Inspiration Claude Monet: Famous Paintings and Curious Facts About His Life and Career

Ardak Kassenova

How did Monet become such a star in the art world? What are some curious facts not many know? Where are the most famous Monet paintings today?

Table of Contents
Life of Claude Monet
Claude Monet Facts
Most Famous Monet Paintings

To celebrate Claude Monet’s birthday this November, join us examine the famous Monet paintings and facts about the life and career of a favorite artist among painters. 

Who was Claude Monet?

Oscar-Claude Monet (in some references Claude Oscar) was one of the founders of the Impressionism art movement. He was born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, France from parents Claude-Adolphe Monet, a grocery store business owner and Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, an arts enthusiast. Claude Monet wanted to be an artist, and while his mother supported his artistic pursuits, his father wanted him to go into business. 

Early Life

Having moved to Normandy with his parents and brother Leon 6 years prior, Monet entered the Le Havre secondary school of the arts in April 1851. He first became known in his town for his charcoal caricatures, which he would make a profit from for a few francs. Monet then undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-Francois Ochard and in 1856 met artist Eugène Boudin on one of the beaches in Normandy. Eugène Boudin became his mentor and taught him the “en plein air” outdoor painting–an activity that soon became his life’s work. Due to his mother’s death in January 1857, Monet had to leave school to live with Marie-Jeanne Lecadre, his widowed childless aunt.

View At Rouelles Le Havre, (1858) by Claude Monet, Museum of Western and Oriental Art, Kyiv, Ukraine

In 1862, through the help of his aunt, Monet started studying at the Imperial School of Fine Arts of Paris under academic artist Charles Gleyre, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Together the group shared new and innovative painting techniques, capturing the look of light en plein air with broken color and rapid, short brushstrokes which were the beginnings of more impressionist paintings from said artists.

A Life of Art

Although he had his fair share of rejections, the Salon jury selected Monet’s work for a total of four years. These wins allowed him to participate in the prestigious Salon de Paris—France’s state-sponsored annual art exhibition showcasing paintings chosen by an elite jury from the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Mouth of the Seine at Honfleur, (1865) by Claude Monet, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena California, USA
Monet Paintings - Woman in Green
Woman in Green (1866) by Claude Monet

In 1865, the salon selected two Monet paintings—one of which is Mouth of the Seine at Honfleur, (1865) then again in 1866 with a landscape piece, Le pavé de Chailly (1865) and a fine but not yet Impressionist portrait of his then future wife Camille Doncieux, Woman in Green (1866). Camille came from a humble background and was rejected by Monet’s father. The couple experienced a very rough life beginning from the birth of their first son, Jean, in 1867.

Soon after Monet and Camille married in June 1870, the Franco-Prussian War broke. Monet and his small family fled to London, England, where he met his first and most important art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. The following year, in 1871, Monet moved his family back to settle at a house in Argenteuil near the Seine River in France where he painted his best-known works. Also around this time, Monet banded together with his old friends to form the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) that created an alternative to the Salon de Paris.

The Impressionists

Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, (1873) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Wadsworth Atheneum, Connecticut, USA

Cover of the catalogue Première Exposition by the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs, April 15 to May 15, 1874 at 35 boulevard des Capucines in Paris in the studios of a famous photographer of the time, Nadar. Printed in Paris by Alcan-Lévy, Image from Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares, RES P-V-646 (1874)

The group rebelled against Salon de Paris’ traditional preference for academic art over modern art and independently exhibited their works together along with other artists. Their first exhibition took place in 1874 at the former studio of the contemporary French photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, better known as Nadar. On that very occasion, Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) inspired an art critic to call all the artists “impressionists,” in a satiric way, which Monet and the group eventually embraced.

Around 1876, Camille became ill and in 1878 further weakened after she bore their second son, Michel. Camille died in 1879 leaving two sons, Jean and Michel under Monet’s care. Alice Hoschedé, a friend and the wife of Ernest Hoschedé—art collector and Monet’s patron— helped him raise his children along with six of her own. Monet moved to Giverny in 1883, a small town 50 miles north-west of Paris. Here, he rented a large country house for his entire extended family and adapted it to their needs. Monet ultimately married Alice in 1892, a year after Ernest Hoschedé’s death.

