Claude Monet and the birth of Impressionism
On the 14th of November 1840 Louise-Justine Aubréè gave birth to her second son Oscar-Claude in Paris, six years after the birth of the firstborn Lèon-Pascal. Her husband, Claude-Auguste Monet, run a grocery store in the neighbourhood where the Parisian stock exchange is located, but due to economic problems, the family was soon forced to move to Le Havre, where the brother-in-law Jacques Lecandre’s company is based. And it is right there, in the suburb of Sainte-Andresse, that Monet caressed for the first time the idea of transforming art into a job. He began to sell his first works, funny caricatures of the most prominent characters of Le Havre, signed Oscar Monet.
A few years passed, Monet continued to study drawing and was soon noticed by the painter Eugène Boudin who, older and wiser, advised him to abandon his career as a caricaturist to concentrate on painting and landscape design. But it is not easy for the young Monet to accept this advice because caricatures brought fame and easy money. Despite the initial distrust and antipathy towards Boudin, Monet accompanies him during his painting sessions in the open air and, as he said: “Over time, my eyes opened, I truly understood nature and learned to love it.”
In 1859 Monet left for Paris, a magical city for every aspiring painter, where he got to know some successful artists and admire the works exhibited at the Salon.
In 1861 he received the call for military service and left for Algeria but – due to poor health and the difficult African climate – he soon returned to Paris to devote himself again to painting. Thus he becomes part of the studio of Gleyre, a severe teacher with whom the artist will often clash. The atelierwere frequented by numerous young people whose names are destined for great fame: Bazille, Sisley, Renoir.
Monet is only twenty-two years old but his landscapes give him the admiration of friends and colleagues and, in 1865, he exhibited for the first time two “marine” works at the Salon, obtaining critical acclaim. The only one to be annoyed by Monet’s success is Édouard Manet, a well-known artist than the young Claude. Numerous and inattentive visitors offer homages and congratulations, confused by the similarity of the two surnames. Also in 1865 Monet met Camille Doncieux his future wife and protagonist of the famous painting “Woman with a green dress” with which, the following year, Monet won an award at the Salon.
The following years, despite the growing fame of the artist, saw the Monet family in severe economic straits, aggravated by the birth of Jean and the death of his father.
In 1870 France was shaken by the outbreak of the war with Prussia and Monet, to escape the call to arms, ran away to London. Before returning to France, he lived for a few years in Holland: the water and especially the mills of Zaandam fascinated the artist who imprisoned them forever with his skilful brush strokes. The love for water will remain a distinctive feature of the works of the artist who, returning home, begins to study the Seine with its bridges, its banks and the sailing ships that cross it.
The 15th of April 1874 is a historic day for art: a collective exhibition organized by numerous painters belonging to the newly formed “Anonymous Cooperative Society of Artists” is inaugurated. Among the 165 paintings exhibited that day, a painting became the manifesto of the whole exhibition: the signature is that of Claude Monet who has decided to call the work “Impression”.
The critic Louis Leroy trying to see the irony about the event, titles his article “The Exhibition of the Impressionists”. Irony is not captured, the greatness of the artist is. Thus was born the impressionist movement and Monet becomes its most influential member.
This new way of painting causes havoc in the world of art and the paintings of these artists are not always understood, so much so that sales turn out to be a failure.
The same cannot be said of Monet: in 1880 he exhibited for the last time at the Salon and set up a critically acclaimed solo exhibition. His economic situation finally improves so much that he can buy a house in Giverny. That house has a pond and in that pond there are the most famous water lilies in the world. They are the starting point for a series of paintings to which the artist dedicates the last years of his life. Despite a progressive deterioration of vision due to a cataract that will make him almost blind, Monet continues to admire and transport his aquatic garden in Giverny on canvas.
On the 6th of December 1926, Monet died among those landscapes that have given incredible colours to his old age and that would remain “etched” forever in his works.