-Auguste Renoir (18411919), Alfred Sisley (18391899), and Jean Frédéric Bazille (18411870). During 1863 and 1864 he often worked in the forest at Fontainebleau, France, with other artists including Théodore Rousseau (18121867) and Jean François Millet (18141875). At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Monet traveled to London, England, where he met the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. The following year Monet and his wife, Camille, whom he had married in 1870, settled at Argenteuil, France, which became his home for the next six years.

Monet's constant movements during this period were directly related to his artistic ambitions. He was interested in natural light, atmosphere, and color, and he tried to record them in his paintings as accurately as possible. A striking example of his early style is the Terrace at the Seaside, Sainte-Adresse (1866), which contains a shining mixture of bright, natural colors. Throughout the 1860s and 1870s, he was often short of money and destroyed his own paintings rather than have them taken away by creditors (those to whom money is owed).

Monet and impressionism

As William Seitz wrote, "The landscapes Monet painted at Argenteuil between 1872 and 1877 are his best-known, most popular works, and it was during these years that impressionism most closely approached a group style." Monet exhibited regularly in the impressionist group shows, the first of which took place in 1874. On that occasion his painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) inspired a newspaper critic to call all the artists "impressionists," and the name stuck. Monet and the impressionists discovered that even the darkest shadows and the gloomiest days contain a wide variety of colors. However, Monet learned that he had to paint quickly and to use short brushstrokes loaded with individual colors.

During the 1880s the impressionists began to drift apart, although individual members continued to see one another and occasionally work together. Monet gradually gained critical and financial (relating to money) success during the late 1880s and the 1890s. This was due mainly to the efforts of Durand-Ruel, who sponsored one-man exhibitions of Monet's work as early as 1883 and who, in 1886, also organized the first large-scale impressionist group show to take place in the United States.

Late work

Monet's wife died in 1879; in 1892 he married Alice Hoschedé. During the 1890s he devoted his energy to paintings of haystacks (1891) and the facade (front) of Rouen Cathedral (189294). In these works Monet painted his subjects from the same physical position, allowing only the light and weather conditions to vary from picture to picture. By 1899 he began work on his famous paintings of the many water lilies in his gardens at Giverny, France. Monet's late years were very difficult. His health declined rapidly, and by the 1920s he was almost blind.

In addition to Monet's physical ailments, he struggled with the problems of his art. In 1920 he began work on twelve large canvases (each fourteen feet wide) of water lilies, which he planned to give to the state. To complete them, he fought against his own failing eyesight and the fact that he had no experience in creating large-scale mural art. In effect, the task required him to learn a new kind of painting at the age of eighty. The paintings are characterized by a broad, sweeping style and depend almost entirely on color. Monet worked on the water lily paintings until his death on December 5, 1926.

For More Information

Russell, Vivian. Monet's Gardens: Through the Seasons at Giverny. New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 1995.

Seitz, William C. Claude Monet. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1960.

Spate, Virginia. Claude Monet: Life and Work. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.

Tucker, Paul Hayes. Claude Monet: Life and Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

Tucker, Paul Hayes. Monet in the 20th Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Monet, Claude." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Monet, Claude." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

"Monet, Claude." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Monet, Claude

Claude Monet (klōd mônā´), 1840–1926, French landscape painter, b. Paris. Monet was a founder of impressionism. He adhered to its principles throughout his long career and is considered the most consistently representative painter of the school as well as one of the foremost painters of landscape in the history of art.

As a youth in Le Havre, Monet was encouraged by the marine painter Boudin to paint in the open air, a practice he never forsook. After two years (1860–62) with the army in Algeria, he went to Paris, over parental objections, to study painting. In Paris, Monet formed lasting friendships with the artists who would become the major impressionists, including Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, and Bazille. He and several of his friends painted for a time out-of-doors in the Barbizon district.

Monet soon began to concern himself with his lifelong objective: portraying the variations of light and atmosphere brought on by changes of hour and season. Rather than copy in the Louvre, the traditional practice of young artists, Monet learned from his friends, from the landscape itself, and from the works of his older contemporaries Manet, Corot, and Courbet. Monet's representation of light was based on his knowledge of the laws of optics as well as his own observations of his subjects. He often showed natural color by breaking it down into its different components as a prism does. Eliminating black and gray from his palette, Monet rejected entirely the academic approach to landscape.

