When the paintings of the Impressionists first appeared publicly in the 1870s, they created an entirely new type of exhibition picture; small, informal in composition, freely and spontaneously painted, showing everyday scenes treated in clear bright colour. More than any other single artist, Claude Monet was the creator of this new idea of painting.
Monet was born in Paris in 1840 but his family settled in Le Havre shortly afterwards, where the River Seine meets the sea, and his lifelong obsession as an artist was established. He met Boudin and Pissarro before completing a year’s military service in Algeria in 1861. Monet was lucky in that his father recognised his artistic talents, bought him out of the army and sent him to Paris to study. Four years later he held his first exhibition at the Paris Salon and he had also met Renoir, Bazille and Sisley in Gleyre’s studio, as well as establishing a friendship with Manet.
The 1870s saw a period of peaceful home life with his new wife and children whilst Monet contributed to the first Impressionist Exhibition. This tranquillity was shattered by his wife Camille Doncieux’s death in 1879. Monet then spent the next decade travelling and painting. By the 1890s he had settled in Giverny and married Alice Hoschedé. Monet had also begun the construction of a water garden near his house. The turn of the century saw the Lily Pond series exhibited and, after his second wife’s death in 1911, the Water Lily series. Monet died after the largest piece of work was completed in 1926.
Perhaps now the best-known painter of all time, Monet’s paintings will be remembered for the harmonies of rhythm and brushwork, combined with the unifying effects of light and atmosphere in nature.