Claude Oscar Monet(1840 - 1926)
Claude Monet, the eldest son of a Parisian grocer, was born on the 14th November, 1840. Aged 5, he and his family moved to the port town of Saint-Adresse, near Le Havre. His life as a painter began when he was befriended by Eugène Boudin, who introduced him to the uncommon
practice of painting in the open air (or 'en plein air', as it is called). This brought about his ability and talent to paint in the outdoors.
To his family's dismay, he refused to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts. Instead, he signed up at the Académie Suisse, where he met and befriended Camille Pissarro and Édouard Manet. This informal training was interrupted by a call to military service, which he began in Algeria, where he was excited by the African light and color. In 1862 he returned to Sainte-Adresse and later that year he continued to study in Paris, this time with the academician Charles Gleyre and met Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, all also students of Gleyre.
The period from 1867 to 1870 was colored by extreme financial hardship. The birth of his illegitimate son Jean in 1867, to his mistress Camille Doncieux (whom he eventually married and who died in September 1879), occurred under such dire financial circumstances that, during a particularly brutal siege of poverty and hunger in 1868, Monet attempted suicide. At this time, the friendship of comrades like Bazille and Renoir (who actually stole bread for the Monet family) were his sole consolation. The gulf between his most labored paintings and official acceptance seemed unbridgeable.
In September of 1870, following France's declaration of war against Prussia, Monet took refuge with his friend Pissarro in London. It is during this time that he paints his views of Hyde park, the Pool of London and the Thames at Westminster. While in England, Pissarro and Monet visited the museums. By 1871, Monet had settled in Argenteuil so he could paint along the banks of the Seine River. Once there, he fixed up a boat with an easel and painted his way up and down the Seine, searching for the means to capture his impressions of the interplay of light, water and atmosphere.
In 1883 Monet moved to Giverny. Caillebotte had communicated his love of gardening to Monet, and here Monet translated that enthusiasm into a remarkable garden. Painting the lilies in the pond of his garden hundreds of times between 1900 and 1926, they are the culmination of a lifetime in which the out-of-doors had become his studio. In 1916 he began the 'cyclorama' Nympheas, which he intended to donate to the French Nation. Despite failing eyesight, Monet continued to visit and work on the panels until his death at Giverny in 1926.
After being introduced to painting in the outdoors by Boudin, Monet mastered the techniques of registering the colors and shadows of the outdoors. He painted his famous masterpiece Le Grenouillère with his good friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir on the terrace of the Parisian restaurant by the same name. He loved to paint everything from the busy streets of Paris as is seen in his other famous works including Le Havre (a distant view of the busy harbor of the Seine), Gare St-Lazare (a glance at the hustle-bustle of the famous railway station at Paris). He also loved paintings with rural themes, depicting only nature as in Beach at Ste Addresse.
Monet would often paint series of paintings of the same subject under different natural conditions, time of day, seasons. He would settle down near the subject sometimes for years and sit and paint from every angle possible. His first series is that of a haystack for which he bought a plot at Giverny where he stayed for two years, starting from 1890, painting these haystacks. In 1892, he started a series of the Cathedral at Rouen. He painted 18 different paintings of the same facade using all possible colors and showing all natural effects possible. In 1899, the water-lily paintings supplied the motif for Monet's last work, a series of large decorative panels.