In his later works Monet allowed his vision of light to dissolve the real structures of his subjects. To do this he chose simple matter, making several series of studies of the same object at different times of day or year: haystacks, morning views of the Seine, the Gare Saint-Lazare (1876–78), poplars (begun 1890), the Thames, the celebrated group of Rouen Cathedral (1892–94), and the last great lyrical series of water lilies (1899, and 1904–25), painted in his own garden at Giverny (one version, a vast triptych c.1920; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City).

In 1874 Sisley, Morisot, and Monet organized the first impressionist group show, which was ferociously maligned by the critics, who coined the term impressionism after Monet's Impression: Sunrise, 1872 (Mus. Marmottan, Paris). The show failed financially. However, by 1883 Monet had prospered, and he retired from Paris to his home in Giverny. In the last decade of his life Monet, nearly blind, painted a group of large water lily murals (Nymphéas) for the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Monet's work is particularly well represented in the Louvre, the Marmottan (Paris), the National Gallery (London), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. It is also included in many famous private collections.

Bibliography

See biographies by W. C. Seitz (1960) and C. M. Mount (1967); Claude Monet: Life and Art (1995) by P. H. Tucker; studies by J. House (1986), D. Skeggs (1987), and M. and J. Guillaud (1989).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Monet, Claude." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Monet, Claude." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

"Monet, Claude." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Monet, Claude

Monet, Claude (1840–1926) French painter. A founder of impressionism, Monet's piece Impression, Sunrise (1872) gave the movement its name. During the 1860s, he studied in Paris with Renoir, Sisley, and Bazille. The group painted directly from nature, recording the transient effects of light. Monet often painted the same scene several times, such as the Gare St-Lazare (1876–78) and Rouen Cathedral (1892–94). In 1870 he stayed with Pissarro in London, and made studies of the River Thames. In 1883, he settled in Giverny. Despite failing sight, Monet's last series, Water Lillies (1906–26) is his most vibrant.

http://www.musee-orsay.fr; http://www.nga.gov; http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Monet, Claude." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Monet, Claude." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

"Monet, Claude." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

1840-1926

Painter

Sources

Early Life and Career. Claude Monet was born in Paris, the eldest son of a grocer. When Claude was five, the family moved to Le Havre, a port city on the English Channel, where he spent his childhood. The coastline and tempestuous skies of Normandy appear frequently in his later paintings, suggesting that the environment had a formative influence on him. As a teenager he was an accomplished caricaturist. In 1858 a meeting withthe painter Eugene Boudin (1824–1898) directed Monet’s artistic efforts toward landscape painting in the out-of-doors. As Monet recalled,“All of a sudden, it waslike a veil torn from my eyes and I understood at last, I realized what painting could be; thanks to the example of this painter. . . . My own destiny as a painter opened up before me.” Within a year he was in Paris studying at the Academic Suisse, and he met Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), another future Impressionist. After serving with the French military in Algeria during 1861 and 1862, Monet returned to Paris, where he became friends with three more future Impressionists: Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Alfred Sisley (1839–1899), and Frederic Bazille (1841–1870). In 1865, while sharing a studio with Bazille, Monet publicly exhibited two seascapes, and then a year later he won the praise of Emile Zola for Woman in a Green Dress, a portrait of Monet’s mistress, Camille Doncieux, who gave birth to their first child in 1867. Despite such critical acclaim, however, Monet was nearly destitute.