Critical and Financial Success

Monet eventually garnered critical and financial success starting from early 1880. The 1880s brought him new friends and acquaintances as well as a series of group and solo exhibitions that would propel his status in the art world. His solo exhibition in 1883 at his long-standing art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel’s gallery produced good reviews and reached the eager American market by the middle of the decade. Monet also participated in the international exhibition organised by Georges Petit in 1885 and 1887 at his Paris gallery.

From left to right: Michel (seated, Monet 2nd son to Camille), Alice Hoschedé Monet, Claude Monet, Jean-Pierre, Blanche, Jean (Monet 1st son to Camille), Jacques (standing), Marthe (in the foreground), Germaine and Suzanne. (1886) at Giverny. Copyright: Musée Marmottan Monet © Bridgeman Image.
Monet’s house in Giverny, France today

With a more comfortable income, in 1890, he purchased the house he’s been living in Giverny. And in 1893 bought the marshland at the south of his property to turn into a horticultural paradise that is known today as his water garden. Because Monet has always been fascinated with painting outdoors, he would later employ gardeners to create and tend to his own landscapes.

The Water Garden at Monet’s house in Giverny, France

The water lilies found in the pond of his water gardens became the inspiration for his famous Water Lilies series. Aside from the water lilies, Monet painted several subjects repeatedly to try to capture and convey the effects of light on a landscape or a place at a particular time of day. His major exhibition “The Water Lilies, Series of Water Landscapes” took place at Paul Durand ‑ Ruel’s gallery which included forty-eight works in total.

Later Years and Death

Monet struggled with depression in his later years. In 1911, he was devastated by the death of Alice and in 1912 developed cataracts in his right eye. His oldest son Jean, (who had married Alice’s daughter Blanche, Monet’s particular favorite) also died in 1914. Even with all these, Monet endeavored to paint and produce larger pieces. Later in 1922, months after the death of Paul Durand-Ruel, Monet agreed to donate eight of his largest Nymphéas paintings to the French state, with the condition that a suitable gallery would house them. This venue ended up being the Musee de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries in Paris. Claude Monet died on December 5, 1926, at his lovely home in Giverny—that housed the Claude Monet Foundation since 1980.

“My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects.” —Claude Monet

Curious Claude Monet Facts

Oscar Claude Monet co-founded the Impressionism art movement along with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, and Edgar Degas. He is considered to be one of the most celebrated painters in art history. Now that we’ve learned a general overview of his life let’s explore some Claude Monet facts that you probably didn’t know.

#1 Among the Monet paintings, it was Impression, Sunrise, from 1872, that gave the name ‘Impressionism’ to the known art movement.

Monet Paintings - Impression Sunrise
Impression, Sunrise (“Impression soleil levant”) by Claude Monet, depicting the port of Le Havre, Photo by Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Impression, Sunrise, (1872)—a landscape painting depicting a Le Havre landscape—was showcased at the Impressionist’s first exhibition in 1874 at the former studio of the contemporary French photographer,  Nadar.

On that very occasion, the painting inspired French art critic Louis Leroy to inadvertently coin all the artists “impressionists,” in a satiric way, but which Monet and the Impressionists appropriated for themselves.

#2 Éduoard Manet at first hated Claude Monet because people confused their names.

The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, (1874) by Éduoard Manet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Manet belonged to the Impressionism art movement—though he was balancing both Realism and Impressionism at the same time—he influenced the Impressionists. The group considered him to be their leader and without Manet’s Alla prima technique, the Impressionists wouldn’t have painted fast enough to capture the shifting effects of light. Claude Monet claimed in a later interview that Éduoard Manet at first hated him because people confused their names. Manet painted Monet’s family in one of his visits in 1874.

#3 Monet paintings and Impressionism became well-known around the world because of the staunch support of French art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel.

“My madness had been wisdom. To think that, had I passed away at 60, I would have died debt-ridden and bankrupt, surrounded by a wealth of underrated treasures.” Paul Durand-Ruel

Paul Durand-Ruel was Monet’s art dealer, patron, and cheerleader. His care for the Impressionists took various forms, from buying their works in bulk to taking care of everything from rent, tailors and paint supplies to doctor’s bills. He even offered Monet a room in his house to use as a studio.

