Artist Stories

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Claude Monet

Zuzanna Stańska 14 November 2016 min Read

On this day in 1840 Claude Monet, one of the main founders French Impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy was born. You may think that you know everything about Monet – he is so famous and his paintings are so well-known. But maybe some facts from the list below will surprise you?

1. Oscar-Claude Monet

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

He was baptized as “Oscar-Claude”. However, his parents always called him “Oscar”.  This is probably to avoid confusion in the household, as his father was also named Claude. But to be honest, Oscar Monet doesn’t sound very well, 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

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

3. The artist or the Shopkeeper

Claude Monet in 1860
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

In June 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for a seven-year commitment. However, after 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, 1875, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Claude Monet, Camille Monet in Japanese Costume, 1875, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Monet married his first wife, Camille in 1870.  Even though Monet was having success 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

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 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

At the young age of thirty-two, Monet’s wife, Camille Monet, 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. The second wife

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 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

Alice’s oldest daughter, Suzanne and Jean Monet eventually married too.

10. The cataracts

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

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 colours in these paintings also because he was using them from memory or because he was over-compensating for his yellow vision.

Happy birthday Claude!

Find out more

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