Oscar Claude Monet, who was born in France on November 14, 1840, is the pioneer of Impressionism with his work called—Sunrise—where he revolutionized art. Unlike painters who mostly imitated the old masters, he turned to new and different searches. Instead of looking through the window and drawing what he saw, he preferred to take drawing tools with him and go outside to draw.
With the technique he used in his works, Monet achieved the impression he wanted by combining the color and light effect with the dots of different colors he created with brush strokes in his paintings. Monet’s paintings, which have around 2500 works besides paintings that were destroyed by him, are exhibited in different cities of the world such as Paris and London.
1. It All Started with Caricatures
Claude Monet starts drawing from an early age. Before Monet discovered other painting talents, he was doing charcoal caricatures of his teachers and classmates at the school, at the age of 15. As an additional income, he would sell these caricatures for ten to twenty francs.
Monet, who gradually became known by locals, expresses this period in his own words: ‘Soon I was looked up to in the town, I was “somebody’’.’ Although his father wanted him to work in his grocery store and refused to accept his art, he did not listen to his father’s words and left home at the age of 16 to do his art.
2. Suffering from Mental Illness
Monet was known for his depressive character and mood swings. He even tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Seine in 1868, when he struggled with financial difficulties. He criticized himself and his paintings so much that these disappointments about himself caused him to smash his frequent canvases with a knife, sometimes even throwing them into flames.
Monet, who destroyed nearly 500 of his own paintings, expresses himself as: “Many people think I paint easily… I often suffer tortures when I paint.” Despite this, Monet has devoted himself to work and painting throughout his life until his last days.
3. Monet Moved Constantly
He was living in Normandy during his youth and the beginning of his interest in art after he went to Paris to visit the Louvre. While continuing his paintings there, Monet was sent to Algeria for seven-year military service. Although his father offered to prevent Monet from doing this military service in exchange for giving up his painting, but Monet refused.
After several years, his military service duty has ended due to his health issues, he returned to Paris where he would make friends from the art world and meet the love of his life, his first wife. His wife and Monet moved to London in 1870 at the outset of the Franco-Prussian war.
In London, he had the opportunity to examine the works of John Constable and William Turner. Monet was inspired by their paintings and especially their usage of colors. In May 1871, he moved to Zaandam in the Netherlands, where he made twenty-five paintings. After returning to France shortly after, his several paintings were done in his floating studio, in Argenteuil.
4. Love and Inspiration
His favorite model was his first wife Camille Monet, who appears in over 30 of his paintings such as ‘Women in the garden’, ‘the Lady in green’, ‘Camille at the window’, ‘Camille in the garden’. Meeting Camille helped him a lot with his painting and also his depression. Despite going through very poor and difficult times, the two held tightly to each other.
Monet continued to capture memories and emotions by painting his loved wife Camille, even when his wife was on ‘her deathbed’. His second wife, Alice Hoschedé, was very jealous of Camille and she is known for destroying almost all photographic records of Camille.
5. Monet Could Not Easily Get Acceptance for His Paintings
Monet, who started the Impressionist movement and became the painter of today’s best-selling artworks, lived through a period when his art was criticized and not accepted for a long time. Not only his family, but even the French traditional art academies disliked Monet’s art and style.
The Salon rejected and criticized his piece, Femmes au Jardin by saying “Too many young people only think of continuing in this abominable direction, it is high time to protect them and save art!”
Monet’s individual brushstrokes were criticized for not looking finished and only conveying an impression. At the same time, Monet also opposed the traditional art vision, arguing that each work imitates the other, so it would not be possible to create original work.
6. Monet Literally Give The Name ‘Impressionism’
Refusing traditional art and academia, Monet and his like-minded artist friends, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, held sessions and exhibitions where they displayed their paintings and taught about arts.
Especially the first of these exhibitions came in for great criticism. Most of these critics have pointed at Monet’s painting as —‘Impression, Sunrise’. The definition of ‘impressionism’, used by critics for the teaser, later gave its name to the movement held by Monet and other artists.
7. Monet and His Water Garden
He was not only an artist but also a gardener and landscape designer. Claude Monet admired plants and nature. After painting in gardens and the side of rivers, he created his own water garden in Giverny. Monet would devote a lot of time to the maintenance of this garden. His friends brought him different exotic plant seeds and Monet spent a lot of time in the garden for planting and painting.
Monet was so proud of his water garden and spent hours contemplating it, he once stated, “Besides painting and planting, I’m worthless.” The Giverny Garden, which is still open for everyone, welcomes around 400,000 visitors a year.
8. Monet’s Fascinated by Japanese Art
Japanese art movement, which showed its effect like a hurricane in France in the 1880s, affected Monet as well. Especially these inspirations drew a lot of attention while shaping his water garden. Claude Monet was clearly fascinated by the ukiyo-e of individuals like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro.
Monet had begun displaying this Japanese art woodblock prints collection on the walls of his home. His special interest has contributed to the formation of interaction and integration between Japanese art and impressionism.
9. Reflection of Monet’s Cataracts
In his later years, Monet was diagnosed with cataracts. In this period, especially the reddish tones in his paintings can easily be observed. He destroyed many canvases in this period due to his feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration. He started complaining that ‘colors no longer had the same intensity for me’, so he started adding labels on painting tubes to avoid using the wrong colors.
However, as his cataract progressed, his paintings became brighter and his brushstrokes became wider. Monet, who began to see more clearly after a few surgeries and medications, mostly tried to destroy his pre-surgery paintings.
10. No Black for Monet!
Monet, known to have long walks and a healthy diet, died of lung disease in 1926 at the age of 86. Monet’s funeral, as his wish to be a very simple and minimal funeral, was held with the participation of only fifty people upon this request.
Monet was always fascinated by the magic of colors and almost never used black in his paintings, that is why when an old close friend of Georges Clemenceau saw the black cover on Monet’s coffin, he reacted by saying, ‘No, No black for Monet!’. Clemenceau quickly removed the black cover and replaced it with a colored cover.
Claude Monet’s Funeral -©www.ngv.vic.gov.au