Claude Monet images and biography
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Claude Monet

See also: Impressionism; The First Impressionist Exhibition, 1874; Exhibition review: "Claude Monet: 1840-1926"


"IF CLAUDE MONET IS REGARDED AS THE IMPRESSIONIST par excellence, one must admit that both Degas and Renoir also have their own special qualities. Cézanne, too, merits individual study, although his development in relation to later art seems to set him somewhat apart from the Impressionist movement as a whole. However, when considered with reference to Monet's life and work, the concepts applied in interpreting Impressionist art - in particular, those of the impression, the stroke, the contrast of colors, and the consistency with which the consequences of the Impressionist ideas visible at the beginning of an artist's career are elaborated in the long course of that individual career - make Monet's position central.

"By his fellow painters Monet was regarded as a leader, not because he was the most intellectual or theoretically minded or because he was able to answer questions that they could not answer, but because in his art he seemed to be more alert to the possibilities latent in their common ideas, which he then developed in his work in a more radical way than did the others. Considering how all these painters developed their intensely personal manners with respect to the new artistic ideas, we may observe that the new elements appeared most often for the first time in the work of Monet and then were taken over by the other Impressionists, who incorporated them as suggestions or as definite means and applied them in their own ways.

"A clear example of Monet's influence can be noted in the change in Degas's art after the middle 1870s when his color began to approach that of the other Impressionists and he employed techniques, particularly in pastel, that gave to the whole a more granular, broken, and flickering effect - qualities not found in his earlier work. That is true also of Cézanne, Pissarro, and Renoir. Monet showed the way, even if the development of the others seemed to diverge from his.

"There is still another reason for Monet's outstanding position as an Impressionist. If we compare his paintings over a short period with the paintings of the others, we see that while the others painted within a restricted range of ideas and even of feelings, so that the Renoirs of the period 1873-76 are characterized by the joyousness in a collective world of recreation described earlier, Monet, with his powerful, ever alert eye, was able to paint at the same time brilliant pictures and also rather grayed ones in neutral tones. He was more reactive, he had more of that quality that psychologists of that time called "Impressionability." That is to say, he was open to more varied stimuli from the common world that for these painters was the evident source of the subjects of their paintings.

"Monet could appear variable at any given moment, producing many surprising interpretations of the common matter. He altered his technique according to his sense of the quality of the whole, whether joyous or somber, that he wanted to construct in response to the powerful stimulus from the object that engaged him in the act of painting. Similarly, over the course of years, his art underwent a most remarkable general transformation. The early work of Monet appears as a painting of directly seen objects characterized by great mobility and variety. His art is a world of streets and harbors, beaches, roads, and resorts, usually filled with human beings or showing many traces of human play and activity. In the late work, however, Monet excluded the human figure. There are practically no portraits and no figure paintings by Monet after the middle 1880s and few between 1879 and 1885. From that period, we can count all his figure paintings on one hand. He also gave up still life and painted no genre groups. He restricted himself to an increasingly silent and solitary world.

"When Monet traveled to Venice and London, he pictured those great cities from a distance, in fog or sunlight, without the clear presence of human beings and with no suggestion of their movement through that space. He tended, moreover, to shift from the painting of large to small fields; and, whereas at first the large fields were painted on small canvases, later he painted a small field - water in a nearby pool or a few flowers in his garden - life-size and seemingly larger than life, as if he wished to give a maximum concreteness and the most intimate presence to a small space that, although only a segment, was for him a complete world. He moved in his art from a world with deep, horizontal planes in long perspectives - the paths of carriages and traffic - to a world in which the plane of the water or the ground seen from close by has been tilted upward and has become vertical, like the plane of a picture or mirror. The quality of landscape as the extended human environment, the old traversability of space, has been minimized in the later work.

"Monet offers one of the most extraordinary transformations known in the lifework of an artist. But it does relate to an observed trait of many artists in their old age. An attempt has been made to characterize in broad terms a style of old age - what the Germans call an Alterstil - as if the late works of Titian, Rembrandt, Tintoretto, and Monet must have something in common. In old age they lived presumably more within themselves than in the "world," and from this tendency of aged artists seems to flow certain characteristics of their art. This theory rests on an arbitrary selection of old artists, however, and one can point to Ingres, whose last pictures, such as The Turkish Bath, painted in his eighties, are of an indomitable sensuality and sometimes surprisingly naive and tangible in the voluptuousness of the forms. Or Pissarro, the fellow painter of Monet, who, beginning with idyllic pastoral subjects, painted in his old age streets and crowds, steamboats, factories, and people, the reverse of the process that we have observed in Monet.

