Who was Claude Monet?
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was one of the founders of the French Impressionist school. In fact the term itself was taken from his the title of one of his works- Impressionist Sunrise. His style focused on the ‘impression’ of colour and shape where light was the subject of the painting rather than the object being painted.
Childhood and Education
Monet was born in Paris to a singer-mother and a grocer-father who wanted him to get into the family business. He began his art instruction at the Le Havre secondary school of the arts and would sell his charcoal drawings to make extra pocket money. He briefly enlisted in the army but was discharged after contracting typhoid. He returned to Paris where he lived with his aunt and took art lessons. Monet was not stimulated by the art being produced at the time and along with other artists in Paris he began to paint the effects of light in the open with broken colour and rapid brushstrokes.
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in Europe, Monet moved to England with his family. He was always drawn to painting outside and here he began to experiment with the effect of light on colour and how perspective blurred shapes seen at a distance.
Monet’s style of painting
Monet used several techniques which were distinguishing features of his work. He used fast brush strokes in order to depict light. He experimented with colour, exploring the way objects would look depending on the time of day, incorporating darker colours to highlight the lighter ones.
His most famous work – the Water Lilies were produced later in his life and are an example of his study of light and the influence it had on his choice of colour while painting.
First Impressionist Exhibition
The first impressionist exhibition in 1874 featured Monet’s own work along with the work of artists such as Renoir, Degas and Pissaro. Impressionism is a style of painting which involves the use of short, thick strokes of paint, where the colours are applied side by side, with minimal mixing – this style captured both the essence of the subject as well as the light.
The word impressionist was used to make fun of Claude Monet’s work but he adopted the name much to his benefit. Over the years he perfected his vision of the world through this style and his work has broken auction records at the Christies and Sothebey’s auction houses at over $80 million.
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