Sargent's likeness of Monet documents the relationship of the two artists and dates Sargent's initial trip to Giverny, France. He first met Monet in 1876 when he introduced himself at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Paris and invited the older man to dinner. They became good friends, working together to raise money to acquire Edouard Manet's Olympia for the French government in 1889. During the late 1880s and after, Sargent purchased four works by Monet, and he was instrumental in introducing his work to the English public.
There is little concrete evidence as to when Sargent first visited Monet's home at Giverny. Biographers have proposed dates of 1887, 1888, and 1889. Sargent's bust portrait of Monet was exhibited in the spring of 1888 at the New Gallery, however. This implies a visit to Giverny in 1887 or before and an execution of the portrait prior to Sargent's departure for the United States in September 1887. By extension, it was thought that the 1887 date of the Academy's portrait could probably be used to date Sargent's important canvas, "Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood" (Tate Gallery). Recent research, however, has shown the Tate Gallery picture to have been painted in 1885. The Academy's portrait could carry this earlier date as well.