Claude Monet was a French painter who is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. His work has had a profound influence on the development of Impressionism and modern art, and his legacy continues to inspire artists around the world.
Unlike many other artists, he was already famous during his own lifetime. Today his artworks are worth millions. Let’s take a closer look at the life and the biography of Claude Monet, shall we? Allons-y!
1. He was born in Paris in 1840.
Oscar-Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, France. His father Claude-Adolphe was a Parisian businessman, married to Louise-Justine Aubrée who was a singer. Claude was the 2nd son, with an older brother named Leon.
2. He spent his childhood in Le Havre.
For much of his childhood however, Claude Monet grew up in Le Havre, a small coastal town in Normandy which was a bustling trade town. Here he spent much of his childhood exploring the outdoors and drawing.
His mother supported his desire to become a painter and put him in art school, but his father wanted Monet to pursue a career in business. When he was 16 years old, his mother passed away, which led to Claude Monet abandoning his studies.
3. He began painting outdoors.
After the death of his mother, Monet was sent to live with his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre. She was the half-sister of his father, and quite wealthy. She was also very much interested in the arts and provided funding for Monet to continue his art studies and fund his works.
At 18, Monet met artist and mentor Eugène Boudin, who would encourage him to develop his techniques and teach him how to paint in “en plein air” and paint outdoor landscapes.
4. He moved to Paris and made some famous artist friends.
In 1859, Monet began studying art in Paris, where he enrolled in Académie Suisse and met fellow artist Camille Pissarro. Other artists who would become lifelong friends and colleagues included Frédéric Bazille who would become his best friend, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
5. He was called to military service.
Monet was called for French military service and served under the Chasseurs d’Afrique (African Hunters) in Algeria, from 1861 to 1862. He said his time in Africa had a profound impact on his views of painting with vivid colors and bright sunshine.
Monet was sent back home after he fell ill with typhoid, and his aunt had to buy out the rest of his military service.
6. He led the movement towards Impressionist paintings.
In the 1860s, Monet began to establish himself, submitting artworks to several salons and building a name for himself. His looser, more gestural style of brushwork lead to the development of Impressionism, a movement that Monet and his fellow artists helped to pioneer.
Impressionism emphasized lightness and color, and bringing different perspectives and compositions to paintings.
7. He married his first wife Camille and founded a family.
In 1867 his mistress, Camille Doncieux (who was a model for his paintings) gave birth to their first child, Jean. Claude Monet’s father cut him off for the relationship with Camille, and the young family moved to Étretat and later Argenteuil for the country life.
Monet was a loving father and claimed as Camille his lawful wife so Jean would be legitimate. They later had a 2nd son named Michel. However, their marriage was not without difficulties, as they struggled financially and Camille’s health declined.
He, Camille, and the family moved in with one of his benefactors Ernest Hoschedé, who was a wealthy businessman who had commissioned several paintings from him.
Camille passed away in 1879, leaving behind two young children and a grief-striken husband.
8. He married his 2nd wife Alice in 1892.
After Camille’s death, Monet continued to live with the Hoschedés and their combined children. As Ernest Hoschedés was often away, Monet developed a relationship with his wife Alice.
In 1881, he moved with Alice and her children to Poissy while Ernest was often in Paris. Ernest died in 1891, and Claude Monet and Alice Hoschedés married the year after.
9. He moved to Giverny in 1883.
In 1883, Claude Monet was looking out a window during a train trip and was inspired by the tiny town of Giverny in Normandy. The small village of Giverny, located about 50 miles northwest of Paris.
He rented a house with a large garden, and eventually purchased the property in 1890. He was drawn to the area for its beautiful countryside, which he found to be a perfect inspiration for his art.
Alice and all the children moved in with him at Giverny. Over the years, Monet transformed the garden into a work of art in its own right. He created a water garden with a Japanese bridge and water lilies, which would become the subject of some of his most famous paintings.
Monet’s garden became a popular destination for artists and admirers alike. He entertained many famous visitors at his home, including fellow artists such as Degas, Signac, and Cezanne.
Today, Monet’s house and garden in Giverny are open to the public and attract thousands of visitors each year. The garden remains a stunning example of Monet’s artistic vision and his legacy. You can read more about visiting Giverny here.
10. His step-daughter Blanche became his assistant.
Monet often painted family members into his landscapes and artworks. After his first wife Camille died, his 2nd wife Alice and his step-daughter Blanche became favorite subjects.
Blanche Hoschedé Monet became an artist herself. She became Monet’s was assistant and student at the age of 17, often painting en plein air alongside him. They would often paint the same subject with the same colors.
She married Jean, Monet’s oldest son, becoming Claude Monet’s daughter-in-law as well as step-daughter.
11. Monet suffered from depression and poor eyesight.
Monet’s wife Alice died in 1911 and his son.Jean, died in 1914 at the age of 46. With all these losses, Monet suffered from depression as poor eyesight in his later years.
He would refuse to have cataract surgery, saying he preferred to keep whatever little eyesight he had left. As a result, he was often unhappy with his later works.
It would be his step-daughter Blanche who took over managing Monet’s household and his fame. Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, called her Monet’s “Blue Angel”.
12. His most famous works like the Waterliles were put into museums.
By the end of WWI, Monet was quite renowned. When the Musée de l’Orangerie came under the French government’s governance, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau made several trips to Giverny to encourage Monet to donate his paintings.
His “Waterlilies” series were installed in specially built rooms in the Musée de l’Orangerie. Several other paintings were also later installed in the larger Musée d’Orsay which has several Impressionist masters.
13. Monet died in 1926 in Giverny.
Monet died of cancer in 1926 at the age of 86. He is buried in the local cemetery at Giverny along with other family members.
After Monet’s death in 1926, the house and gardens in Giverny were inherited by his son Michel Monet. However, it was Blanche, who maintained it until her own death in 1947.
Monet’s son Michel then donated the property to the French government who founded the Claude Monet foundation to maintain the great artist’s legacy.
14. A street is named after him in Giverny.
Such was the impact of Monet in Giverny, that a street has been named after him in the village. A street has also been named after Blanche, in honor of the work she did to preserve Monet’s legacy.
The Claude Monet foundation continues to maintain the house and gardens much as it would have been during Monet’s time. Decades after his death, Giverny remains one of the top day trips from Paris for those interested in see Monet’s home for themselves.
15. How much are his paintings worth today
Monet’s paintings are some of the most sought after and valuable works of art in France and in the world. Many of his works were heavily looted during WWII.
More recently, Monet’s Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil painting was bought by for a record $41.4 million at Christie’s auction in New York in 2008. A few weeks later, Le bassin aux nymphéas (from the water lilies series) was sold at Christie’s in London for $80.5m.
These high prices are a testament to Monet’s enduring influence and the continued popularity of his work among collectors and art enthusiasts.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about famous French female artists. A bientôt!