Artist Stories

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Claude Monet

Zuzanna Stańska 13 November 2023 min Read

Born on November 14, 1840, Claude Monet stands as one of the principal trailblazers in the realm of French Impressionist art. His dedication to the movement’s principles resulted in an enduring legacy as one of its most unwavering and productive practitioners. While you might feel well-acquainted with Monet’s life and work due to his immense fame and iconic paintings, there are intriguing details in the following list that might just astonish you.

1. Oscar-Claude Monet

Anonymous, Monet's Parents, Louise-Justine and Adolphe Monet, ca. 1855
Monet’s Parents, Louise-Justine and Claude Adolphe Monet, ca. 1855.

He was baptized as Oscar-Claude. However, his parents had always called him Oscar.  This is probably to avoid confusion in the household, as his father was also named Claude. To be completely honest, Oscar Monet doesn’t sound as good as Claude Monet, does it?

2. The Caricaturist

Claude Monet, Caricature of Jules Didier, c. 1860, The Art Institute of Chicago
Claude Monet, Caricature of Jules Didier, c. 1860, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.

Monet started drawing by the age of 5. While attending Le Havre Secondary School of the Arts, the locals knew him well for his charcoal caricatures of teachers. Monet filled entire school books with drawings instead of the assignments that were due. Then he began to draw the town’s residents.

3. The Artist or the Shopkeeper?

Claude Monet in 1860
Photograph of Claude Monet in 1860.

Monet’s father wanted him to join the family grocery business. Luckily, it never happened. Also luckily, Monet’s mother supported every artistic endeavor Claude attempted.

4. The Soldier

Claude Monet, Corner of the Studio, 1861, Museé d'Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, Corner of the Studio, 1861, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

In June 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for a seven-year commitment. However, two years later, he had contracted typhoid fever. The army agreed to release him from his service commitment, but only if he agreed to complete an art course at an art school. Rejecting the rigidity of conventional training, he enrolled in the Academie Suisse, a studio without a set curriculum where students could set their own schedules and paint from life models as well as exchange ideas.

5.  The Poor Man

Claude Monet, Camille Monet in Japanese costume, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

Monet married his first wife, Camille, in 1870.  Even though Monet was successful with his art, they lived in poverty for a long time.  Some of Monet’s paintings were seized by creditors. Monet even tried to kill himself by drowning in the Seine because his financial burdens were upsetting him so badly.

6. The Name Giver

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872, Museé Marmottan Monet, Paris
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872, Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris, France.

Monet painted the famous Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) in 1872. It depicted a Le Havre port landscape. In 1874 it hung in the first Impressionist exhibition. Thanks to this painting the whole movement is now called “Impressionism”—the art critic who came up with this adjective meant his assessment to be negative, but the Impressionists at the time approved of the description and it stuck.

7. The Widower

Claude Monet, Camille Monet on her Deathbed, 1879, Museé d'Orsay, Paris
Claude Monet, Camille Monet on her Deathbed, 1879, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

At the young age of 32, Monet’s wife, Camille, died of uterine cancer. Even while on her deathbed, Monet took the opportunity to paint her. In my opinion, it is one of the most intense paintings ever created.

8. His Second Marriage

Claude and Alice Monet in Piazza San Marco, feeding the pigeons.
Claude and Alice Monet in Piazza San Marco, feeding the pigeons.

Alice Hoschedé was the second most important woman in Monet’s life. Alice was the wife of department store magnate and art collector Ernest Hoschedé. But when he went bankrupt in 1877, Ernest, Alice, and their children moved into a house in Vétheuil with Monet, Camille, and the Monets’ two sons, Jean and Michel. When Camille died in 1879, Alice soon left Ernest and married Monet in 1892, a year after Ernest died.

9. The Kids

The families Monet and Hoschedé, circa 1880. From the left: Claude Monet, Alice Hoschedé, Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, Jacques Hoschedé, Blanche Hoschedé, Jean Monet, Michel Monet, Martha Hoschedé, Germaine Hoschedé, Suzanne Hoschedé
The families Monet and Hoschedé, circa 1880. From the left: Claude Monet, Alice Hoschedé, Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, Jacques Hoschedé, Blanche Hoschedé, Jean Monet, Michel Monet, Martha Hoschedé, Germaine Hoschedé, Suzanne Hoschedé

Claude Monet had 2 sons: Michel and Jean. Alice’s oldest daughter, Suzanne, eventually married Jean Monet, Claude’s son.

10. His Blindness

Claude Monet, The Japanese Bridge, 1918-24, Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris
Claude Monet, The Japanese Bridge, 1918-24, Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris, France.

At the end of his life, Monet suffered from cataracts. You can easily spot the paintings he created in that period as they have a reddish tone due to his change in color perception and are quite blurry. Monet may have used strong colors in these paintings also because he was using them from memory or because he was over-compensating for his yellow vision.

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