Claude Monet and his paintings
Amongst those who Monet convinced to work along side one another in a Parisian suburb in the 1870s were Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. He became a leader and inspirational figure within the movement, drawing the disparate characters together with his charisma, enthusiasm and consummate skill.
In his twenties, Monet was inspired by the Realists, in particular their love for painting outside in the fresh air. Monet though, progressed from the Realist's desire to accurately depict the real world in a naturalistic way to a realisation that for us, as humans, there is no unchanging landscape that exists independently of our perceptions. He recognised that what we perceive is the only important thing, and that what we perceive as we look at a scene changes from moment to moment, mutable, light and air continually changing the surroundings and atmosphere. Monet thought it was these changing conditions which imbued the subjects of the art with their only true value.
Monet's ambition was to capture the landscapes of France in all their constant change and flux. Over his life, he frequently painted the same scene over and over again to try to capture its true essence by capturing his perceptions of what he saw in different light and conditions throughout the different seasons. The first series of this sort that he exhibited was Haystacks. He experimented with the use of bold brush strokes and bright, confident colours.
The first exhibition of Impressionist art was held in Paris in 1874. Monet exhibited several paintings and pastels, including the famous Impression, Sunrise. Monet, along with fellow artists including Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and Edgar Degas, held the exhibition not so much as to draw public attention to the new style, but rather in order to escape the restrictions of the Parisian art establishment. Around 3500 people are estimated to have attended the event, and some art was sold. Unfortunately, Monet, along some of his with fellow exhibitors, had set his prices too high. Monet asked 1000 Francs for 'Impression, Sunrise', the same as Pissarro asked for 'The Orchard'; neither sold.
In 1879, Monet was shattered by the passing of his beloved wife, Camille. He made an oil-painting of his dead wife. Camille Monet on her Deathbed 1879. Later on, he commented that his compulsion to analyse colours had been both a joy and a torment to him. He had found himself automatically committing to memory the colours of his dead wife's face.
A period of darkness and grief followed Camile's death, but it seems that Monet's artistic ability had been honed and refined in the crucible of that difficult time. In the next few years, he created many of his best series' of landscapes and seascapes. Alice Hoschedé, whom Monet later married following the death of her estranged husband in 1892, helped Monet, and brought up his children alongside her own. From 1880, they all lived in Monet's old house in Vétheuil, before a brief sojourn in Poissy, which Monet detested.
In 1883, the Monet family moved to Giverny, in Normandy. He painted there for much of the rest of his life. It was here that he painted quite a few of his most famous works, many in and of the large garden he had created there.
Throughout the 1880s and 90s, Monet became increasingly interested in experimenting with colour and form in his painting. He began to apply paint in smaller strokes, gradually building up the colours and textures. He once said that he liked to paint like a bird sings.
As well as spending much time in his garden at Giverny, Monet also travelled to the Mediterranean during this time, where he painted prolifically, including one lot of paintings in Venice. He also travelled to London, where he painted four well-recognised series: The Houses of Parliament, Waterloo Bridge and The Thames Below Westminster.
Perhaps the best known of Monet's paintings are the Water Lilies series. They were the main locus of his artistic attention for the last thirty years of his life, until his death in 1926. Their beauty and nuance are all the more remarkable when one considers that many of them were painted by a man who was losing his sight to cataracts.
It is interesting to note that the paintings created whilst Monet was suffering from cataracts have a very red-dominated tone. This is apparently a defining characteristic of what is typically seen by cataract sufferers. After he had his cataracts removed, Monet went back and painted the lilies again, and the resulting paintings are much bluer. It may be that after the operation, Monet could see some ultraviolet wavelengths of lights not seen by the general population.
In 1926, and Monet suffered from lung cancer and passed away. He was buried in the Giverny Church Cemetery.
Monet's impact on the Impressionist movement, and on subsequent artistic endeavour, cannot be overstated. Without the experimentation of Monet on the depiction of light and mood, his endless playing with form and colour, the major movements of early 20th Century art would not have been as they were. Monet can be said, without hyperbole, to be one of the most influential figures in European 20th Century art.
Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. " - Claude Monet
Impressionism forged the way, heavily influencing the Fauvist, Expressionist, and Abstract Movements, along with many other art forms and artists. Painters and aesthetic philosophers ever since have been influenced by both the ideas, and practical methods and technique of Impressionism, and of Monet.