10 Key Facts About Claude Monet And His Art

Oscar-Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926) was a French painter who is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. Monet’s name is closely associated with the art movement Impressionism, whose artists aimed to render on canvas their perception of a scene rather than the exact details. Monet initially struggled as an artist as the art world rejected his radical style. With rising debts, he was brought to the point that he attempted suicide. However, with time, he was hailed as a great painter and the “Father Of Impressionism”. Today his paintings are on display in museums across the world and, among other things, he is credited for bridging the gap between Impressionism and abstract art. Know more about the life and art of Monet through these 10 interesting facts.

#1 Monet Attempted Suicide

Claude Monet met Camille Doncieux in 1865. She modeled for many of his paintings and, soon, she became his lover. In 1867, Camille gave birth to Jean, her first son with Monet. This was a difficult time for Monet as he was struggling as an artist and now he had to raise a family. His main source of income at the time was wealthy aunt’s support. However, once his child was born, his father made him choose between his family’s wealth and Camille and their child. Monet choose Camille. However, as debts kept rising and with his art career not taking off, he plunged into depression. Such was his situation that his new family was evicted from their home. It was at such a time, in 1868, that Monet tried to take his own life by jumping into the Seine River. Luckily for him and the art world, his attempt failed as his swimming skills saved him. He mentioned this incident to his friend and fellow artist Frederic Bazille in a letter dated June 29, 1868.

Main Source:-
(Aug 2, 2012). “The Hidden History Of Claude Monet’s ‘L’Enfant A La Tasse, Portrait De Jean Monet'”. HuffPost Entertainment. BuzzFeed, Inc.

Portrait of Camille Monet and her son Jean
Portrait of Camille Monet and her son Jean – Pierre Auguste Renoir

#2 He Painted His Wife Camille On Her Deathbed

Claude Monet married Camille Doncieux in June 1870. Camille was his favorite model and she features in numerous paintings by Monet. In 1877, a year before the birth of their second son Michel, Camille fell seriously ill. The cause of her illness is not known with certainty. It is speculated that she had cervical cancer or tuberculosis or her health deteriorated because of a botched abortion. In August 1879, Camille was close to death. On 31 August, a priest consecrated her marriage to Monet because they had had only had a civil union. Monet painted Camille while she was about to die, in one of the most powerful paintings of his favorite model. The painting was untitled and remained in his possession for most of his life. Now known as Camille on Her Deathbed, it is on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Camille Monet died on September 5, 1879.

Main Sources:-
Sharrock, David. (Mar 6, 2011). “The jealous love rival who tried to erase all trace of Monet’s muse”. Guardian News & Media Limited.
“Camille Monet on her Deathbed”. MonetPaintings.org.

Camille on her Deathbed
Camille on her Deathbed by Claude Monet

#3 His Second Wife Destroyed The Photographic Record Of His First Wife

Ernest Hoschede was a wealthy department store magnate in Paris. He was also a patron of the early Impressionists including Monet. The two formed a friendship which also brought Monet close to his wife Alice. Ernest became bankrupt in 1877 and the following year Monet invited their family, which included six children, to move in with his family in Vétheuil. Alice and Monet started an affair around this time. Monet’s wife died in 1879 and Alice assumed the role of the maternal leader of the joined household. A few years later, she left her husband permanently for Monet. After the death of Ernest Hoschede in 1891, Monet married Alice Hoschede in 1892. Alice was extremely jealous of Monet’s first wife Camille. She destroyed all photos of Camille she could find and thus only one photo of Monet’s first wife survives as Alice didn’t know about it.

Main Sources:-
Sharrock, David. (Mar 6, 2011). “The jealous love rival who tried to erase all trace of Monet’s muse”. Guardian News & Media Limited.
“Modern Art Evening Sale / Lot 29”. Sotheby’s.

