Thursday, June 6, 2013

Monet, Claude

Le bassin aux nympheas (Water Lily Pond)
oil on canvas
89 x 93 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Fascinated by water, by its transparency and its reflects, Monet always lived close to the Seine River.
"I'm never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel." (Monet)

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. Monet found subjects in his immediate surroundings, as he painted the people and places he knew best. He rejected the traditional approach to landscape painting and instead of copying old masters he had been learning from his friends and the nature itself. He observed variations of color and light caused by the daily or seasonal changes.

1840: birth of Claude Oscar MONET on November 14th in Paris.
1845: family moves to Le Havre.
1857: death of his mother Louise Monet.
1858: meets Eugene Boudin who encourages him to paint out of doors.
1859: comes to Paris and enters the Swiss Academy.
1860: meets Pissaro and Courbet.
1863: discovers Manet's painting and paints "en plein air" in the Fontainebleau forest.
1864: stays in Honfleur with Boudin, Bazille, Jondkind. He meets his first art lover : Gaudibert.
1865: his paintings are submitted for the first time to the official Salon.
1867: birth of his first son Jean Monet while Claude Monet is in Sainte-Adresse.
1868: tries to commit suicide. He receives a pension from Mr Gaudibert. He paints in Fecamp and Etretat.
1869: settles in the village of Saint-Michel near Bougival where he paints in company of Renoir.
1870: marries Camille, Courbet is his witness. They take refuge in London when the war begins.
1871: meets Durand-Ruel in London with Pissaro and Daubigny. Death of his father. Monet settles at Argenteuil after visiting the Netherlands.
1873: meets Caillebotte.
1874: exhibits "Impression Sunrise" at the first Impressionist exhibition in the studio of Nadar.
1876: meets Ernest and Alice Hoschede.
1877: bankruptcy of Ernest Hoschede. Monet paints the Saint-Lazare train station.
1878: birth of Michel Monet, his second son. Monet and his family settle at Vetheuil in compagny of the family Hoschede.
1879: death of Camille.
1881: family moves to Poissy.
1883: rents a house at Giverny. He will stay there for 43 years.
1887: exhibits in New-York thanks to Durand-Ruel.
1889: exhibits with Rodin.
1890: purchases the house in Giverny and begins the digging for the Water-Lily pond.
1891: death of Ernest Hoschede. Monet paints the series of Meules (Haystacks) and of Peupliers (Poplars)
1892: paints the Rouen Cathedrals series. He marries Alice in July.
1894: visit of Mary Cassatt and of Cezanne at Giverny. Rodin, Clemenceau and Geffroy are present.
1900: paints several views of the Japanese bridge. He takes several trips to London and paints views of the Thames.
1904: travels to Madrid and admires the paintings of Velasquez.
1907: first problems with his eyesight. Monet discovers Venice.
1911: death of Alice.
1914: death of Jean, Monet's eldest son. Blanche moves to live near Claude Monet.
1916: decides to build a large studio of 23 m x 12m at Giverny.
1916 - 1926: works on twelve large canvas, The Water Lilies. Following the signing of the Armistice, Monet offers to donate them to France. Theses paintings will be installed in an architectural space designed specifically for them at the museum of the Orangerie in Paris.
1923: is nearly blind. He has an operation from the cataract in one eye. His sight improves.
1926: In February Monet is still painting. But he suffers from lung cancer. He dies on December 5th. He is buried in a simple ceremony at Giverny. His friend Georges Clemenceau attends the ceremony.

One day in 1871, legend says, Claude Monet walked into a food shop in Amsterdam, where he had gone to escape the Prussian siege of Paris. There he spotted some Japanese Ukiyo-e prints being used as wrapping paper. He was so taken by the engravings that he bought one on the spot. The purchase changed his life - and the history of Western art. Monet went on to collect 231 Japanese prints, which greatly influenced his work and that of other practitioners of Impressionism, the movement he helped create. Under the new Meiji Emperor, Japan in the 1870s was just opening to the outside world after centuries of isolation. Japanese handicrafts were flooding into European department stores and art galleries. Japonism, a fascination with all things Japanese, was soon the rage among French intellectuals and artists, among them Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and the young Monet.

Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right - not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination, like Hokusai's Ukiyo-e. At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese.

"I have slowly learned about the pattern of the grass, the trees, the structure of birds and other animals like insects and fish, so that when I am 80, I hope to be better," Hokusai wrote 16 years before his death at age 89. "At 90, I hope to have caught the very essence of things, so that at 100 I will have reached heavenly mysteries. At 110, every point and line will be living."