The Birth of a Movement. In 1870, the year in which his friend Bazille was killed in action in the Franco-Prussian War, Monet married Camille and began a decade of prolific painting. While working with Edouard Manet (1832–1883) and Renoir in Argenteuil on the Seine River, the still penurious Monet needed financial assistance from the successful Manet. In 1873 the French Salon rejected paintings submitted by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Paul Cezanne (1839–1906), and Sisley for their annual exhibition, prompting Monet and his friends to start their own exhibitions, holding eight between 1874 and 1886. The group called themselves the Anonymous Society of Artists and did not restrict their shows to group members, but an unimpressed reviewer of their first sho derisively called them “Impressionists” after Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise (1872), and the name stuck. In fact, despite their differing styles, the artists themselves accepted the label as indicative of at least one of their common aims. At this point Monet began to receive popular and critical acclaim. Some of Monet’s best work dates from the 1870s, including his series of Gare Saint-Lazare paintings (1876–1878). One year after the death of Camille Monet in 1879, Monet had a one-man exhibit of eighteen paintings, followed three years later by another solo exhibit in which he presented fifty-six more pictures. He also displayed paintings atthe seventh (1882) and the eighth (1886) Impressionist Exhibitions. In 1883 he settled at Giverny in Normandy, renting a house that he eventually bought in 1890, and resided there until his death in 1926. In 1892 he married Alice Hoschede, who died in 1911.

Monet at Giverny. In the year he purchased the house in Giverny, Monet began two series of paintings, Poplars and Haystacks. In these paintings he took an approach that he employed often in later works as well: representing the play of light on the same subjects at different times of the day and year (an approach also evident in his Rouen Cathedral series of 1892). Forever an open-air painter, at Giverny, Monet constructed a water garden that was the inspiration for and subject of some of his best-known paintings. In fact, painting the water lilies in his pond occupied him off and on for the rest of his life. In 1899, 1904, and again in 1906 he completed water-lily paintings, spending all 1906 on a single painting, which was exhibited in 1909 to great popular success. In 1910 he painted a new series of them, and in 1916 he began a series of large decorative water-lily panels that were commissioned by Premier Georges Clemenceau. As evidenced by this state commission, the seventy-six-year-old Monet was at thepeak of his popularity and influence. By the 1920s Monet was the last surviving Impressionist. (Edgar Degas had died in 1917, Renoir in 1919.) Since 1908 Monet had suffered from impaired vision, and in 1923 an operation for the removal of a double cataract restored enough of his sight for him to complete the panels, his final work. On 5 December 1926, Claude Monet died at Giverny, and the panels were shortly thereafter installed at the Musee de 1’Orangerie in Paris in a room especially designed for them.

Sources

Kathleen Adler, Impressionism (London: National Gallery Publications, 1999).

Denis Rouart, Claude Monet (Paris: Editions d’Art Albert Skira, 1958). Paul Hayes Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Claude Monet." World Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Claude Monet." World Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/claude-monet

"Claude Monet." World Eras. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/claude-monet

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Monet, Claude

MONET, CLAUDE

monet before impressionism
the years of impressionism
monet after the impressionist decade
interpretations of monet
bibliography

MONET, CLAUDE (1840–1926), French painter.

Claude Monet is arguably the best known of the impressionists, a group of largely French artists who challenged conventions in painting that had developed since the Renaissance and that laid the foundations for modern trends in the arts. Radical in both their techniques of painting and their choice of subject matter, Monet and his impressionist companions like Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870), Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), and Alfred Sisley (1839–1899) exhibited at eight independent exhibits between 1874 and 1886. These artists painted out-of-doors, contended that they were not painting objective reality, but momentary perceptions of light reflected from objects under constantly changing climatic conditions, and painted scenes of "modern life" in contemporary France. Although an ardent proponent of impressionism, Monet had a larger and more complex career, and his corpus of approximately two thousand paintings reveals an artist whose lifework evolved through three major phases, each with its own distinctive character.

In 1926, the last year of his life, Monet looked back on his career as an artist and commented in a letter to Evan Charteris: "I have always had a horror of theories… . My only virtue is to have painted directly in front of nature, while trying to render the impressions made on me by the most fleeting effects."

