Oscar-Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926) was a French artist who is most famous as a founder and a leading artist of the art movement Impressionism. Monet began his artistic career as a caricaturist. In fact, he used to sell his caricatures to support himself initially. Moreover, his portrait The Woman in the Green Dress was a resounding success at the Paris Salon of 1866. However, with time, he discovered his love for nature and became primarily an Impressionist landscape painter. The portraits in our list include his works both in the Realist style initially and in the Impressionist style later on. Here are 7 best portraits by Claude Monet including Woman with a Parasol, Self Portrait with a Beret and La Japonaise.
#1 The Woman in the Green Dress
|Location:||Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany|
Also known as Camille, this portrait depicts 19 year old Camille Doncieux, lover and future wife of Claude Monet. The work is said to have been created in four days so Monet could submit it to the Paris Salon of 1866. It was well received at the Salon and brought some attention to Monet, who was mostly unknown at the time. Moreover, it fetched him 800 francs, a great amount for a struggling artist. Woman in the Green Dress is painted in the Realist style and not Impressionist. Among other things, Monet has captured the details of the fashionable green dress worn by Camille.
#2 Portrait of Poly
|Location:||Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris|
In 1866, Monet was working at Belle Isle, a French island off the coast of Brittany. While he was here, the fisherman Guillaume Poly frequently visited the inn where he was staying. It was during this time that Monet painted this portrait. Monet started his artistic career as a caricaturist and it seems that the striking features of Guillaume Poly must have attracted Monet. The technique and style of Monet had a considerable influence on many future artists. Among these was the great Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh’s famous Portrait of Dr. Gachet might be partly inspired from Portrait of Poly.
#3 Woman Seated on a Bench
|Location:||The National Gallery, London|
This beautiful portrait was first thought to be that of Camille Monet, Monet’s wife. However, her daughter Blanche Hoschedé Monet and later her son Michel Monet confirmed that it was not a portrait of their mother. According to her daughter, the picture was instead of a professional model that posed for her stepfather and also for Degas and other artists. The portrait was probably painted in the summer of 1874 when Monet was at Argenteuil. At the time, he was painting along with Edouard Manet. Manet’s influence on the work may be seen in the very free handling of the paint. The portrait is also referred to as ‘In the Park’, ‘Woman in a Park’ and ‘Resting’.
#4 Woman with a Parasol
|Location:||National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC|
Painted in the Impressionist style, Woman with a Parasol is not a formal portrait but more a genre painting, which depicts everyday life activities. It may also be seen as a hybrid of portraiture and landscape art. Its full name is Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son. As the name suggests, it depicts Monet’s first wife Camille and their eldest son Jean Monet. Camille is holding a parasol or a light umbrella. It seems that she and her son are interrupted in their stroll while Monet captures the moment. The painting appeared in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876 and was well received. It has since been one of the most famous paintings of Monet.
#5 La Japonaise
|Location:||Museum of Fine Arts, Boston|
There was widespread enthusiasm for Japanese culture in Europe at the time this portrait was created. Monet appreciated Japanese art and was a prolific collector of Japanese prints. La Japonaise (“the Japanese woman”) is still an unusual painting in Monet’s repertoire and he might have painted it for various reasons including making some money by cashing in on the Japanese fad, attracting a new patron or to compete with Manet’s “The Lady with the Fans”. La Japonaise depicts Monet’s first wife, Camille, in Japanese costume. It was widely discussed once it was displayed at the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876 with some praising its ingenuity while others ridiculing its strangeness.
#6 Portrait of Pere Paul
|Location:||Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria|
In 1882, Monet stayed for two months at a hotel-restaurant in Pourville, a small fishing village in Normandy. During his time there, he created this portrait of Paul Antoine Graff, the owner and chef of the hotel-restaurant. Paul Antoine Graff is wearing his chef hat and a jacket in the portrait. Also known as Monsieur Paul or The Chef, the portrait has been executed in the Impressionist style. Monet favored this mode of portraiture in the 1880s, in which the execution was fast and the sitter’s head was closely cropped. He called it “jack in the box” type portrait. After completing the work, Monet gifted it to its model as a gesture of friendship.
#7 Self Portrait with a Beret
Self Portrait with a Beret was painted by Monet at the age of 46 while he was living in Giverny, France. He depicts himself wearing a black beret (cap) and a gray coat. The work has been painted in the Impressionist style, where the perception of the scene is more important than accurate details. The short fast brushstrokes and the accurate depiction of light further point to the Impressionist style used in the portrait. Self Portrait with a Beret is perhaps the best known self-portrait of Monet.