|DEBUSSY - Arabesques N°1 (1891)|
The HEIR to BOUDIN and JONGKIND
Whereas he was still at college, he gained a certain notoriety while drawing caricatures which he showed in a store of drawing supplies with which Eugene Boudin worked at the time. Finally Boudin convinced the young Monet, at first very reticent, to paint with him in the open air. Monet will say later: "by the only example of this artist fond of his art and of his independence, my destiny as a painter had opened".
His family was not opposed that he became a painter, but his independent ideas, his criticism of academic painting and his refusal to follow a good Art School repeatedly caused arguments within his family. Finally, Monet started to paint in Paris at the Charles Suisse Academy where he will meet Pissarro in 1859, and Cézanne in 1861, before having to carry out his military obligations.
His military service in Algeria (1860-1861) was stopped by a typhoid which brought him back to France, where he started again to work in the summer of 1862 in Le Havre with Boudin and the Dutch landscape-painter Jongkind. He will say speaking of Jongkind : "...by there completing the teaching which I had received from Boudin, he was from this moment my true Master, and it is to him that I owe the final education of my eye".
The SALON and the BIRTH OF THE IMPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT
The history of Impressionism cannot be dissociated of that of the Official Salon.
The social, economic and cultural evolution of XIXth century will have as a consequence that, from now on, art works would be created mainly by independent artists (rather than by painters at the service of some prince or corporation).
For these artists, finding possibilities of exhibition was an existential concern. Although art dealers and their galleries were going to take an increasing importance, in France, the most important and impossible to circumvent possibility of exhibition was the Official "Salon of Paris".
During all this period, these young painters consolidated the links existing between them and developed new relationships, seeking for new inspirations and pictorial means. Except for those who had a comfortable financial situation (Degas, Caillebotte, Bazille), they will face periods of bitter poverty, and especially Monet - whom Bazille helped financially - when he had to assume alone his household. They painted in the open air, in the surroundings of Paris or on the Norman Coast, where the experiment of the optical phenomena of light and color which passioned them was more intense
An important crossroads of the evolution of Monet was when he painted in 1869 with Renoir a series of paintings in a place of leisures and meeting in Bougival called "the Grenouillère", very appreciated by the Parisian middle-class, with bathing, canoeing and a floating restaurant. The paintings which they made while working with fast and vigorous brushstrokes loaded with pure color, corresponding to the turbulent animation of the small world which pressed there, mark the emergence of a new artistic style dominated by the impression , rather than details, inaugurating what was going five years later to be called "Impressionism".
JOIE DE VIVRE IN SPITE OF POVERTY
At the origin, the group of the Impressionists is this small group of young painters, all aged from thirty to forty years, sharing a new conception of nature and art. The act of painting and the work of art which results from it are asserted as a pleasure, that of the painter and of his personal creation.
In this new conception of art for art, the truth of a painting is relative because it depends on the subject who paints it and the spectator who looks at it, and also it is relevant only at one time and under given conditions, which stresses the importance of a fast execution, close to a draft.
The intense research of the Impressionists on light and color effects made them discover new pictorial processes where the juxtaposition on the canvas of brushstrokes of pure color will result in a "optical mixture" only in the eye of the spectator.
Working directly from nature, Monet and the other Impressionists discovered that even the darkest shadows and the gloomiest days contain an infinite variety of colors. The consequence of this can be seen in the chromatic vibrancy of Monet's canvases.
Although Impressionism is essentially an illusionistic style, the illusion comes from what the artist sees rather than, as it was the case before, from what he intellectually knows. Monet eyes perceive nature as a pattern of nameless color patches without any prevailing conceptual knowledge.
The years which followed saw a rise of the Impressionist current. Monet took part in the exhibitions of the group of 1874, 1876, 1877, 1879 and 1882.
As William Seitz wrote in 1960, "The landscapes Monet painted at Argenteuil between 1872 and 1877 are his best-known, most popular works, and it was during these years that Impressionism most closely approached a group style. Here, often working beside Renoir, Sisley, Caillebotte, or Manet, he painted the sparkling impressions of French river life that so delight us today."
Monet lost his wife, Camille, in 1879 ( "Camille Monet on its bed of death", 1879 ).
By the end of 1880, his works started to draw the attention of public and critics. Fame brought him comfort and even richness. Monet then lives in Giverny since 1883 with his two sons, Alice Hoschedé and her six children. Alice was the woman of the owner of a department store and collector of Impressionist paintings, Ernest Hoschedé, who went bankrupt in 1878.
Monet could buy in 1890 the property of Giverny, which he was hiring, and will marry Alice (deceased in 1911) in 1892, after the death of her husband.
At that time, the painter was absorbed to paint landscapes in series : "Rocks of Belle-Ile" (1886), "Cliffs of Belle-Ile" (1886), "Poplars on banks of Epte" (1890-1891).
LAST WORKS AT GIVERNY
Monet was to live from 1883 until its death in 1926, that is to say more than forty years, in his property in Giverny, of which he will gradually transform the garden in a decorative set.
Monet removes bad grasses and hedges, then digs, sows grass, plants decorative trees and creates series of various flower beds. He also produces a kitchen garden to nourish his family. In the evening, the children often weed and water.
Monet leaves a considerable work as much in quantity (more than 2000 indexed works), as by his impressionist research, expression of which he is the most typical representative. The father of Impressionism will write on this subject little time before his death:
Monet's estate at Giverny is now opened for public visits. It is maintained by the "Claude Monet Foundation"