Tuesday, April 19, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Monet

In 1872, Claude Monet painted a landscape of Le Havre port called Impression, Sunrise.  One art critic Louis Leroy reviewed it, and poking fun at the title, called the manner of painting "impressionism."  Much like John Wesley did with "methodism," Monet and a small group of other painters took the light insult and appropriated it for themselves.  From that point on, they were known as the impressionists.
Monet was born in 1840 in Paris, and entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts when he was only 10 years old.  But he would still manage to sell some of his charcoal drawings for a small price.  When he was a teenager, Monet met Eugene Boudin, who undertook Monet as a student and taught him en plein aire oil painting.  Later on, Monet tried his hand at art school, but much like we saw with Pissarro, the traditional academic style taught in these schools simply did not work for him.  So Monet went on to become a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris.  There, Monet came into contact with other painters like Renoir and Sisley, and they each shared a certain enthusiasm for plein air painting, and the quick approach of alla prima (completing a painting in one sitting).  Of course, this manner would later on be known as Impressionism.  Monet's Impression, Sunrise in 1872 would go on to hang in the very first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
Monet married his wife Camille in 1870, and with her had two sons.  But Camille had fallen ill around the time they conceived of their second son Michel, and she died in 1879.  From this, Monet painted his most heart-wrenching painting of Camille Monet on Her Deathbed.  It was painted in very limited and muted color, and clearly shows the pain and lack of energy and motivation of Monet's hand with every brush stroke.
In the early 1880s, Monet moved his two sons to Paris from their previous home in Vetheuil, and later on in around 1883, Monet made his home near Giverny where he had his large garden that became the subject and setting for many of his greatest paintings such as his Water Lilies.  At this point, Monet also traveled around the Mediterranean to places in Italy, and further north in London, and painted several plein air scenes from his travels such as his Houses of Parliament and The Grand Canal in Venice.
Monet developed cataracts in his eyes around the 1920s, and had operations to remove them in 1923, which had a considerable effect on how he saw color.  Before his operation, many of his paintings had a warm reddish tone, and afterwards his paintings became much more blue in tone.  Monet died from lung cancer in 1926 and was buried in his last home town of Giverny.  Monet's home and garden in Giverny still exist today and are open to the public.

Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise
oil on canvas
48 x 63 cm.

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