#4 Claude Monet Is Regarded as the “Father Of Impressionism”

Impressionism is regarded as one of the most important movements in art history. The Impressionists seek to render on canvas the “impression” or feeling initiated by a scene rather than depicting its accurate details. To do so, they often use short, thick brushstrokes. Accurate depiction of light and bright colors are other important characteristics of Impressionist art. In 1869, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir began sketching beside the water at La Grenouillère, a boating and bathing resort on the Seine River, outside Paris. This was a watershed moment in art history as the two developed several of the theories, techniques and practices that would give rise to Impressionism. These include the above mentioned characteristics and also painting en plein air, or outdoors. Apart from being one of the pioneers of the movement, Monet continued to paint in the Impressionist style for the rest of his life, unlike most others in the group. For his immense contribution to the movement, Monet is widely regarded as the “Father Of Impressionism”.

Main Sources:-
Yurasits, Jamie. “Analysis Of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise.” Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship. Longwood University.
(Sep 21, 2020). “10 things to know about Pierre-Auguste Renoir”. Christie’s.

Bain a la Grenouillere (1869) - Claude Monet
Bain a la Grenouillere (1869) – Claude Monet

#5 Impressionism Is Named After A Painting Of Monet

In the 19th century, the state sponsored Salon was the best way for an artist to be recognized in France. However, once Monet and Renoir started experimenting with new techniques, their paintings were repeatedly rejected by the Salon. In 1874, Monet and other like-minded artists decided to organize an independent exhibition alongside the Salon. The rebelling artists chose the former studio of photographer Nadar to display some 200 works of art. Most of the critics lambasted their works. Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise was at the heart of one critic’s ridicule as he wrote: “Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it — and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.” The rebels took the criticism in their stride and named their movement Impressionism on Monet’s painting.

Main Sources:-
(August 21, 2018). “Claude Monet, Impact on Impressionism”. Telfair Museums.
Yurasits, Jamie. “Analysis Of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise.” Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship. Longwood University.

Impression, Sunrise (1872)
Impression, Sunrise (1872)

#6 He Followed A Meticulous Method To Create His Landscapes

Monet is most famous for his outdoor paintings and he used a specific process to transform an outdoor scene into a finished masterpiece. The first step, croquis, defined the outline of his idea on paper or canvas. The next stage, esquisse, was a quick trial work focused on the painting’s composition. Ebauche was the third step in which he created the first real painting which ultimately evolved into the finished masterpiece. In the next stage, pochades, he created draft works which were more detailed than esquisse. Etude was the fifth step in which he created the work painting entirely outdoors. This step was vital to the work as he captured in it the natural effects and the emotions radiated by an outdoor scene. The last stage of the painting was tableau in which he reworked the canvases to their finished states in the studio. Even after finishing a piece Monet found the potential of growth in his work. He, in fact, stated: “Anyone who says he has finished a canvas is terribly arrogant”.

Main Source:-
Yurasits, Jamie. “Analysis Of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise.” Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship. Longwood University.

#7 His Late Paintings Moved Toward Abstraction

The most renowned work of Claude Monet is his Water Lilies series. He worked on the series, on and off, for the last thirty years of his life even as his eyesight deteriorated due to cataract. In the last phase of this series, Monet dispensed with normal markers. The edge of the water or the sky or the distant trees have all disappeared from his canvas. Thus, by getting rid of contours and boundaries, Monet moved toward pure abstraction. For around 20 years after the death of Monet in 1926, the Water Lilies series was largely ignored. However, in 1950s, critics found a link between the nearly abstract works of Monet’s late career and Abstract Expressionism, the dominant movement in America at the time. Monet is thus hailed for paving the way for the abstract art that dominated the 20th century. The Water Lilies series of Monet is now regarded as his greatest work and has been called “the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism”.

Main Sources:-
Solomon, Deborah. (Dec 2, 2016). “The Story of Claude Monet’s Water-Lily Masterworks”. The New York Times Company.
Puchko, Kristy. (Jan 13, 2017). “15 Facts About Monet’s Water Lilies”. Mental Floss. Minute Media.

