This month’s master is the French impressionist, Claude Monet, (pronounced moh-ney). Born the second son to a French grocer, Monet felt most at home in the wild outdoors. Living in the French port city of Le Havre, he often skipped school and wandered the docks listening to the fascinating foreign tongues of the dock workers as they unloaded large cargo ships. Claude’s mother was also a nature lover and artist, and was never without her sketch book.
His grocer father hoped Claude would take over the family business, but he preferred drawing the fruit over stocking and selling it. School felt like a “prison” to young Claude. The bright point in his day was his art class with French painter, Francois-Charles Ochard. Although Francois taught Claude how to draw realistic figures, Monet preferred to draw outrageous caricatures of dignitaries, teachers and other locals. A local frame and art shop showcased his caricatures and sold each for 15 francs (equivalent to $422 by today’s rates.) The art shop owner introduced Claude to Eugene Boudin, a local landscape artist. Eugene encouraged Claude to abandon his caricature work and offered to teach him to paint landscapes. Claude declined Eugene’s invitation, but eventually accompanied Eugene to a sandy beach with dappling water, puffy clouds, and sunshine. “I was enlightened.” Claude said later. “It was as if a veil had been torn aside. My way was clear, my destiny decreed.”
Claude began to attend art school but grew quickly frustrated with the limited techniques that were taught. He left school and sought French painters he could learn from and collaborate with. When his mother died, Claude stopped painting and moved in with his Aunt. In 1861 Claude joined the army for what supposed to be a seven-year commitment. When he became ill two years later, his aunt offered to buy his way out his army contract if he promised to return to painting. He agreed.
Claude married his wife Camille and settled into family life. To avoid being called back into the army when Prussia invaded France in 1870, Claude and Camille moved to England. While there, he saw landscapes painted by artists John Constable and Joseph Turner. He marveled at the way these two artists had captured the landscape, particularly the sky. In 1874 Claude became close friends with Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille, and they decided to have an exhibition at the Nadau studio in Paris, France. One reporter wrote a particularly bad review of their work stating, “I have seen wallpaper in a more finished state than these so called paintings. These painting are nothing but impressions, they are not real paintings.” Instead of being insulted, Monet and his friends loved the idea of being “impressionists” and so the Impressionist movement was born.
His first painting denoting that particular style was the painting called "Impression, Sunrise". The work has an unfinished look. The brush strokes were lively and spontaneous, capturing the feeling of the moment. He said, "Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hence this label that was given us, by the way because of me."
Monet loved being able to capture the affects of light. Sometimes he would paint the same object over and over again, at different times of day or year. Examples of these works include his haystacks, morning views of the Seine, the Gare Saint-Lazare, Poplars, the Thames, Rouen Cathedral, and his celebrated series of water lilies.
Claude Monet died in Giverny, France on December 5, 1926. It took many years for people to appreciate his work. Today, the art of Monet is an inspiration to many artists around the world.
The following resources may inspire you or your student artist!
So many painters had fascinating lives and Monet is no exception! The following link takes you to WatchLearnKnow.org, a fabulous FREE site filled with quality educational videos. Each bite sized video is jam packed with fun facts and tantalizing tidbits about this amazing artists life and works of art.
As an art teacher to I understand how hard it is to find quality, realistic art projects that don’t require tons of prep or supplies that break your bank account. This next resource is what I have always looked for, one stop shopping for multi-aged quality Monet projects!
Here are a few of my personal favorite books on Monet and his life that are appropriate for Kinders through eighth grade:
1. Linnea in Monet’s Garden: a perfect blend of storybook and nonfiction. The book follows a girl named Linnea as she visits Monet’s gardens and learns about his life and work.
2. Where is the Frog? does a wonderful job in showcasing Claude Monet’s work in a fun and playful way.