Born on November 14, 1840, Claude Monet was a French painter best known for his pioneer work in the field of Impressionist painting. He extensively painted landscapes, both natural and man-made, to create open air scenes. His preference for light and natural scenery over shapes and forms, gave birth to a new field known as Impressionism. The term was interestingly coined when a critic mocked “Impressions, Soleil Levant”, one of Monet’s painting for having only light and forms. It was however, his love for painting the same landscape in different seasons and at different times of the day, that sets him apart. He created a series of paintings depicting water lilies, haystack, cathedrals etc. Throughout his illustrious career as a painter, he gave more importance to play of light than the shape of the subject of the painting.
Oscar Claude Monet was born as the second son of a second-generation Parisian couple named Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubrée Monet. He was born at the 45 rue Laffitte, in the 9th arrondissement, Paris. Monet was baptized at the local church as Oscar Claude. Despite being baptized, Monet spent most of his life as an atheist.
In 1845, his family moved to Normandy coastal town of Le Havre where his father worked as a grocer and a ship chandler. His father wanted him to join his work. Monet, however, was more attracted towards arts. His mother, being a singer and a poet, encouraged Monet’s inclinations. In 1851, Monet enrolled in the Le Havre secondary school of arts. Right from his early days, Monet came to be known for his art. He would sell charcoal caricatures to locals for 10 to 20 francs. He met Jacques Francois Ochard, who gave him his first painting lessons.
In the year 1856, Monet met Eugene Boudin, the landscape artist who taught him plein-air painting. A childhood spent in the scenic coastal town of Normandy and his introduction with Eugene Boudin had a lasting impression on the art and life of Claude Monet. He spent most of his life creating open air paintings away from the four walled studios.
After the death of his mother on January 28, 1857, Monet left school and started living with his widowed and childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.
Monet spent the next few years in Paris where he met like-minded young painters like Edouard Manet, who liked the Impressionist style of painting. Monet got a chance to visit the Louvre, Paris, where he noticed young painters trying to imitate the old classical works. Monet, would rather sit by the window and draw the scenery.
In 1961, Monet was enrolled into the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry for seven years. However, as he completed two years in Algeria, Monet suffered from Typhoid. His aunt got her out of the army on a condition that he resumes his studies at the arts college.
His career as Painter
Monet was least interested in the art taught at the art school and in 1862 he became a student of Charles Gleyre, Paris, and met Frédéric Bazille,Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. Together they created plein-air scenes with broken color and rapid brushstrokes, to innovate a unique style that would later become famous as impressionism.
On June 28, 1870 he married Camille Doncieux, who had modelled for some of his well-known works. In 1876, Camille was diagnosed with tuberculosis and in 1879 with uterine Cancer. At the age of thirty-two, Camille died on September 5, 1879 leaving behind Monet and their two sons.
So dedicated was Monet with this work, that he painted Camille on her deathbed and created a masterpiece that was intense and subjectively expressive at the same time.
After some time, Monet set out to create what were to become the best paintings of the 19th century. He created series of paintings to depict French countryside and its seascapes.
After the death of Camille, Alice Hoschede, wife of Monet’s friend Ernest Hoschede, helped him raise his two sons. In 1883, Monet moved to Giverny, Normandy along with his two sons, Alice Hoschede and her 6 children. Here, he planted a large garden that inspired most of his later year works. After the death of Ernst Hoschede, Monet married his estranged wife Alice Hoschede in 1892.
Following the death of Alice Hoschede in 1911, Monet developed cataract and the effect of failing sight is evident from his later paintings. At the age of 86 years, Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926. As insisted by Monet, the last rites were kept simple and was attended by only fifty people.
The Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet (1915)