"Besides his academic nudes, Renoir began by painting the sociability of his own world - pictures of his artist friends and the pleasures of Paris; but as he grew older, he withdrew from this public world. He still represented human figures, even more passionately than before. But they are completely domestic figures - a child, the nurse, the mistress, the wife, always a figure presented in an intimate relation to the observer or the painter. Monet never painted a nude, and one may suspect that his vast world of nature and the theme of water played in his art the role that the fantasy about women or children or mothers played in the imagination of other artists. All his variety, from the stillness of the lilly pond to the awful turbulence of waves beating on the rocks, may have to do with the feelings or passions that in other artists can be recognized in their mythology and subjects or through a fanciful imagery of human figures."

- Text from "Impressionism: Reflections and Perceptions", by Meyer Schapiro

Further reading on Claude Monet:
  • A Blue Butterfly : A Story About Claude Monet
    Bijou Le Tord

    This is a wonderful book for introducing children to fine art. It avoids any biographical data, instead presenting short, poetic lines on Monet and his work. The images are delicate watercolors, not reproductions of Monet's paintings, but evocative of them. An excellent book to share with your children prior to your next visit to an art museum.

  • Monet and the Mediterranean
    Joachim Pissarro

    The catalog to the recent show featuring Monet's work in the Mediterranean. From the French coast to Western Italy and Venice, from the beginning of his career to some of the latest works, this book offers excellent reproductions, including some wonderful details to illustrate Monet's flickering brush stroke.

  • Monet in the '90s : The Series Paintings
    Paul Hayes Tucker

    An excellent presentation of Monet's most important device for expressing his ideas about art: the series. Wheatstacks, Houses of Parliament, Rouen Cathedral and more. By painting the same motif in different conditions of light, Monet was able to depict light itself...the objects become a mere background for his representation of light.

  • Monet's Years at Giverny : Beyond Impressionism
    Daniel Wildenstein

    Wildenstein, one of the world's foremost experts on Monet, wrote the Catalogue Raisonne on Monet's life work. Here, he covers the pinnacle of Monet's achievement, the lily pad paintings and other works from the artist's garden. This was the final chapter of Monet's career, and includes some of his most impressive creations.

  • Monet : The Art Institute of Chicago Artists in Focus Series
    Art Institute of Chicago, Andrew Forge

    An excellent introduction to the work of the ultimate Impressionist. Written for the average reader rather than the art scholar.

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Claude Monet Images

1865 The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest
1865 Haystacks at Chailly at Sunrise
1867 Garden at Sainte-Adresse
1869 Bathing at La Grenouillere
c. 1870 The Red Kerchief: Portrait of Camille Monet
1870 The Beach at Trouville
1870 Breakwater at Trouville, Low Tide
1870 Hotel des Roches Noires, Trouville
1871 The Thames at Westminster
1872 Impression, Sunrise
c. 1872 The Regatta at Argenteuil
1873 Boulevard des Capucines
1874 Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor, Le Havre
1874 The Highway Bridge at Argenteuil
1875 The Stroll, Camille Monet and Her Son Jean (Woman with a Parasol)
1877 Saint-Lazare Station
1881 The Artist's Garden at Vetheuil
1883 Rock Arch West of Etretat (The Manneport)
1884 Bordighera
1884 Bordighera, Italy
1884 Bordighera, Italy (detail)
1884 The Corniche of Monaco
1884 Garden in Bordighera, Impression of Morning
1884 The Red Road near Menton
1890-91 Wheatstacks (End of Summer)
1891 Poplars along the River Epte, Autumn
1892 La cathedrale de Rouen, le portail, temps gris (Rouen Cathedral, the West Portal, Dull Weather)
1893 La cathedrale de Rouen, le portail et la tour Saint-Romain, plein soleil, harmonie bleue et or (Rouen Cathedral, the West Portal and Saint-Romain Tower, Full Sunlight, Harmony in Blue and Gold)
1903 Water Lilies (The Clouds)
1904 Houses of Parliament, London, Sun Breaking Through the Fog
1905 Houses of Parliament, London
1906 Water Lilies
c. 1918-24 The Japanese Bridge

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