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Claude Monet
Claude Monet 1899 Nadar crop.jpg
Monet c. 1899
Oscar-Claude Monet

(1840-11-14)14 November 1840
Paris, Kingdom of France
Died 5 December 1926(1926-12-05) (aged 86)
  • Académie Suisse
  • Beaux-Arts de Paris
Known for Painting
Notable work
  • Impression, Sunrise
  • Rouen Cathedral series
  • London Parliament series
  • Water Lilies
  • Haystacks
  • Poplars
  • List of paintings
Movement Impressionism
  • Camille Doncieux
    (m. 1870; died 1879)
  • (m. 1892; died 1911)
Claude Monet Signature.svg

Oscar-Claude Monet ( 14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a French painter and founder of impressionist painting. The term "Impressionism" is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant, exhibited in 1874.

He attempted to paint nature as he perceived it. During his long career, he consistently practiced the philosophy of impressionism, expressing one's perceptions before nature. Among the best-known examples of his paintings are his series of haystacks (1890–91), paintings of the Rouen Cathedral (1894), and the paintings of water lilies in his garden in Giverny that occupied him continuously for the last 20 years of his life.

Early years

Claude Monet - Camille
The Woman in the Green Dress, Camille Doncieux, 1866, Kunsthalle Bremen

Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1840. He was the second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians.

Monet was raised in Le Havre, Normandy, and became interested in the outdoors and drawing from an early age. Although his mother, Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, supported his ambitions to be a painter, his father, Claude-Adolphe, disapproved and wanted him to pursue a career in business.

On 1 April 1851, he entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts. He began his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. In around 1858, he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin, who would encourage Monet to develop his techniques, teach him the "en plein air" (outdoor) techniques for painting and take Monet on painting excursions. Monet thought of Boudin as his master, whom "he owed everything to" for his later success.

He was very close to his mother, but she died in January 1857 when he was sixteen years old, and he was sent to live with his childless, widowed but wealthy aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre. Lecadre was supportive of Monet in his early art career.

Paris and Algeria

Monet dejeunersurlherbe
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (right section), 1865–1866, Paris, with Gustave Courbet, Frédéric Bazille and Camille Doncieux, first wife of the artist, Musée d'Orsay
Carolus-Duran - Portrait de Claude Monet - Musée Marmottan Monet
Portrait of Claude Monet, Carolus-Duran, c. 1867

From 1858 to 1860, Monet continued his studies in Paris, where he enrolled in Académie Suisse and met Camille Pissarro in 1859. His early works include landscapes, seascapes, and portraits, but attracted little attention.

He was called for military service and served under the Chasseurs d'Afrique (African Hunters), in Algeria, from 1861 to 1862. He returned to Le Havre because of his illness.

Upon his return to Paris, with the permission of his father, he divided his time between his childhood home and the countryside and enrolled in Charles Gleyre's studio, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Frédéric Bazille. Bazille eventually became his closest friend.

During this time he painted Women in Garden, his first successful large-scale painting, and Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, the "most important painting of Monet's early period".


Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant
Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872; the painting that gave its name to the style and artistic movement. Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Sargent MonetPainting
John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885, Tate Britain

Monet was inspired by the style and subject matter of his slightly older contemporaries, Pissarro and Édouard Manet.

At the first exhibition, in 1874, Monet displayed, among others, Impression, Sunrise, The Luncheon and Boulevard des Capucines. The art critic Louis Leroy wrote a hostile review. Taking particular notice of Impression, Sunrise (1872), a hazy depiction of Le Havre port and stylistic detour, he coined the term "Impressionism". The term was initially ironic and denoted the painting as unfinished.

Edouard Manet 010
Édouard Manet, Claude Monet in Argenteuil, 1874, Neue Pinakothek

Monet priced Impression: Sunrise at 1000 francs but failed to sell it. Another exhibition was held in 1876, again in opposition to the Salon. Monet displayed 18 paintings, including The Beach at Sainte-Adresse which showcased multiple Impressionist characteristics.

For the third exhibition, on 5 April 1877, he selected seven paintings from the dozen he had made of Gare Saint-Lazare in the past three months. The paintings were well received by critics, who especially praised the way he captured the arrival and departures of the trains. His last time exhibiting with the Impressionists was in 1882—four years before the final Impressionist exhibition.

Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot, Cézanne and Sisley proceeded to experiment with new methods of depicting reality. They rejected the dark, contrasting lighting of romantic and realist paintings, in favour of the pale tones of their peers' paintings such as those by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Boudin. After developing methods for painting transient effects, Monet would go on to seek more demanding subjects, new patrons and collectors; his paintings produced in the early 1870s left a lasting impact on the movement and his peers—many of whom moved to Argenteuil as a result of admiring his depiction.

Personal life

Auguste Renoir - Claude Monet - Google Art Project
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of the Painter Claude Monet, 1875, Musée d'Orsay
Alice Hoschedé, 1878
Carolus-Duran, Alice Hoschedé, second wife of Claude Monet and mother of Blanche Hoschedé Monet, 1878
Monet and Hoschede families - 1880
The Monet and Hoschedé families c. 1880 from left to right: Claude Monet, Alice Hoschedé, Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, Jacques Hoschedé, Blanche Hoschedé Monet, Jean Monet, Michel Monet, Martha Hoschedé, Germaine Hoschedé, Suzanne Hoschedé

In 1867 his then-mistress, Camille Doncieux—whom he had met two years earlier as a model for his paintings—gave birth to their first child, Jean. Monet had a strong relationship with Jean, claiming that Camille was his lawful wife so Jean would be considered legitimate. Monet's father stopped financially supporting him as a result of the relationship.

He married Camille on 28 June 1870. Monet loved his family dearly, painting many portraits of them such as Child with a cup, a portrait of Jean Monet.

In 1876, Camille Monet became seriously ill. Their second son, Michel, was born in 1878, after which Camille's health deteriorated further. In 1878, Camille was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She died the next year. Her death afflicted Monet's career.

In 1892, Monet married Alice Hoschedé, his friend's widow. Her third daugher, Suzanne, became Monet's "preferred model", after Camille.


Claude Monet's Gardens
The water garden of Claude Monet in Giverny, 2019

From 1883, Monet lived in Giverny, also in northern France, where he purchased a house and property and began a vast landscaping project, including a water-lily pond.

The family worked and built up the gardens, and Monet's fortunes began to change for the better. The gardens were Monet's greatest source of inspiration for 40 years. During the 1890s, Monet built a greenhouse and a second studio, a spacious building well lit with skylights.

Monet wrote daily instructions to his gardener, precise designs and layouts for plantings, and invoices for his floral purchases and his collection of botany books. As Monet's wealth grew, his garden evolved. He remained its architect, even after he hired seven gardeners.

Claude monet in his third studio
Monet at work in the large studio at his Giverny home

In 1899, he began painting the water lilies that would occupy him continuously for the next 20 years of his life, being his last and "most ambitious" sequence of paintings.

Depictions of the water lilies, with alternating light and mirror-like reflections, became an integral part of his work. In 1909, Monet successfully exhibited the first Water Lilies series. This exhibition, entitled Waterlilies, a Series of Waterscape, consisted of 42 canvases. He would ultimately make over 250 paintings of the Waterlilies.

Health problems

A grainy photo of a bearded man standing before a bridge
A grainy photo of a bearded man standing on a path before a tree and pond
Monet in his garden at Giverny, c. 1917

Monet's second wife, Alice, died in 1911, and his oldest son, Jean, who had married Alice's daughter, Blanche, Monet's particular favourite, died in 1914. Their deaths left Monet depressed, as Blanche cared for him. It was during this time that Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts.

Monet in his studio
Monet in his studio, c. 1920

In the following years, his perception of colour suffered; his broad strokes were broader and his paintings were increasingly darker. To achieve his desired outcome, he began to label his tubes of paint, kept a strict order on his palette and wore a straw hat to negate glare.

He eventually underwent cataract surgery in 1923. Now "able to see the real colours", he began to destroy canvases from his pre-operative period. By 1925, his visual impairment was improved and he began to retouch some of his pre-operative works, with bluer water lilies than before.


Giverny, Claude Monet Grave - panoramio
Monet family grave at Giverny

Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery. Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple; thus, only about fifty people attended the ceremony. At his funeral, his friend removed the black cloth draped over the coffin, stating: "No black for Monet!" and replaced it with a flower-patterned cloth.

Monet's home, garden, and water lily pond were bequeathed by Michel to the French Academy of Fine Arts (part of the Institut de France) in 1966. Through the Fondation Claude Monet, the house and gardens were opened for visits in 1980, following restoration. In addition to souvenirs of Monet and other objects of his life, the house contains his collection of Japanese woodcut prints. The house and garden, along with the Museum of Impressionism, are major attractions in Giverny, which hosts tourists from all over the world.

