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Claude Monet: A Great Impressionist

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Claude Monet is well known for using the flickering brushwork and open-air painting that has come to be known as Impressionism. His style later developed into what we refer to as Post-Impressionism, which he primarily painted in a studio, as opposed to the outdoors where he painted the Impressionism works.

In 1874, Monet, along with many other artists, formed a group that referred to themselves as the Impressionists, which would later define that genre of art. The group had initially met in the 1860s and included: Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissaro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet. Degas was the only other in the group who would later join Monet in painting Post-Impressionism works.

Between the years of 1877–1886, the group exhibited their art in eight different exhibitions. Although their work began in France, their inspiration spread to the Americas. Claude Monet felt some anxiety over the American interest in his work. He feared that all his best paintings would go to the United States and not remain in France as he wished. He expressed this concern to his art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, in January 1886. Despite Monet’s wishes, many of his works reside in America and are now placed in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Stacks of Wheat: End of Summer; Just one in a series of 30.

Stacks of Wheat: End of Summer; Just one in a series of 30.

Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago

Due to his art dealer's ambition, the Impressionism movement spread to America, many looking at Monet for inspiration. One exhibition, in particular, the “Works in Oil and Pastel” by the Impressionists Paris held at the American Art Galleries in New York City, had three-hundred pictures on display. Fifty-eight of the works were painted by Monet, which was the most paintings by any of the painters at this exhibit, followed by Renoir at forty-two. Not all of the works painted by Monet were chosen by himself. Many of the works were pieces that Americans, who had purchased his paintings prior, decided to display.

One of these fans was a woman known as Mrs. Palmer. She was an avid art collector traveling from Paris and New York to collect her paintings. She began her collection in 1888 and continued until 1895. She owned one-hundred of Claude Monet’s paintings; nine of these works were from his most famous series Stacks of Wheat, in which she purchased these in 1891. After years of admiring his work, she finally met him in 1892. She bequeathed several of her paintings to the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, where they still are today.

Impression: Sunrise; The painting that inspired the name of an entire era of paintings.

Impression: Sunrise; The painting that inspired the name of an entire era of paintings.

Impressionism Facts

Claude Monet was the first to use the term Impressionism when he titled his painting, Impression Sunrise. From that painting, the name for Impressionism was born to describe the style of art known for its light brush strokes of the natural world. He chose the word due to its dual meaning. The first meaning is when one material presses against another, leaving an impression, similar to the effect paint has on a canvas. The second meaning refers to when we say “first impression," in other words, the impression something leaves on our mind and senses when we see it.

From there, Impressionism became a style all its own that many people adopted. Unlike the Romantic style that proceeded, Impressionists primarily focused on landscapes, still life, and other everyday natural scenes. They also began using more vibrant colors, as well as, light brushwork that did not have the smooth texture of Romantic painters, which gave more of a sketch feel rather than a “finished” work. Impressionist painters focus on the effect season and light have on nature. He accomplished this in his first series, where he took one subject and painted the same scene at different times of the day.

Maison de Monet: Giverny

People began following the inspiration that Monet left in his wake. Where he worked, people would follow. In 1883, he rented property in Giverny, a city fifty miles north of Paris. Many Americans traveled across the sea to seek his inspiration. Monet impressed one American, especially; Theodore Robinson. Robinson became a student of Monet. Robinson and Monet eventually grew a close friendship. Robinson mimicked Monet’s loose, yet layered brushwork in his paintings, which only continued Monet’s great legacy.

In the early years, he traveled a lot around the world. It was in 1890 where he finally settled in Giverny due to his increasing age and rheumatism. Afterward, he painted one of his most influential Post-Impressionism series, Stacks of Wheat. This series ended up being a series of at least thirty. Even his longtime Impressionist colleague Pissaro was impressed by the finished works, despite his initial criticism of him for repeating himself. Once he viewed the piece, he changed his mind and vocalized his praise of Monet's series to his son in a letter.

Impressionism may not have been known by its name today; if it was not for Claude Monet, who found his first inspiration from his painting The Beach at Sainte-Adresse. After painting it, he proclaimed, “It was as if a veil suddenly lifted from my eyes, and I knew that I could be a painter." Although it took him many years of financial hardship, he soon paved his way as one of the most famous painters of the Impressionist Era.

Citations

Wood, James N. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism at The Art Institute of Chicago; The Art Institute of Chicago: Hudson Hills Press. 2000.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 09, 2012:

I have only been to the Art Institute of Chicago once, and it was amazing. I hope to see his work in perwson again!

bewhuebner on May 08, 2012:

Great hub! I too love Monet's work, and got to see a lot of it at the Art Institute in Chicago this last summer... It's simply amazing to see in person! Thanks for sharing the biography :)

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 08, 2012:

He is an amazing painter. He's one of my favorite Impressionist painters

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Dianna Mendez on May 07, 2012:

He was such a great painter. Thanks for the history lesson and also the description of impressionism. I have always loved his paintings, the ones you posted are some of my favorites.