Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was a French painter, founder and leader of the Impressionist movement in France; indeed the movement’s name, Impressionism, is derived from his Impression, Sunrise (1873; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris). 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. Renoir and Monet began painting outdoors together in the late 1860s, laying the foundations of Impressionism.
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.
Fishing Boats in Honfleur
Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon.
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 colour 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.
Wiindmill at Zaandam
Oil on canvas, 48 x 74 cm
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
In 1874, with Pissarro and Edgar Degas, Monet helped organize the Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc., the formal name of the Impressionists’ group. During the 1870s Monet developed his characteristic technique for rendering atmospheric outdoor light, using broken, rhythmic brushwork.
View of the Tuileries Garden
Oil on canvas, 53 x 72 cm
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris.
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 (Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris). The show failed financially. However, by 1883 Monet had prospered, and he retired from Paris to his home in Giverny.
Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm
Museum of Art, Cleveland.
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, 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.
Haystack in the Snow, Morning
Oil on canvas, 65 x 92 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In 1890-91, Monet created no fewer than 25 “haystack” paintings. His aim was to demonstrate that the same objects, viewed from the same angle, change their form and colors at different times of the day and in different seasons.
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.
Oil on canvas, 88 x 93 cm
Art Institute, Chicago.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Monet painted a series of canvases in his water garden in Giverny, including the present painting depicting water lilies on the surface of the pond. Forty-eight of these canvases were exhibited in 1909.
From 1899 to 1926 Monet worked on the theme of the water lilies with unremitting determination, using different formats and viewpoints, adopting an increasingly flexible treatment, and culminating in a fusion with the motif that seeks to encompass the entirety of the artist’s vision.
Monet painted a cycle of water lily paintings, known as the Nymphéas. The eight paintings of the cycle are displayed in two oval rooms in the Musée de l’Orangerie, located on the bank of the Seine in the old orangery of the Tuileries Palace on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The paintings were donated by Monet to the French government in 1922.
Oil on canvas, 200 x 425 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
This is one of the three large water lily paintings by Monet housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It shows a pond covered with water lilies with reflections of clouds overhead.
Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies
Oil on canvas, 93 x 74 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
In 1893, Monet purchased land with a pond near his property in Giverny, and he built here his water lily garden with a Japanese bridge spanning the pond at its narrowest point. In 1899, he began a series of eighteen views of the wooden footbridge over the pond, completing twelve paintings, including the present one, that summer. The vertical format of the picture, unusual in this series, gives prominence to the water lilies and their reflections on the pond.
Monet’s work is particularly well represented in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, the National Gallery, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. It is also included in many famous private collections.
On the Web:
“The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset”: The Exact Minute Claude Monet Created It
Art In Itself: The Home of Claude Monet, Giverny, Normandy, France
Art Wednesday: Trophy Art by Monet and Kandinsky Now Getting Top Prices