Claude Monet Biography

Claude MonetClaude Monet is arguably one of the most influential painters of the modern era. One painting by Claude Monet gave a name to an entirely new way of painting. The Monet water lilies series, as well as the series of images of haystacks and cityscapes, changed the way artists portray light and color. And the Claude Monet biography, while full of tragedy, reminds artists that you can survive and thrive by taking risks with art.

Early Beginnings

Claude Monet was born in France in 1840. His father ran a grocery business, while his mother tended to Claude and his brother Leon. Claude was enrolled in school, and stayed for at least some period of time, but he was not a good student, and preferred to explore the beaches and cliffs near his school. At age 16, Monet began to study with Eugene Boudin, a famous landscape painter, and began working on paintings outside. Boudin introduced Monet to the technique of plen air painting, working on an image outside, rather than inside a studio. This direct observation of nature would figure heavily in later Monet paintings.

From 1861 to 1862, Monet served with the military in Algiers, but was discharged for health reasons. He returned to France, and began spending time with fellow artists, including Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisely. Paintings by Monet from this period show the artist expanding on his plen air technique, although without the technical brilliance that would come with later years.


Monet married Camille in 1870. The couple was very poor during these early years, and Monet cut or burned many of his paintings, rather than having them taken by creditors. In 1871, much would change for them due to one famous painting by Claude Monet. Impression, Sunrise was exhibited in 1874 in France. Originally derided by critics, the name of the painting was soon applied to the technique of painting images as they appear to the eye, at that moment, with quick dashes of color and light. Impressionism was born. Paintings by Monet would never be the same, and the couple would soon no longer fret about money so fervently.

The Claude Monet paintings from his Argenteuil period show a man in love with his family and with his garden. In many paintings from this period, Monet's flowering yard forms a soft and gentle backdrop for young Jean playing while Camille watches over him. Monet also painted several images of boats and water during this time, practice that would serve him well when he began his epic water lilies series. Objects and their reflections would be a constant theme in Monet painting.

Middle Period

In 1879, Camille died of tuberculosis, leaving Monet with two children to raise. The grief he felt at Camille's death is felt in the tender Monet painting Camille Monet on her Deathbed. Camille had been an inspiration for Monet's artwork, a kind and gentle presence. She is shown swaddled by filmy clothing here, her face barely visible, as though she is fading from memory before our very eyes. Monet received help with his two children from an art collector and friend, Alice Hoschede. The two became close, and eventually romantically involved. Alice was married at the time, but the two chose to live together with all their children as one family. Alice would become Monet's second wife in 1892, after Alice's first husband had died.



In 1883, Monet, Alice and their children would move to Giverny. This would prove a pivotal move for Monet painting. Here, he could plant the garden he'd only tinkered with in previous rented homes. The Monet water lilies series would be born in the gardens at Giverny, and the house would be Monet's home until his death.

In 1890, Monet began planning his gardens. Flowers had a prominent place here, with many colors fighting for space. Monet also installed bright walkways, bridges and ponds in his gardens to allow him quiet walks and contemplation. The Monet water lilies were planted simply because Monet liked the way they looked, not because he intended to paint them. However, he would paint them, over and over. In total, the series of water lilies by Monet would total about 250, each with their own color palette, focus and delights for the viewer.

During the Giverney period, Monet artwork wasn't only confined to plants. Monet painted haystacks near his home multiple times, paying attention to the way the snow, the rain and the sun played off the warm stacks, and how those changes changed the way the viewer saw these inanimate objects. Monet also painted poplar trees near his home from a vantage point of the middle of the river. The color palette in these Monet paintings is again varied by the time of day and the weather. Monet is really taking Impressionism to a new level in these series, truly showing that a sense of time and place is crucial to painting, as objects aren't static.

In 1911, Alice died. This loss was followed in 1914 with the death of Monet's son, Jean. These deaths were almost too much for the painter to bear. Once more, Monet turned to his work to see him through his depression. He built a large studio in Giverny, and began painting large canvases full of his beloved water lilies. These water lilies by Monet were massive, measuring 14 feet wide. These pieces of Monet artwork, the artist stated, were to provide a sense of quiet and peaceful contemplation, something the artist needed as he struggled with grief. Monet died in 1926 of lung cancer. Another Monet water lilies image was in progress when the artist died.


Monet artwork was valuable during the artist's lifetime, and Monet paintings remain some of the most valuable and cherished works in museums and private collections. In January of 2011, thousands of people stood outside in frigid temperatures for a chance to see a Monet show in Paris. Monet's paintings routinely break sales records for high prices, including during times of recession. The sense of color, light and movement in Monet paintings are incomparable, beloved and very nearly priceless.