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Claude Monet
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One of the best-known and most cherished painters in the history of Western art, Claude Monet was an initiator, leader, and unswerving advocate of the Impressionist style. A prodigious worker, he produced some 2,000 paintings and 500 pastels and drawings during the nearly 70 years of his career. Born in Paris on November 14, 1840, Oscar Claude Monet moved with his family to Le Havre in 1845. He attended public school in Le Havre and learned to draw from Francois-Charles Ochard (1800-1870), although the early instruction he received from Eugene Boudin (1824-1898) in painting out of doors was more critical. As a teenager he sold caricatures and exhibited a painting at an art show in Le Havre in 1858. Monet enrolled in the Academie Suisse in 1860 and began a friendship with the older Camille Pissarro (1831-1903). Drafted into the military in 1861, Monet served in Algeria for a year and then fell ill and was sent home on convalescent leave. While in Le Havre he met Johan Bartold Jongkind (1819-1891), whose advice was very important to the young Monet. An aunt then paid the replacement fee that allowed him to terminate his military service. He entered the studio of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874) in late 1862, where he met Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). His formal art training ended in 1864 when Gleyre’s studio closed. Despite the acceptance of paintings at the Salons of 1865, 1866 and 1868, he suffered severe financial problems. His model Camille Doncieux (1847-1879) became his companion in 1866; they were married in 1870. They fled to London 1870, avoiding conscription for the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent unrest during the Commune. In London Monet met Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922), who would become his most important dealer, and painted views of the Thames. After their return to France the next year Monet rented a house in Argenteuil, on the River Seine west of Paris, and enjoyed Durand-Ruel’s purchase of numerous paintings over the next two years. In 1873 Monet and other artists in his circle formed the Société Anonyme Cooperative d'Artistes-Peintres-Sculpteurs-Graveurs, which in 1874 held its first group show, later known as the first Impressionist exhibition. Monet exhibited Impression: Sunrise (Paris, Musée Marmottan), the painting from which the Impressionists derived their name, along with four other paintings and seven pastels. Monet also participated in the second (1876), third (1877), fourth (1879), and seventh (1882) Impressionist exhibitions. The collectors Ernest (1837-1891) and Alice (1844-1911) Hoschedé in 1876 commissioned Monet to paint four large decorative works for their country house, possibly leading to a liaison between Alice and Monet. After Hoschedé’s bankruptcy and Monet’s declining fortunes in 1878, the Monet and Hoschedé families shared a house in Vétheuil, down the Seine from Argenteuil, where Camille Monet died in 1879. Alice and her six children and Monet and his two children moved to Poissy in 1881 and then to Giverny in 1883, while Ernest lived in Paris and Belgium. Monet’s first one-man show was held in Paris in 1880. To publicize the exhibition, Monet created a drawing based on one of his paintings that was reproduced in the journal La vie moderne. The same method was used to publicize Monet exhibitions in 1883 and 1891. During the last two decades of the century, solo exhibitions of Monet’s works were mounted in London, New York and Boston as well as Paris. An advance from Durand-Ruel allowed Monet to purchase his rented house in Giverny in 1890. Alice and Monet were married in 1892, after Ernest’s death the previous year. The development of his “series paintings,” in which he painted several views of the same subject reflecting differing conditions in the weather and the light, began with The Grainstacks in 1891 and continued over the next decade with such series as the Poplars on the Epte, Mornings on the Seine, Rouen Cathedral and (after three trips to London) several series including the Houses of Parliament. Monet’s pond and gardens at Giverny gave rise to his famous Water Lilies paintings, 48 of which were shown at Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1909. As Monet grew older, his eyesight deteriorated, but despite his failing vision, he continued to paint until his death. His last years were preoccupied by grand cycles of water lily paintings, particularly the Grandes Décorations, ultimately a suite of 22 panels. Monet died on December 5, 1926 in Giverny. The Grandes Décorations was installed after his death in the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris and opened to the public in 1927. (Rev. TNB 11/2013) Selected bibliography: Ganz, Janes A. and Richard Kendall. The Unknown Monet: pastels and drawings. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007. Stuckey, Charles F. Claude Monet 1840-1926. Exhibition catalog. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995.