Source: Letter from Monet to Evan Charteris, 21 June 1926 (Wildenstein 2626), quoted in: John House, "Monet: The Last Impressionist?" In Monet in the Twentieth Century, edited by Paul Hayes Tucker and others. London and Boston, 1998, p. 3.

monet before impressionism

Claude Monet was born in Paris on 14 November 1840, but he spent much of his early life in Le Havre and along the Normandy coast. Local renown as a caricaturist brought him the attention of the landscape painter Eugéne Boudin (1824–1898) in the mid-1850s, and it was Boudin who introduced Monet to outdoor landscape painting. After his mother's death in 1857, Monet went to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Suisse and encountered other young artists like Camille Pissarro. Following a brief period of military service, Monet studied with the academic painter Charles Gleyre (1806–1874) and met, among other artists, Frédéric Bazille, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. He spent the summer of 1862 at Sainte-Adresse painting with Boudin, and there he encountered the Dutch landscape artist Johan-Barthold Jongkind (1819–1891), who together with Boudin had a decisive influence on Monet's career. Accordingly, most of Monet's works in these early years were landscapes and seascapes, many of which were painted out-of-doors, and they demonstrated an interest in light and its impact on the perception of objects. With painting excursions to the Forest of Fontainebleau and Honfleur behind him, Monet moved to Paris in 1865. That year he debuted at the Salon with two works, The Mouth of the Seine at Honfleur and the Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide, and he subsequently exhibited at the Salons of 1866 and 1868. Meanwhile he failed to complete a huge Déjeuner sur l'herbe, which exists today only in fragments.

After 1868, his submissions to the Salon were rejected. Perhaps stimulated by the rebuilding of Paris by Baron Georges-Eugéne Haussmann (1809–1891) in the 1850s and 1860s, Monet began to take an interest in urban life and he painted three cityscapes in 1867, including The Church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois. Personal problems, including poverty and the pregnancy of his mistress Camille-Léonie Doncieux, plagued Monet during the late 1860s. Nonetheless, he continued painting, producing among other works the celebrated Terrace at Sainte-Adresse (1867). In 1870 he married Camille and, because of the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), left France for London, where he met Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922), who later became his dealer. Returning to France, he rented a house in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, where he resided until 1878.

the years of impressionism

In 1873 Monet painted Impression: Sunrise, an atypical work that he exhibited with others at the first exhibition of impressionist art in 1874, an exhibition that was independent of the government-sanctioned Salon that had previously rejected the work of Monet and his fellow exhibitors. Reviewing the exhibition, the hostile critic Louis Leroy (1812–1885) commented on this painting, labeling the exhibitors as "impressionists." Monet's work in the 1870s depicts scenes around his home at Argenteuil, particularly The Road Bridge at Argenteuil (1874) and The Railway Bridge at Argenteuil (1874). He exhibited eighteen works at the second impressionist exhibition in 1876. The next year, he painted twelve views of the Gare Saint-Lazare, a modern Parisian railroad station, the first of Monet's ventures of devoting a series of paintings to the same object, depicting it under different climatic conditions. He showed thirty works at the third impressionist exhibition in 1877. The Monets moved to Vétheuil in 1878, and his wife, Camille, died there the next year. He continued to exhibit at most of the impressionist exhibitions, although not at the final one in 1886. Painting excursions took him to the Normandy coast and elsewhere, and he executed a prodigious number of seascapes and other works, including views of the rock arch at Etretat. Meanwhile, his paintings began to sell, and in 1883 he rented the house at Giverny, which he bought in 1890 and where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Works by Monet and others exhibited at the impressionist exhibitions, particularly the early ones, attracted much criticism. Behind this hostility was the challenge the impressionists made to the government-sanctioned Salons. There were exhibited paintings by academically trained artists, and they often depicted historical, mythological, or literary scenes. Impressionist paintings, in contrast, depicted modern urban scenes like the Gare Saint-Lazare, tourist sites like the Normandy coast, and the modern leisure activities of the middle classes. Moreover, Monet and the impressionists did not paint "reality." They sought to depict instead the fleeting perception of light reflected from objects under differing climatic conditions. The resulting paintings, critics charged, resembled rough sketches rather than carefully finished paintings. The world of Monet was thus a subjective one. For this reason, some historians place him in the context of a profound transformation of the Western intellectual tradition called the "Crisis of European Thought." This "crisis" involved, among others, challenges to the Newtonian worldview by scientists like Max Planck (1858–1947), assaults on traditional morality by critics like Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), and reevaluations of conventional notions of human nature by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). In short, a world of objective certainties was being replaced by one of uncertainty and subjectivity. Characteristic of Monet's subjective view of the world was his later series of thirty paintings of the west façade of Rouen Cathedral. Monet's interest was not the monumental cathedral itself, but the appearance of the cathedral at different times of day and under varying conditions of weather. Accordingly, a view of the façade in the morning appears dark and restrained, while a view painted in the late afternoon reveals the full impact of the sun on the building, making it brilliantly and


