Art History 9 November 2012 Claude Monet: The Impressionist Claude Monet was a French Impressionist painter born on November 14th, 1840. Monet was born in Paris and was the second son to Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubree. On May 20th 1841, Claude Monet was baptized in the local parish church under the name of Oscar-Claude. Shortly after his birth and baptism, Claude Monet and his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. The mid-forties brought with it a serious economic crisis and apparently a fall in trade for Monet’s father.
Monet’s father was in the grocery business and he expected Monet to follow in his footsteps and carry out the family business. Monet grew up in a commercially-oriented household. Only his mother showed an interest in the arts. Her early death in 1857 was a severe blow to the seventeen year old Monet. He found sympathy for his artistic leanings with his aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre. Madame Lecadre was not only in contact with the Parisian painter Armand Gautier, but had her own studio where she painted for pleasure and in which Monet was a welcome visitor.
Monet’s relationship with his father deteriorated with time and was not improved when he decided to leave school in 1857; not to mention Monet left school shortly before his final exams. Not helping his case much. At school he received his first drawing lesson from Francois-Charles Ochard. These lessons appear to have had no profound influence on Monet, however. His memories of the period refer exclusively to the witty drawings and caricatures of his teachers and other things. Monet’s caricatures of the citizens of Le Havre, which rapidly earned him 2000 Francs, brought him a degree of local celebrity.
In fig. 2, is an example of one of Monet’s caricature drawing, (Caricature of a Man with a Large Nose graphite on paper 25 x 15 cm. ) Monet was introduced to Boudin who praised Monet for his drawings. It was a turning point. Boudin took the young man with him on painting excursions into the surrounding countryside. He convinced Monet that objects painted directly in front of the motif possessed a greater vitality that those created in the studio. Monet later ascribed his decision to become a painter to his encounter with Boudin, with whom he remained in close contact with for the rest of his life. The fact that I’ve become a painter I owe to Boudin. In his infinite kindness, Boudin undertook my instruction. My eyes were slowly opened and I finally understood nature. I learned at the same time to love it. I analyzed its forms, I studied its colours. Six months later…I announced to my father that I wanted to become a painter and went off to Paris to study art. ” So Monet wanted to become a painter. It was an idea his father eventually accepted but not without difficulty and after much persuasion from Monet’s aunt. Monet’s first oil painting was, “View of Rouelles” (seen in fig. 3. This painting was also known as, “Vue des bords de la Lezarde” because it showed a valley and streams either the Rouelles or the Lezarde, which the Rouelles flowed into. Presumed lost, the painting was discovered after hundred years and positively identified. He joined the studio of the Swiss-born painter Charles Gleyre in Paris, in 1862, where he had been for approximately two years. There he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley. All four of them had new approaches to art and they all painted the effects of light “en plain air” with broken color and rapid brushstrokes.
That’s exactly what became known as Impressionism. This period was very important; it was the culmination point of the movement Impressionism and some of Monet’s best works had been painted in Argenteuil. One of the most famous Monet’s paintings is “Impression: The Sunrise” (seen in fig. 4) painted in 1872 or 1873, from whose title the entire movement had got name. It was art critic Louis Leroy, who coined the term Impressionism, and it had been derogatory, but, Impressionists had liked it and had found it very appropriate for them.
The painting “Impression: The Sunrise” was exhibited 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition in the studio of Nadar. Today, it is displayed in the Musee Marmottan-Monet in Paris. Monet continued to revise his craft until his death in 1926. With his eyesight deteriorating, one of his final and greatest feats included his creation of “The Water Lilies” paintings. (Seen in fig. 5) He worked on twelve large canvases and donated them to France. Monet is a household name that lives on in the hearts and minds of the artistic individuals and the lovers of art and its creators everywhere.
When looking at Claude Monet’s life, I came to a realization, that he blazed a trail in the art world and he never looked back. Never took no for an answer. Inspired others to find their voice, and created a movement that challenged the status quo in the painting world. The question shouldn’t be, “what did Monet contribute to the art world? No. In this case it should be “what didn’t Monet contribute to the art world? Monet’s extraordinarily long life and large artistic output befit the enormity of his contemporary popularity.
Impressionism, for which he is a pillar, continues to be one of the most reproduced styles of art for popular consumption in the form of calendars, postcards, and posters. Additionally, his paintings command top prices at auctions. Monet’s work is in every major museum worldwide and continues to be sought after. While there have been major internationally touring retrospectives of his work, even the presence of one Monet painting can anchor an entire exhibition for the audience. The impact of his experiments with changing mood and light on static surfaces can be seen in most major artistic movements of the early twentieth century.
When reading books about Monet’s life and his life work, I started to make a list of what made up the “Impressionist” style. Some elements I found talked about were, absence of light and shade and local tone, division of color and systematic use of complimentary colors and finally, plein-airism which is to try and recreate the outdoor light and air while painting in daylight. Monet was able to gather these elements and use them to help express his style in a unique way artistically, and allowed others to follow him. Through Impressionism, Monet was allowed freedom and a zest for life.
