Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899

Happy Birthday Claude Monet!

You love Claude Monet even if you don’t know who he was.

Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 — December 5, 1926) was a founder of Impressionism — an art movement that was a reaction against the strict formalism that dominated the art world at the time.

By striving to capture light and movement in the natural world rather than tell a story through allegorical figures or realistically depict objects or scenes, Impressionism changed everything.

The art critics of the time didn’t think much of Monet and his colleagues. Even the name, Impressionism, was satirical. But it stuck. And so the style of painting that suggested a mood and atmosphere as much as it depicted people or landscapes became a dominant style.

Claude Monet, 1899.

Claude Monet was born in Paris. When he was still a child, the family moved from the city to the French region of Normandy on the Atlantic, where he spent his time near the ocean and where the weather changes rapidly and clouds race across the sky, changing the color and tone of the water moment by moment. Claude studied drawing and continued painting. But rather than enroll at the best art school, the École des Beaux-Arts, he preferred to hang around with artists at the Académie Suisse (neither Swiss nor a traditional school), where he learned from fellow artists.

In 1861, he was drafted and served for two years in Algeria. By 1870, he was introduced to Japanese prints. Japanese art was to become a major influence on European art.

So Monet was influenced by the light and color of his native country, the sun, sand, and everyday colors of Northern Africa, in Algieria, and the stylized form and vibrant colors of Japanese art. The brush work, sometimes referred to as “broken” (you can see perfect examples of this in his depiction of water), began to emerge at this time. Even his earlier work, more figural, has this broken style, with almost-indistinct renderings of images and landscape elements in broad strokes of color without much differentiation or detail. But if you have been to a lake or pond, one surrounded by trees that make shadows on a gently rippling surface, you will recognize these patches of water that seem to hold a color quite separate from the color in the next ripple.

Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux, and their children appear in many of his paintings. Camille died in 1879 at the age of 32. Claude had a long-term relationship with Alice Hoschedé, the wife of his friend and patron Ernest Hoschedé. The pair, Alice’s six children and Monet’s two moved to Giverny in 1883, in Normandy, where Monet spent the rest of his life landscaping and creating the wonderful paintings of his garden. He died in 1926, at Giverny, at the age of 86, having lived long enough to watch his respect grow from the snide evaluation of an art critic to a beloved artist and a national treasure.

We still love Impressionism and we still love Monet. You can access 187 of his greatest paintings and drawings on CD, which will provide you with an up-close and personal opportunity to examine the brush-strokes and techniques of the master. Use it alongside Color Your Own Monet, re-rendered by artist Mary Noble. Or purchase a collection of Impressionist masters on CD or in postcards to share with friends.

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