Claude Monet with Paul Durand-Ruel at Giverny, 1990, Photograph: National Gallery via The Guardian, (Inventing Impressionism: The Man Who Sold a Thousand Monets at the National Gallery, London WC2N, nationalgallery.org.uk)

In 1883, he hosted Monet’s first solo exhibition in his gallery and 1886 brought around 300 impressionist paintings to New York for the exhibition Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists, including some forty Monet paintings where it became a financial success. It is said that he is the reason why the USA has more impressionist works than anywhere else outside France.

“We would have died of hunger without Durand-Ruel, all we impressionists. We owe him everything. He persisted, stubborn, risking bankruptcy 20 times in order to back us.” —Claude Monet

Where are the Monet paintings displayed?

All the famous Monet paintings are scattered all over private collections and major museums worldwide. Are you wondering where to find the most notable ones?

Impression, Sunrise (1872) 

Monet Paintings - Impression Sunrise
Impression, Sunrise (“Impression soleil levant”) by Claude Monet, depicting the port of Le Havre, Photo by Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Probably his most iconic work, you can view Impression, Sunrise at the Musée Marmottan Monet, 2 Rue Louis Boilly, Paris, France. Musée Marmottan Monet features over three hundred Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet and houses the most extensive collection of his works in one location.

Woman with a Parasol (1875)

Monet Paintings - Woman with a Parasol
Woman with a Parasol featuring Monet’s wife Camille and their son, Jean.

You can find one of the most famous Monet painting of his first wife Camille Doncieux and their first son, Jean at the National Gallery of Art, located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. United States

Water Lilies Series or Nymphéas in French

Created during the last 30 years of Monet’s life, the Water Lilies or Nymphéas is a series comprising approximately 250 individual paintings. The pieces captured the beauty and radiance of plant life outside his cosy house in Giverny. Monet began painting the collection in 1897.

Monet Paintings - Water Lilies
The Water Lilies – Morning (1915-1926) by Claude Monet, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, France. Visitors view Monet’s giant water lily oils
Monet Paintings - Blue Water Lilies
Blue Water Lilies (1916-1919) by Claude Monet, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. 2019: Crowd of visitors near the Blue Water Lilies
Monet Paintings - Nympheas et Pont japonais
Nymphéas et Pont japonais, (1920-24) by Claude Monet, Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA

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Ardak Kassenova, ZenART Supplies co-founder, @ardak_zenart

Ardak Kassenova is a London based contemporary artist, co-founder and creative director of ZenART Supplies. Her visual style—contemporary impressionism—share similar aesthetic qualities with those by the French Impressionists. After 20 years of a successful corporate career, becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, and with the continuous development of her practice by taking private lessons from the best artists she could find; Ardak decided it’s time to align her life with her true passion, Art. Driven by this passion and her corporate leadership background, she co-founded ZenART.

My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums.” 

Read more about Ardak Kassenova in this feature. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!

References and further readings:
Paintings and old photographs, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
Biography.com, Claude Monet, https://www.biography.com/artist/claude-monet
Claude Monet Gallery, Claude Monet, https://www.claudemonetgallery.org/biography.html
Claude Monet 1899 by Nadar, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_1899_Nadar_crop.jpg
Claude Monet Biography, https://impressionistarts.com/claude-monet-biography/#5
Ten Most Famous Monet Paintings, https://www.itravelwithart.com/ten-most-famous-monet-paintings/
Monet Paintings Org, Water Lilies, http://www.monetpaintings.org/water-lilies/
Claude Monet Chronologie, https://fondation-monet.com/claude-monet-2/chronologie/
Claude Monet.com, Monet and Manet, https://www.claude-monet.com/monet-and-manet.jsp
Richman, K., (2020), History of Paris Salon, https://mymodernmet.com/paris-salon-history/
Prodger, M., (2015), The Guardian, Paul Durand-Ruel: The Man Who Made Monet, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/feb/21/the-man-who-made-monet-how-impressionism-was-saved-from-obscurity


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