Oscar Claude Monet
14 November 1840; Paris, France
05 December 1926; Giverny, France
Claude Monet was in almost every sense the founder of French Impressionist painting, the term itself coming from one of his paintings, Impression, Sunrise. As a child, his father wanted him to go into the grocery business, but his heart was in the profession of artistry, and at age 11, he entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts. During his stay at the secondary school, he was known for the caricatures he would draw for the locals for ten to twenty francs each. Five years later, he met artist Eugene Bouldin, who taught him the techniques of “en plein air” painting and became his mentor. At the age of 16, Monet left school for Paris, where instead of studying the great artworks of the masters, he sat by the window and painted what he saw outside.
When he was twenty-one years old, he joined the First Regiment of African Light Calvary in Algeria, for a seven year tour. But his stay was cut short after two years when he was hit by a bout of typhoid fever, and his aunt arranged for his release, as long as he continued his art studies. Upon his return to Paris, he studied the “en plein air” methods, along with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley, and developed the painting style that would soon be known as Impressionism. Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Monet fled to England, also traveling to the Netherlands before his return to Paris, after which he exhibited many of his works in 1874, at the first Impressionist Exhibition.
Upon the death of his wife Camille to tuberculosis after the birth of their second child, Monet was resolved never to life in poverty again, and was determined to create some of the best artworks of the 19th century. By 1890, he was prosperous to buy a large house and garden, where he would continue to paint for the rest of his life.
As a painter of controlled nature, Monet’s garden was one of his biggest sources of inspiration. As such, he wrote precise instructions for his gardeners, with specific designs and color layouts, and amassed a large collection of botanical books. At one time, he employed seven gardeners at once. After his death of lung cancer, his only surviving child, Michel, was heir to the Monet family property, which has since been restored and opened to the public, including the vast gardens.