When it comes to artwork that is based on Impressionism, one name tends to come up more than any other: Claude Monet. Born in 1840 in Paris, Monet did not come from a wealthy family as many other period artists. His father was a grocery store owner, in fact, and his mother made some spare money on the side as a singer. Many people are aware of the name Claude Monet, but don’t know the man very well. These interesting facts about him will be able to change that.
1. His Name Isn’t Actually Claude
The Monet’s were a strong Catholic family. They very much instilled the Catholic doctrine in Monet from an early age. Part of that tradition came with the early baptism. Monet was baptized and given the official name of Oscar-Claude. His parents always called him Oscar. Part of the reason for this was because Monet’s father was also named Claude, so it served to set the two men apart. Monet would become famous without the Oscar name attached, however, but to some he will always be Oscar instead of Claude.
2. He Was an Atheist
Despite being born into a Catholic family, Monet found himself not believing in God at all. Later on in life, he officially renounced the church and decided to become an atheist. The reasons behind the change aren’t really known, but there is a certain power in Monet’s work that some might contribute to the fact that Monet had found himself and filled his spiritual life with something that he had finally found to be meaningful.
3. His Father Hated the Creativity
Monet was drawing by the age of 5. His first drawings tended to be caricatures of the teachers that he had in school. He was known to fill entire school books with drawings instead of the assignments that were due. Over time, after his family moved to the community of Le Havre, Monet became famous in his own right for the drawings he would create of the town’s residents. His father hated all of the drawing and creativity. His goal was to have his son join in on the grocery business. His mother, however, completed supported every artistic endeavor Monet attempted.
4. Typhoid and Art, Forever Linked
At the age of 17, Monet’s mother passed away and so he went to live with his aunt so that he could pursue an art education in Paris. Despite the opportunity to study art, Money decided to join the military in 1859. It was a 7 year assignment that he had agreed to serve, but in his second year of service, he contracted a bad case of typhoid fever. At the pleadings of his aunt, Monet was released from the military on one condition – he had to complete an art course at an accredited school.
5. Monet Hated Modern Art
One of the biggest struggles that Monet always faced was the fact that he had no love for the modern art at the time. The traditional techniques seemed bland and boring. For this reason, Monet decided to apprentice under Charles Gleyre, a Swiss artist who wanted to experiment with new techniques. Over time, Money would run into other artists that felt the same way he did about traditional art. The group of artists would meet regularly to discuss what changes could impact the art world and those discussions eventually went on to become the foundation of Impressionism.
6. He Loved To Paint His Wife
Monet was a family man above anything else. He enjoyed painting, but he enjoyed painting his family more. That’s one of the reasons why his wife is the model in many of the paintings that brought him acclaim over the years. There’s probably another hidden fact in here: that Monet may not have had the money available to hire models to pose for a painting. Monet’s wife is featured in paintings like Women in the Garden and On the Bank of the Seine.
7. An Intense Painting
Monet and his wife had two sons together, but when their second son was born in 1878, her health was not good. She was already suffering from tuberculosis and then she was diagnosed a little later on with uterine cancer. She passed away just a year later and Money painted his wife while she was on her deathbed. It may have been well over a century ago, but it is still one of the most intense paintings that anyone will ever see.
8. A Critic’s Scorn Brought Fame
A view from his window of the harbor was called Sunrise, but it was initially called Impression because the goal was to create the suggestion of a harbor instead of defining the full characteristics of the shapes that were seen. A critic scorned the painting, saying that it wasn’t even as good as some wallpaper that someone put up in their home. The title of the article was “The Exhibition of the Impressionists.” That’s how the movement got its name and eventually its popularity. Even music and literature began taking on features of the artistic impressionists.
9. 30 Years of Amazing Work
Although Monet’s early work is fascinating, it is his later work in life that tends to be displayed in museums and is considered the best work of his life. Over his last 30 years, Monet painted about 250 oil paintings. What is remarkable about this accomplishment is the fact that Monet had a severe cataract that limited his vision tremendously. He could barely see what he was painting, yet the details in the paintings are tremendously accurate.
10. He Really Loved the Houses of Parliament
Monet was particularly stricken by the Gothic spires that were part of the Houses of Parliament in London. He loved it so much that over the course of 4 years, he would paint the exact same scene 4 different times, but with different environmental conditions to lend to new forms of Impressionism. His first painting depicts the iconic buildings in the fog. There’s also sunrise, sunset, and a stormy night that all feature the same buildings from the perspective.
11. He Designed His Own Gardens
Monet didn’t get his hands dirty with gardening, but he didn’t have a problem designing the overall layout of his garden. He hired several gardens to implement his plans, but it was his designs that would be followed by the hired hands. Many of his masterpieces were from designs that he saw in his gardens at Giverny, including the famous water lilies that are considered his lifetime masterpiece that was put onto canvas.
12. He Was Just a Regular Guy
Monet is a celebrated figure in art today, but the reality is that he was just an average guy who wanted to earn a decent living for his family. He saw his fair share of tragedies over the years. Monet was a widower twice. His stepdaughter helped to take care of him for the final 12 years of his life because of the severe cataracts. His oldest son died in 1914, a full 12 years before he succumbed to lung cancer. The fact that one of his paintings sold for $40 million in 2008 would have completed surprised him. What Monet’s work ethic proves is that a little hard work and ambition can take anyone anywhere.
13. Monet Was Fascinated With Death
One of the common themes that were found in Monet’s paintings was the exploration of death. Namely, his own death. At one point, the artist even tried to kill himself by drowning in the Seine because he couldn’t pay all of his bills. Because his home and grounds were bequeathed to the French government and there’s a foundation in his name, many believe that Monet was the typical rich French artists that received major endowments for his work so that he could live comfortably and paint. That is far from the truth with Monet.
14. There’s a Second Monet
Many of the canvasses that Monet used actually had a different painting on them. When he wasn’t satisfied with how a painting was turning out, he would simply paint over the existing canvas. There’s a good chance that several of his most famous paintings have more than one draft of them buried underneath the layers of oil paint that is on display. We’ll probably never know what those early draft paintings looked like, which is much like the mysteries that make up the man himself.
Claude Monet was just an average guy, coming from an average family, looking for a way to express himself creatively. He created a large portfolio of work that is treasured today and many of his works are on display in museums around the world. If you get the chance to see one of his paintings in person, look at the depths of emotion that are there before you. Claude Monet changed art forever and the evidence is in every brush stroke.