variously colored. Monet has dematerialized the façade of the cathedral and transformed it into a surface upon which there is an endless play of light. Unfortunately, Monet did not write much about the ideas behind his paintings, so his intentions must be surmised rather than demonstrated.

monet after the impressionist decade

Monet's annual painting excursions largely ceased when he bought the house at Giverny and married Alice Hoschedé. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, he worked on the series paintings, The Grainstacks, the Poplars on the Epte, the Façade of Rouen Cathedral, and the Mornings on the Seine. For the remainder of his life, with a few notable exceptions like his three trips to London (1899–1904), where he painted views of the Thames and its vicinity, Monet focused his attention on Giverny and making his garden, with its pond, Japanese bridge, and water lilies into a work of art. He then repeatedly depicted this garden, often with a cool detachment. He also isolated himself from contemporary movements in painting, like the postimpressionism of Paul Cézanne or Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Late in his life, his eyesight began to fail, and he struggled to continue painting. Monet's renderings of his gardens became more and more abstract, the colors appear more blurred and intermingled, and the paintings grew ever greater in size. Indeed, the acclaimed water lily murals required for their installation in Paris the construction of a special museum in the Orangerie of the Tuileries. Monet died at Giverny on 5 December 1926.

interpretations of monet

Early studies of Monet were primarily biographies and collections of letters and documents by authors who had known him. Virtually all are in French and have not been translated. Modern studies begin with the rediscovery of Monet after World War II. Many combined a brief biographical sketch with a rich selection of plates, each with detailed commentary. Representative of such works are William C. Seitz, Claude Monet (1960) and Joel Isaacson, Claude Monet: Observation and Reflection (1978). Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge, Monet (1983) provide, in addition to the reproductions of paintings, a useful collection of photographs, selections from Monet's letters, and passages from contemporary reviews. More recently, scholars like Robert J. Herbert, Virginia Spate, and Paul Hayes Tucker have attempted to situate Monet within the social, political, and cultural context of Third Republic France. Making their task challenging is the absence in Monet's letters of references to contemporary events.

See alsoCézanne, Paul; Degas, Edgar; Fin de Siècle; France; Impressionism; Manet, Édouard; Renoir, Pierre-Auguste; Van Gogh, Vincent.

bibliography

Primary Sources

Wildenstein, Daniel. Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné. 5 vols. Lausanne, 1974–1991.

Secondary Sources

Gordon, Robert, and Andrew Forge. Monet. New York, 1983. Biography mixed with analytical study of the paintings.

Herbert, Robert L. Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society. New Haven, Conn., 1988.

House, John. Monet: Nature into Art. New Haven, Conn., 1986. A study of Monet's painting techniques, emphasizing the 1870s–1890s.

Isaacson, Joel. Claude Monet: Observation and Reflection. Oxford, U.K., 1978. Decade-by-decade study of Monet.

Moffett, Charles S., et al. The New Painting: Impressionism, 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1986. Catalog of an exhibit that recreated the eight impressionist exhibitions.

Rachman, Carla. Monet. London, 1997.

Seitz, William C. Claude Monet: Seasons and Moments. New York, 1960. Brief biographical sketch with reproductions of famed paintings.

Spate, Virginia. Claude Monet: Life and Work. New York, 1992. Effectively blends biography with social history and the formal analysis of the paintings.

Tucker, Paul Hayes. Claude Monet: Life and Art. New Haven, Conn., 1995.

Robert W. Brown

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Monet, Claude." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Monet, Claude." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude-0

"Monet, Claude." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monet-claude-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.