Paris 1840 - Giverny 1926
Born in 1840 in Paris, Monet grew in Le Havre, where his family moved in 1845. When his mother died in 1858 he left school and started to sell his first drawings. It's on this occasion that he met the painther Eugène Boudin. With him, he would work for the first time in open air.
With the support of his father, Monet arrived in Paris in 1859 to study painting. Instead of the School of Fine Arts he entered the Swiss Academy and met Camille Pissarro. In 1861, he went to Algeria in the first African armored regiment. He discovered light and color that would mark his future experiments.
He came back in Paris in 1862 and entered Charles Gleyre's studio where he worked with Alfred Sisley and Auguste Renoir and Frédéric Bazille who would become a close friend. Thanks to this latter, Monet discovered the village of Chailly near Barbizon and returned to Normandy (Honfleur, Sainte-Adresse) ; at the 1865 Salon, he exhibited to seascapes that the critics noticed.
In the second half of the 1860s Monet shared his life between Paris and Normandy. He worked a lot (Camille, ou femme à la robe verte, 1866 ; Femmes au jardin, 1867 ; Bain à la Grenouillère, 1869 ; la Plage de Trouville, 1870), developing a style close to Edouard Manet with a vivid and warm color palette with light spots.
As he affirmed his style, the Salons rejected him and in 1870, none of his paintings were accepted. To escape the franco-prussian war he moved to London where he met the art dealer Durand-Ruel who started to buy him some paintings.
In 1872, he moved to Argenteuil where he joined among others, Manet and Renoir. The Impressionist group is in gestation. Monet, who arranged a workboat, tried to capture the instant radiance of light of the banks of the Seine and the surrounding countryside in their changing reality : besides the founding painting Impression, soleil levant (1872), probably made in Le Havre, he also painted Coquelicots (1873) and le Pont d'Argenteuil (1874).
In 1874, the photographer Nadar took the lead to welcome in his studios the first exhibition of the group of independent artists including Monet and who was systematically rejected at the official Salons. Among 165 paintings, 8 belonged to Monet including Impression, soleil levant. Louis Leroy, a critic in the satirical journal Le Charivari, said about it : 'What is this painting ? Look in the booklet. Impression, soleil levant. Impression I was sure. I thought so, as I'm impressed, there must be some impression in there'.
The journalist entitled his article : 'The Impressionist exhibition' and the name would stick to the group of which Monet appeared to be the leader.
Thus, 1874 marked the peak of Impressionism as a movement. Despite the mockeries and critics, the painters would lead six more exhibitions until 1882. Monet participated in 1876, 1877, 1879 and 1880. But the buyers were rare and the prices very low, and Monet couldn't live without the material assistance of his friends Ernest and Alice Hoschedé.
Eager for recognition and success, Monet applied for the official Salon in 1880 which would take one of his paintings, badly exhibited. This year was also the one of his first solo exhibition organized by the review la Vie moderne. Thanks to Durand-Ruel who purchased his works, Monet could renounce the Salon and move, first in Poissy in 1881 and then in Giverny in 1883.
Monet would make Giverny a haven of peace and happiness that he always dreamt about. In the 1880s, he travelled in the South of France (1883-1884 and 1888), in the Netherlands (1886), in Belle-Ile (1886), in the Creuse valley (1889). Normandy also inspired him famous series (Meules, 1888-1891 ; Peupliers au bord de l'Epte, 1891-1892 ; Cathédrale de Rouen, 1892-1898).
As he travelled in Norway, London and Italy, his garden would remain his ultimate inspiration : with the Nymphéas (1898-1926) series, chemistry of plants, reflections of water and light, the Impressionism confines to abstraction.
In Giverny, Monet welcomed new admirers such as Clémenceau who would lead Monet to bequeath his Nymphéas to France. His paintings would then be sold at unprecedent prices and he entered the Louvre.
He died of exhaustion on December 5th 1926.