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Claude Monet
French
1840-1926

Claude Monet

Impressionism
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Oscar-Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 - December 5, 1926) was one of the most famous French artists and one of the representatives and founders of Impressionism.

 

Claude Monet was undoubtedly a creative genius in terms of visual observation. It isn't easy to see clear shadows in his works, and the colorful depiction of light and shade is the most characteristic feature of Monet's paintings. He was keen to capture the fleeting natural light and color changes and innovatively portrayed the changing and moving image of things. His representative works include Impression, Sunrise, Water-Lilies, and A Haystack.

 

Early days

Monet's mother used her beautiful voice to create an artistic environment for Monet to grow up in. Monet's father, Claude-Adolphe, did not have much business success. His father took his family to his half-sister Marie-Jeanne Lecadre in Le Havre around 1845 and worked as a helper in his brother-in-law's wholesale grocery store, solidifying all aspects of the family's life. The 10-year-old Monet entered the Le Havre public school in 1851 to study. Like many prominent figures, the lively young Monet was the archetype of insubordination. Monet said in his memoirs 50 years later: "I was born insubordinate. Even as a child, I did not know what it meant to obey the rules. The school was like a prison to me, and I couldn't keep myself there, even for 4 or 5 hours." The school environment was, in fact, not very good, as there were 40-50 students in a substandard dormitory. The school's dining area and playground were also very small. Fortunately, Monet was a day student, and often he skipped school. The school was also very lenient in some aspects of the management and never had corporal punishment of students. Only students who skipped classes for a long time risked being expelled. Even though he often skipped classes, Monet still studied the basics of knowledge such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. His classmates had a good opinion of him, thinking he was very good to get along with and especially affirming Monet's talent in art. At that time, most of Monet's works were in a sketchbook, a large part of which was landscape sketches, and some works were drawn directly from the textbook. If we study Monet's sketchbook more, it is easy to see that the frequency of the signature on the 1857 date has increased significantly compared to 1856. It indicates that Monet went out for long hikes and practiced drawing a lot in 1857, the same year when his mother died. With the death of his mother, all the tenderness of his family disappeared, and Monet's conflict with his father became more and more acute. Unable to endure the environment without freedom, he wanted to give it a go in the world of painting. The teenager signed a contract with art, not painting for the sake of life, but living for the sake of art.

 

Monet as a soldier in Algeria

In 1861, Monet was drafted into the army. He was forced to join the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry and left Paris for Algeria, which was later under French control. Monet's father offered to pay his son's severance if he promised to give up painting, but Monet refused. After seven years of service, Monet contracted typhoid fever. His aunt paid for his discharge and enrolled him in an art school in Paris. This military life had an impact on Monet's paintings. Compared with France, Africa is more generous with the sunlight, making Monet understand the beauty of light and the wildness and elegance of the contradiction in nature. Here Monet learned how to capture sunlight, which laid the groundwork for Monet's later works.

 

Monet's indirect invention of Impressionism

In 1865, Monet took part in the Paris Salon. The annual Salon exhibition in Paris was a carnival for the entire French and even the world's painting circles. People enjoyed the catharsis of the most romantic and unrestrained painters. It was a smooth salon for Monet. Among the several works submitted by Monet, two were passed by the jury and numbered 1. Monet made a big splash in this salon, while another artist, Manet, was criticized for various reasons. There were also critical comparisons between the two, which upset Manet, but this did not prevent the two from becoming close friends a few years later. The exhibition included groundbreaking artworks featuring bright, vivid colors and loose, seemingly spontaneous brushstrokes. In 1872, Monet spent less than 30 minutes in the port of Le Havre to create Impression, Sunrise, which is an oil painting depicting a sunrise over the port in the morning fog. In April 1874, under the initiative and campaign of Monet and Degas, the "independent" painters held their first exhibition of their own. Centered on Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, and Degas, 165 works by 30 painters, including Boudin and Cézanne, participated in the exhibition. Impression, Sunrise was also exhibited for the first time. One critic compared Impression, Sunrise, to an unfinished sketch (or "impression"), and the term "Impressionist" has been used ever since. Since then, the term "Impressionist" has been used to describe artists who show these radically different new paintings.

 

Monet's suffering from cataracts

Diagnosed with cataracts in 1912, Monet later described his inability to see the full spectrum: "I find the reds muddy, the pinks flatter, and I cannot distinguish the middle or lower tones." When he was identified as blind in 1922, he continued to paint by memorizing the positions of the different colored pigments on the palette. Unwilling to stop painting, he again had to come to terms with his eye ailments until 1923, when Monet began undergoing surgery for cataracts. Critics derided his blurred paintings, attributing his impressionistic style to his failing eyesight rather than his artistic talent. After two cataract surgeries, the recovery was not satisfactory, and on the advice of his doctor, Monet wore tinted glasses to correct his distorted color vision.

 

Later years

The most important subjects of Monet's late-period works are water lilies. Because of eye disease, painting became difficult for Monet. In 1890, at the age of 50, Monet bought land in the small town of Vigny-sur-Seine, where he built his dream garden. It is said that the land was not very good, and there was a swamp, so Monet dug the water lily pond and made it all the way he wanted it to be. Monet was also particularly fond of Japanese bridges, so he built a Japanese bridge over the water lily pond- a bridge we often see in his later paintings. Monet died of lung cancer in 1926.


Quotes

“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.”

“The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration.”

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love.”

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