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(1840 – 1926), France

Claude Monet Biography

Oscar-Claude Monet was a key figure in the Impressionist movement that transformed French painting in the second half of the 19th century.

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Impressionism examined the transient effects of light on surfaces, steam, or water. This was done through the methodical application of paint in small blotches (taches), while studying the atmospheric conditions of the weather outside in the landscape. These locations could be painted many times, as the experienced (reflected and radiated) light properties were never static.

Early education and paintings

Raised in Le Havre, in 1851 Monet went to Le Havre secondary school of the arts. In 1858 he became friends with fellow artist Eugène Boudin who taught him 'en plein air' techniques. He then went to Paris to study at Académie Suisse where he met Camille Pissarro the following year. He spent a couple of years on military service in Algeria where the light impressed him.

In Paris on his return he met Pierre-August Renoir and Alfred Sisley, and enrolled at Charles Gleyre's studio. He debuted at the Salon in 1865 with two oil paintings, and painted Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (a response to Édouard Manet's earlier painting of the same name) hoping to submit it to the Salon in 1866, but this celebration of middleclass leisure was not completed in time. Most later submissions were rejected.

In 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, Monet took his family to London where he painted the Thames and Hyde Park. They returned to France the next year and settled in Argenteuil where in a rented property, he designed a special garden for panoramic paintings. He also bought a sailboat for painting on the Seine.


In 1874, Monet along with other like-minded artists such as Edgar Degas, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, organised an independent (anti-Salon) exhibition. Monet's Le Havre seascape, Impression: Sunrise (1872), which was shown at the exhibition attracted a sarcastic riposte from a critic, mocking its title, along with its unfinished appearance. The group came to adopt the name for their particular movement, and Impressionism was officially born.

A second similar group show was held in 1876, and a third in 1877, when Monet presented seven co-ordinated works of the inside of the steam-filled St. Lazare train station. These attracted significant praise.

In 1879 Monet's wife Camille died of cancer and he moved his family to the village of Vétheuil where Alice Hoschedé (the wife of a patron who had fled to Belgium when made bankrupt) helped him raise his two children. (She had six.) His land and seascapes began to sell, and in 1892, after the death of her estranged husband, Alice and Claude married.


In 1881 they moved to Vernon and then two years later to Giverny in Upper Normandy, with its large house and studio. Here Monet, now prosperous, designed his famous garden (planting according to the seasonal colour of the flowers) and (after 1893) ponds and bridges—inspired by his collection of Japanese prints.

Sustained series projects

From around 1890 Monet began to paint in prolonged series, focussing productively on subject matters at different times of day and under different meteorological conditions, and fixating on the subtlety of retinal sensation.

These include Haystacks (from 1888) and Poplars (1891), made and completed outdoors. He then began to complete paintings in his studio. Such series include: Rouen Cathedral (1882-1925), Thames (1899-1904), a second group of London works (1905), Venice (1908), and Water Lilies (1916).

Monet lived an exceptionally long and prolific life, dying in 1926.


Recent solo exhibitions

Claude Monet; The Immersive Experience, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 2021
Monet, Stadel Museum, Frankfurt, 2015
Monet's impressionism: Sunrise, the Biography of a Painting, Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris, 2014
Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, 2014

Recent group exhibitions
Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, 2016
Japanese Inspirations: Monet, Gauguin, van Gogh, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 2014


Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Orangerie Museum, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The National Gallery, London

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021

Claude Monet

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