Water Lilies Pond, Evening Panel (1926)
Water Lilies Pond, Evening Panel (1926) – Claude Monet

#8 He Was Close Friends With Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau

Claude Monet met Georges Clemenceau in the 1860s when Clemenceau was completing his medical studies in Paris. While Monet concentrated on his artistic career, Clemenceau joined politics. Monet named one of his painting Le Bloc in homage to Clemenceau’s January 1891 speech in defense of the Revolution. The two friends were on the same side when France was divided during the Dreyfus Affair. Monet, though he disliked getting involved in politics, remained firmly in favor of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer had been unfairly court-martialed. In 1906, Georges Clemenceau became Prime Minister of France. After the Dreyfus Affair, Clemenceau frequently visited Monet at his house in Giverny as the artist worked on his Water Lilies series. Visits between Clemenceau and Monet continued through the war years. In 1922, Clemenceau convinced Monet to deliver 19 (eventually 22) large panels of Water Lilies by April 1924, to be installed in the Orangerie. It was a difficult task for Monet with his failing eyesight and Clemenceau even threatened to break their friendship if Monet went back on his word. The paintings were installed in the Orangerie after Monet’s death in 1926.

Main Source:-
Munholland, John Kim. (Oct 2015). “Intersections of Art and Politics: Clemenceau, Monet and Republican Patriotism from Commune to Nymphéas”.

Georges Clemenceau and Claude Monet
Georges Clemenceau (left) and Claude Monet

#9 He May Have Seen The UV Spectrum After His Cataract Operation

In the 1910s, the late stage of his career, Monet developed cataracts and started to become blind. By 1912, his vision had dropped to 20/50; by 1918, to 20/100; and by 1922, to estimated 20/200, which would make him legally blind. With no choice left, Monet underwent surgery in January 1923 for one eye, with the other being a backup as cataract operations left many patients completely blind during the time. After he recovered, it is thought that he may have developed the ability to see ultraviolet (UV) light, which is beyond human perception. Humans can’t see UV light not because we can’t perceive it but because our lenses filter it out. However, Monet’s lens was removed during the cataract operation and thus he may have been able to see the mysterious bee purple, which only some insects can see. Monet’s is renowned for capturing color precisely and his paintings in his last few years have become significant for vision scientists and eye doctors.

Main Source:-
Kean, Sam. (Jan 11, 2022). “Could Claude Monet See Like a Bee?”. The Science History Institute.

Monet's lilies in UV light
Monet’s lilies in UV light

#10 His Haystack Painting Is The Most Expensive Impressionist Art To Be Sold At Auction

On May 15, 2019, a painting from the Haystacks series of Monet was sold for $110.7M at auction. This made it the most expensive Monet painting to be sold at auction. The previous record for a Monet painting was $84.7M, which was achieved in May 2018 by a painting from the Water Lilies series. The Haystacks series painting also became the first work of Impressionist art to cross the $100-million threshold at auction. It had been bought for just $2.53M by the previous owner. It is to be noted that the best known works of Monet are at art museums and never auctioned. The Haystacks series is one of the most acclaimed works of Impressionism. It refers primarily to 25 canvases which Monet began painting in late September or early October 1890 and continued for around seven months. The series captures the mundane subject to show differences in perception of light across various times of day, seasons and types of weather. 17 paintings of the series are in museums while the other 8 belong to private collectors.

Main Sources:-
(May 15, 2019). “Claude Monet painting sells for record $110.7M at auction”. Deutsche Welle.
“Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun)”. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

30 thoughts on “10 Key Facts About Claude Monet And His Art”

  1. I’m pretty sure this was the dumbest conversation I’ve read in a long time. . . but it was entertaining. And ya’ll know Zac Efron? He’s my cuz. Literally.

  2. thx I like the bit about me being good at painting, I also like the bit about dying of lung cancer. You should become a fictional author


Leave a Comment