Claude Monet Essay
Claude Monet (1840-1926) was one of the Impressionist painters. Impressionist artists are those who, instead of following the rules of conventional and traditional realism style of painting, where brushstrokes were distinct and precise and with straightforward subjects, they chose instead to paint based on their “immediate impressions”. Impressionist painting emphasize on light and the momentary appearance of objects in that light. In impressionism therefore, exact representation of the object or scene no longer becomes a priority but the subjective impression of the artists becomes the tool of portrayal. In their time, the way of painting of the Impressionists upsets the critics because they thought the pictures looked slapdash and unfinished (Shafa 2005; Dudley 188).
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Claude Monet is a French artist who was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris. Five years later, his family transferred to Le Havre where he earned the reputation of being a good caricature child artist. By 1856, at sixteen years of age, Monet met Eugene Boudin who influenced him in his painting techniques, particularly in encouraging him to make better paintings by painting outdoors instead inside a studio. And to further enhance his drawing skills Monet studied in ‘Académie Suisse’ in Paris where it was believed that he met the impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. In 1862, Monet joined a group of impressionist painters in Charles’s Gleyre’s studio in Paris where the famous Manet ( who was never a self-confessed impressionist artist but who nevertheless, influenced the impressionists ) also led in the discussions (Shafa 2005).
Monet like Edouard Manet was considered an early impressionist painter. Like Manet, he looked carefully at things out-of-doors, but unlike Manet who did the actual paintings in his studio, Monet chose to paint outdoors. He thought that artists should never paint in a studio, but should paint everything directly from nature. In fact , he used to paint from a little boat. It was fitted out as a studio so that he could explore the effects of river scenery (Dudley 190).
Monet was very deeply interested in the effects of light. He would paint the same scene again and again at different times of the day, to catch the different color each time the light changed. For instance, he painted 20 pictures of the Cathedral of Rouen, each in a different light. In these pictures, the cathedral itself hardly matters. Monet has not bothered with all the thousands of details of the great Gothic building. He was interested mostly in capturing the effect of the light and color surrounding the object rather than the object itself. Each picture shows the cathedral in a different kind of light-in one, it is the cool pearly –grey light of early morning, and in another, the rich purplish glow of sunset. In all of them, Monet has used masses of tiny, broken patches of color which turn the pictures into a pattern of restless, shimmering light (Dudley 191).
Monet shocked the people not only by the way he painted but also by the subjects he chose. He painted a picture of the Gare St. Lazare, a big railway station in Paris. He was attracted by the effect of light streaming through the glass roof on to the steam and the engines below. But people thought that a railway station was a most unsuitable subject for a picture, and that Monet was insulting them by expecting them to take it seriously (Dudley 191).
During the 1870’s, the Impressionists worked out their ideas together. They met every night in a certain café in Paris, and talked about the new kind of painting. In 1874, Monet painted a picture of a harbor seen through the morning mists. It was called Impression-Sunrise. One critic thought this title was ridiculous. From then on, the whole group of artists became known as the Impressionists. The painting entitled Impression-Sunrise was Monet’s entry to the first exhibition of the independent Salon Des Refuses (Salon of the Refuse). In 1874, the Impressionist organized the Salon Des Refuses (Salon of the Refuse) after their works were rejected by the prestigious Salon de Paris, which was the means by which artists display and sell their works. Other traditional realist artists ridiculed them and called them a bunch of lunatics (Shafa 2005).
Three of the Impressionist artists who worked closely with Monet are Alfred Sisley (1839-99), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). His famous paintings includes “A field of Poppies” where he used splashes of color rather than well-defined shapes to produce a natural effect and Water lilies painted on oil on canvass between 1904 and 1906. At the age of 83 years old, Monet was operated for his cataract which took almost all of his eyesight. Yet on December 5, 1926, he died and was buried in Giverny where he had lived for 43 years. Monet had two sons, Jean and Michel. Monet donated twelve canvasses of his Water lilies to France in 1918 (Shafa 2005; Dudley 191).
The art of the Impressionists is very important because they brought about a new way of looking things. But very few people in their own time understood what they were doing. Some of these painters such as Monet who had gone through hard times as a young artist lived long enough to become rich and famous.
Dudley, Louise and Austin Faricy. The Humanities. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973.
Shafa, Anahita. “Claude Monet”. History of the Impressionist Movement. Northern Virginia Community College. 2005. Accessed April 5, 2008