Monet's London

The National Gallery London

The National Gallery, London

War 1870-1871 Franco -Prussian Phoros Only (1871)LIFE Photo Collection

Seeking refuge

Monet first came to London when he was a refugee fleeing the Franco-Prussian War, and Paris was under siege by Prussian troops. 

The Cradle - Camille with the Artist's Son Jean (1867) by Claude MonetNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Only recently married to his wife Camille, the couple escaped across the Channel with their little son, Jean. They settled in London,  first near Leicester Square and then in Kensington.

Charing Cross Bridge, London (1890) by Camille PissarroNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Impressionists in London

The city had a lasting impact on Monet’s career. He met other artists also seeking refuge in London, including his friend, Camille Pissarro, and mentor, Charles-François Daubigny, who introduced him to influential art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel (who contributed to his success).

The Thames below Westminster (about 1871) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

In London Monet sought out new buildings to paint, such as the recently completed Houses of Parliament and Victoria Embankment, which was still under construction.

London. Embankment. (1908) by Frederick H. EvansThe J. Paul Getty Museum

With peace now restored in France under the Third Republic, the Monets left London in May 1871, but Claude vowed to return to the city he had much enjoyed.

Monet. ClaudeLIFE Photo Collection

Thirty years later

Monet made good on his promise, returning to London almost thirty years later, by which point the Impressionists had become established artists. Now nearly 60, Monet had remarried to Alice Hoschedé, having lost his first wife Camille in 1879.

Top Euro (Bri) London Streets Fleet StLIFE Photo Collection

Monet came to London three times between 1899 and 1901, staying for weeks at a time.

Waterloo Bridge, London, at Sunset (1904) by Claude MonetNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

'Without fog London would not be beautiful'

From his balcony at the Savoy, Monet could see Waterloo Bridge, South Bank, and Charing Cross Bridge. His letters to his wife Alice show how he was fascinated, and frustrated by London’s fog and pollution, which obscured the subject and coloured the atmosphere. 

Charing Cross Bridge: Fog on the Thames (1903) by Claude MonetHarvard Art Museums

Monet exhibited 37 views of the Thames at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in 1904, including this atmospheric painting of Charing Cross Bridge in a fog of pink and blue tones. In total, Monet made over a hundred canvases of London, some left as sketches and some he destroyed. 

LIFE Photo Collection

Back in France

He reworked the pictures on returning to his studio in Giverny, France, which has made precise dating of these works impossible. 

The Thames below Westminster (about 1871) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

Now, over a century later, Monet has returned to London. You can see his paintings of the city in the National Gallery, steps away from where he painted and stayed.

You can see more about the Monet & Architecture exhibition at g.co/monetwashere

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