Monet, Claude

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Claude Monet, a French landscape painter, was one of the founders of the style of art known as impressionism. He was born in Paris on November 14, 1840, but spent his childhood in Le Havre. When Monet was 15, he held an exhibit that interested the painter Eugène Boudin. Boudin persuaded him to take his materials outdoors to paint. Monet continued this practice throughout his life.

In 1860, after studying in Paris for a year, Monet joined the army and went to Algeria. He returned to Paris two years later. There he married and had two sons. In the Paris studio of Charles Gleyre, Monet met many other promising young artists, with whom he exhibited in 1874. The critics did not like their works and made fun of these "impressionists." The term was taken from the title of Monet's landscape Impression: Sunrise.

Impressionism began at the time (the early 1870's) and in the setting of Monet's painting Boats at Argenteuil. Argenteuil is a suburb of Paris, on the Seine River. There the artists Monet, Manet, and Renoir painted together and learned from one another. By watching Monet, Manet became convinced for the first time that it was indeed possible to paint outdoors. Monet and Renoir painted so much alike that it was sometimes difficult for them to tell who had painted certain views.

Monet and the other impressionists placed unmixed colors side by side on their canvases to show how light splits into the colors of the prism—ike a rainbow. To show how light could completely change the appearance of an object, Monet painted the same scene at different times of the day and year. For example, he painted the Rouen Cathedral 20 times, in conditions varying from a misty summer dawn to a brilliant winter sunset.

Monet's first wife died in 1879, and he later married a woman with several children of her own. In 1883 the couple moved to Giverny, where the artist created the gardens that inspired his paintings of water lilies.

Monet did not become famous or earn much money until he was over 50 years old. Then his paintings began to sell for higher prices. In 1916 the French government bought eight of Monet's paintings of water lilies. Although his eyesight began to fail, Monet painted until his death in Giverny on December 5, 1926.

Frank Getlein
Author, The French Impressionists

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