Artist. He was an innovative and prolific French painter best known as the leader and unswerving advocate of the Impressionist school of painting. One of his pictures, “Impression: Sunrise” (Musée Marmottan, Paris; 1872), gave the group its name. Born in Paris, his youth was spent in Le Havre, where he first excelled as a caricaturist but was then converted to landscape painting by his early mentor Eugène Boudin, from whom he derived his firm predilection for painting out of doors. In 1859 he studied in Paris at the Atelier Suisse and formed a friendship with Camille Pissarro. After two years' military service in Algiers, he returned to Le Havre and met Johan Barthold Jongkind, to whom he said he owed `the definitive education of my eye'. He then, in 1862, entered the studio of Gleyre in Paris and there met artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille, with whom he was to form the nucleus of the Impressionist group. Monet's devotion to painting out of doors is illustrated by the famous story concerning one of his most ambitious early works, “Women in the Garden” (Musée d'Orsay, Paris; 1866-67). The picture is about 2.5 meters high and to enable him to paint all of it outside he had a trench dug in the garden so that the canvas could be raised or lowered by pulleys to the height he required. Painter Gustave Courbet visited him when he was working on it and said Monet would not paint even the leaves in the background unless the lighting conditions were exactly right. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870 to 1871) he took refuge in England with Pissarro: he studied the work of John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, painted the Thames and London parks, and met the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who was to become one of the great champions of the Impressionists, and also facilitated the exhibition and sale of their works. From 1871 to 1878 Monet lived at Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris, and here were painted some of the most joyous and famous works of the Impressionist movement, not only by Monet, but by his visitors Manet, Renoir and Sisley. In 1878 he moved to Vétheuil and in 1883 he settled at Giverny, also on the Seine, but about 40 miles from Paris. By 1890 he was successful enough to buy the house at Giverny he had previously rented and in 1892 he married his mistress. Starting in 1890 he concentrated on series of pictures in which he painted the same subject at different times of the day in different lights --- “Haystacks” (1890-91) and “Rouen Cathedral” (1891-95) are the best examples known. He continued to travel widely, visiting London and Venice several times (and also Norway as a guest of Queen Christiana), but increasingly his attention was focused on the celebrated aquatic garden he created at Giverny, which served as the theme for the series of 12 large paintings “The Water-lilies” that began in 1899 and grew to dominate his work completely (in 1914 he had a special studio built on the grounds of his house so he could work on the huge canvases). Following the signing of the Armistice, Monet offered to donate them to France. These paintings were installed in an architectural space designed specifically for them at the museum of the Orangerie in Paris. In his final years he was afflicted with cataracts and lung cancer, but he painted until the end. Claude Monet died at his home in Giverny, France in 1926 at the age of 86. Georges Clémenceau, the former President of France, attended his funeral. He was enormously prolific and many major galleries have examples of his work.
Bio by: Edward Parsons
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