Not staying in the lines or playing it safe. Monet shed some light on following your true calling and doing what you feel truly called to do. Monet runs the risk of shattering the traditional image of things as he pushes on towards his dream of the Impressionistic movement. For example, Monet isn’t afraid to give his canvases that chalky appearance which is indicated by the subject under contemplation. His craftsmanship is never systematic, whether he is showing fields of grass, or rocks and the sea. He has long strokes as well as fragmented ones.
Then sometimes there’s a lot of what is called “brisk fluttering” which moves about the painting much like a butterfly would fly around. From far away his work can feel like a mash up of colors. But when you get closer you begin to see what he saw. What he was trying to portray through his works. I think what really stands out to me are the “Water Lilies” ( see figure 6) from a distance all you see is color and you don’t see the distinct shapes. But I guess that’s the thing, the shapes aren’t distinct. They are up for interpretation.
That’s sort of the whole point of Impressionism, or that’s what I think anyways. Monet brought spontaneity to the art world. He brought rhythm and harmony but in an unconventional way. Monet brought freedom of expression back to art and took it to new heights. Monet breathed hope back into the arts, bringing “poetry back to science. ” Monet taught us a new way to see the world, perceive it, and recreate it in a way we see fit. Growing up we had one of Monet’s infamous “Water Lilies” paintings hanging on our wall. It was called, “Bridge over a Pool of Water Lilies. ” (See fig. ) I was young, but I remember it hanging around, literally, in our old house and for a while in the house we live in now. Truthfully, I thought it was a painting of turtles in water. The way the water lilies sat next to each other I could clearly make out eyes and the body of turtles. Oh how I laugh when I think of that. It’s funny. But that’s what I got out of Monet’s paintings when I was little. In fact when I glance at it now, that’s still what I see. I wonder what Monet would think if he were alive today and I told him that. Maybe he would laugh. Maybe he would say it was okay I got it wrong.
But it was my own interpretation, so was it wrong? I appreciate Impressionistic art; a lot. I appreciate Monet and what he stood for and worked for. I appreciate the fact that it is an impression of what the world looks like but if they colors aren’t perfect or the lines are straight, it’s still okay. One picture that I really enjoyed was, “Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son. ” (See fig. 8) When looking at this picture you can feel the wind on her face, in her hair, around her dress. All you have to do is look at this painting and you can really feel it.
I can also see the chalky or abrupt strokes he used in the sky. The whites are not mixed in with the blues and its sticks out and I like that. It’s not formal. I love all the colors in the blades of grass. I don’t know about you but when I think of grass one color comes to mind, yep, green. But when Monet thinks of grass he sees greens, browns, yellows, red, gray…I could keep going. But it all works so well together. All those stokes of color. One stroke, that’s all it takes. Monet doesn’t mix his colors together. They stand by themselves, proud and ready to be seen. I enjoy that.
The mystery he conveys in the woman’s face is also intriguing. The picture makes you think, your mind doesn’t get bored quickly when you look at this painting. The details in the young boy’s hat are nice. The pop of red on the ribbon that goes around the hat, it stands out the eye and you catch it right away. It also helps bring out the reds in the blades of grass. Some other works that fascinated me while I was reading about Monet was his little series on boats. I enjoyed, “Boating on the Epte” and “In the Rowing Boat. ” (See fig. 9 and 10). When looking at these paintings I was quickly reminded of the movie The Notebook.
Specifically because in the movie the main characters are in a boat much like the ones in the pictures, and they have a sort of romance about them. They just look so romantic, the paintings. I don’t know if that was the intention behind these but its how I have interpreted them. It just amazes me, how Monet has such a loose stroke or a loose way of painting and yet it still turns out looking so good with great accuracy. He was a pretty good drawer before he started to paint so I’m sure that helps, but just looking at the details in these paintings I have grown such a respect for the Impressionists of the world.
I respect them and their craft. I couldn’t do it, and they do it with what looks like ease. Monet makes me believe that if I put my mind to it, anything is possible. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but it’s true. Monet started a movement, and it opened a whole new way of thinking for artists. I think if I were to seriously pursue painting or something of that sort, Monet would definitely be role model. I’m really into fashion, and in a way, Monet’s style of painting could inspire a clothing line. The colors of his paintings surely would do the trick.
His earthy tones would do great in the fall, and the whites and cool blues for winter. So I guess, Monet didn’t only have an impact on the art world, he kind of has an impact on the whole world. His styles could be used for more than painting. I’ve learned nothing is too big to chase. Monet is a classic get knocked down seven times, stand up eight kind of stories. Life changes every day. Nothing stays the same. It is always up for interpretation. I think Monet captured that idea and thought through a brush and paint. Monet is telling us we call all do the same, in our own way.
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