Claude Monet (1840-1926) is considered to be one of the forefathers of French Impressionistic painting. He often painted outside in nature, attempting to capture his perception of his environment. From an early age Monet showed promise as an artist. After his mother died when he was 16 he went off to art school. He was able to get out of his seven year army commitment in Algeria after only two years thanks to his aunt’s intervention and his agreement to complete an art course at a university.
In 1870, after a failed suicide attempt, the outbreak Franco-Prussian War and his new marriage to Camille Doncieux, Monet moved to England. He was immediately impressed with the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, who stimulated him by their use of color in their landscapes. In 1871 he moved close to the Seine again, the place of his attempted suicide, and lived in Argenteuil until 1878. Many of his most important Impressionist works were painted during this time. His wife, Camille, died in 1879 and Monet painted her on her deathbed.
Monet temporarily moved into the home of Ernest Hoschedé, a wealthy patron of the arts and after Mr. Hoschedé died, Monet married his wife. In May 1883 the large family, including Monet’s children and the former-Ms. Hoschedé’s children, moved to Giverny. His dealer, Paul Durard-Ruel, began to sell Monet’s paintings with great success and Monet bought the estate he was renting and expanded by building a second studio with skylights and a well-manicured landscape. At this time Monet began his “series” paintings in which he took natural objects found in their environment and explored the subtle textures of color from varying light and weather conditions. The very elements of nature framed the painting and novel use of color.
Monet was able to landscape his property and had staff to arrange the layout of flora and flowers so that he could paint them in plein-air. In the early part of the 1910s, Monet developed cataracts and was forced to undergo two surgeries in 1923. His paintings took on a general reddish tone and it is theorized that his color perception changed drastically as a result of the operations. Monet died of lung cancer in 1926.
Monet’s work has been appreciated worldwide. He has commanded impressive sums at auction and his works hang in many international museums.