7 Facts About Monet

The painter was troubled by death, war, and illness, but found solace in his tranquil garden

By Google Arts & Culture

Claude Monet (1875) by Auguste RenoirMusée d’Orsay, Paris

Claude Monet, who lived in France from 1840 to 1926, was a founder of Impressionism. He was an innovator and promoter of the movement's practice of painting outside of the studio in all weathers, en plein air. Scroll on to learn more about Monet the master...

Summer (1874) by Claude MonetAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

1. Impressionism owes its name to him

Monet's 1874 seascape, Impression, Sunrise, was shown at the first exhibition of the Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. The critic Louis Leroy mocked all the unfinished-looking paintings as 'impressions', and the name stuck.

Bathers at La Grenouillère (1869) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

2. Monet very nearly drowned

The year before he painted this scene of swimmers at the popular swimming spot on the Seine known as the Grenouille, Monet had leapt into the river, intending to take his own life. He immediately regretted this, but he would be plagued with melancholy for the rest of his life.

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

3. He was a refugee

In 1870, as the devastating Franco-Prussian war broke out, Monet and his family escaped Paris to live in London. It was a wise move. Paris was besieged, and a number of other artists who remained lost their lives in the war, and in the fall of the revolutionary Paris Commune.

Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect (ca. 1900 (dated 1903)) by Claude MonetMilwaukee Art Museum

4. Stayin' at the Savoy

Over the years he returned to London, staying in the Savoy Hotel. From this vantage point on the Thames he painted some of his most striking abstract works, such as this view of Waterloo Bridge. Today, his favourite rooms, 610 and 611, are named The Monet Suite in his honour.

Portrait of Monet (1888/1890) by Theodore RobinsonMusée des impressionnismes Giverny

5. He lost his eyesight

From 1914, Monet was severely affected by cataracts which clouded his vision and made it appear yellow. This was a disaster for the painter, but for many years he was more afraid of surgery than partial blindness. Eventually, in 1923 he underwent two operations to remove them.

6. He was a gardener

By 1890, Monet was selling enough art to be able to buy the house he was renting at Giverny, as well as the surrounding buildings and the land for his gardens. The gardens would become the focus of both his art and life in his later years - under his eye they constantly evolved.

7. He was a peacemaker

His famous waterflowers at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris were donated the nation to commemorate the end of the First World War. He described his vision of the exhibition space as, "the illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore."

The Japanese Footbridge (1899) by Claude MonetNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

And there's much more we don't know...

For such a famous artist, there's much lost to history. Monet destroyed at least 500 of his own paintings. In 1908 a show of waterlilies had to be delayed after he slashed 15 of them. After the death of his first wife, his second wife made him destroy her letters and photographs.

Ninfee rosa (1897 - 1899) by Claude MonetLa Galleria Nazionale

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