Interesting facts about Claude Monet

  • Monet was baptised as Oscar-Claude, but his parents called him simply Oscar.
  • Despite being baptised Catholic, Monet later became an atheist.
  • Monet began drawing caricatures and portraits of acquaintances at age 15 for money.
  • Monet was often in financial straits, being unable to pay his bills. Once, his paintings were seized by creditors, from whom they were bought back by a shipping merchant, Gaudibert, who was Monet's patron.
  • During the the Franco-Prussian War, he and his family lived in London and Argenteuil, the Netherlands to avoid conscription.
  • During World War I, in which his younger son, Michel, served, Monet painted a Weeping Willow series as homage to the French fallen soldiers.


Frequently exhibited and successful during his lifetime, Monet's fame and popularity soared in the second half of the 20th century when he became one of the world's most famous painters and a source of inspiration for burgeoning groups of artists.

Monet's paintings produced at Giverny and under the influence of cataracts have been said to create a link between Impressionism and twentieth-century art and modern abstract art, respectively. His later works were a "major" inspiration to Objective abstraction. Monet is now the most famous of the Impressionists.

Musée de L'Orangerie Water Lilies Room
Water Lilies on display in the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris

In 1978, Monet's garden in Giverny—which had grown decrepit over fifty years—was restored and opened to the public. In 2004, London, the Parliament, Effects of Sun in the Fog (Londres, le Parlement, trouée de soleil dans le brouillard; 1904), sold for US$20.1 million.

Falaises près de Dieppe (Cliffs Near Dieppe) has been stolen on two occasions: once in 1998 (in which the museum's curator was convicted of the theft and jailed for five years and two months along with two accomplices) and most recently in August 2007. It was recovered in June 2008.

On November 14th, 2001, a Google Doodle was made for Claude Monet's 161st birthday, depicting the Google logo in Monet's signature style. It was the first Google Doodle made for someone’s birthday.

Monet's Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil, an 1873 painting of a railway bridge spanning the Seine near Paris, was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder for a record $41.4 million at Christie's auction in New York on 6 May 2008. The previous record for his painting stood at $36.5 million. A few weeks later, Le bassin aux nymphéas (from the water lilies series) sold at Christie's 24 June 2008 auction in London for £40,921,250 ($80,451,178), nearly doubling the record for the artist. This purchase represented one of the top 20 highest prices paid for a painting at the time.

In October 2013, Monet's paintings, L'Eglise de Vétheuil and Le Bassin aux Nympheas, became subjects of a legal case in New York against NY-based Vilma Bautista, one-time aide to Imelda Marcos, wife of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, after she sold Le Bassin aux Nympheas for $32 million to a Swiss buyer. The said Monet paintings, along with two others, were acquired by Imelda during her husband's presidency and allegedly bought using the nation's funds. Bautista's lawyer claimed that the aide sold the painting for Imelda but did not have a chance to give her the money. The Philippine government seeks the return of the painting. Le Bassin aux Nympheas, also known as Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny, is part of Monet's famed Water Lilies series.

Nazi looting

Under the Nazi regime, both in Germany from 1933 and in German-occupied countries until 1945, Jewish art collectors of Monet were looted by Nazis and their agents. Several of the stolen artworks have been restituted to their former owners, while others have been the object of court battles. In 2014, during the spectacular discovery of a hidden trove of art in Munich, a Monet that had belonged to a Jewish retail magnate was found in the suitcase of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of one of Hitler's official art dealers of looted art, Hildebrand Gurlitt.

Examples of Nazi-looted Monet works include:

  • La Seine à Asnières/Les Péniches sur la Seine, formerly owned by Mrs. Fernand Halphen, taken by agents of the German Embassy in Paris on 10 July 1940.
  • Le Repos Dans Le Jardin Argenteuil, previously owned by Henry and Maria Newman, stolen from a Berlin bank vault, settlement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Nymphéas, stolen by Nazis in 1940 from Paul Rosenberg.
  • Au Parc Monceau, previously owned by Ludwig Kainer, whose vast collection was looted by the Nazis.
  • Haystacks at Giverny belonged to René Gimpel, a French Jewish art dealer killed in a Nazi concentration camp.

Images for kids

See also

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