Claude Monet Biography: Painter (1840 – 1926)

The Biography behind the Claude Monet Paintings

Oscar Claude Monet was born in Paris. He is one of the most famous of all the impressionist artists. He is famous for painting outdoors and adopting the new technique called plein-air painting.

Claude Monet portrait of himself
Claude Monet painting – Self Portrait

At the age of five the family moves to Le Havre, a seaside town in Normandy. The ocean and rugged coastline profoundly effects him at an early age. He often ran away from school to go for walks along the cliffs and beaches.

Later, Monet will paint these same beaches and they will be hung in the finest museums all around the world.

Check out details about his favorite beaches – Etretat and Dieppe

Painting of Claude Monet - Etretat
Etretat Normandy – Claude Monet Paintings [Public Domain]

Dieppe in the evening - Claude Monet artwork
Dieppe in the evening – Impressionist Art – Monet

Some trivia – During his years at school, Monet drew caricatures in his spare time and sold them for 20 francs each.

Boudin starts mentoring Monet

Five years later, Monet meets the artist Eugene Boudin and follows Boudin to Honfleur. In this small port town, Boudin starts mentoring Monet in the new technique plein-air painting.

Plein-air painting requires experiencing the landscape and capturing it on the canvas outdoors (and not within a studio). This technique violated all traditional academic rules of that time. 

Renoir painting of Claude Monet plein air painting in Giverny
Pierre-Auguste-Renoir paints Monet in his garden in Giverny [Public domain]

Monet fully adopted the technique of plein-air painting, rather than working inside a studio. The ever-changing face of nature lent itself perfectly to his interest in capturing fleeting moments of light and color.

Monet then returns to Paris. He continued his studies in en plein air painting, along with the French artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley.  Together they developed a new painting style that would soon be known as impressionism art.

Ukiyo-e Japanese Woodblock Prints & Monet

Around the 1850s, the Western world was gaining access to the culture, philosophies and arts of the Eastern countries. In particular, the Europeans loved the Japanese woodblock prints, a style called ukiyo-e. Many of the impressionist painters studied these prints and adopted ukiyo-e elements into their own paintings.

Claude Monet in particular loved the Japanese woodblock prints. He accumulated a large personal collection of prints. Ukiyo-e elements are also apparent in some of his paintings. When Monet planned his garden in Giverny, he also incorporated Japanese features, for example the Green Japanese water bridge over the water-lily pond.

Monet suffers with self doubt

For many years, Monet was barely able to support his wife and children. His work was misunderstood and not accepted for most of his adult life. He suffered with bouts of depression and self-doubt.

Monet himself sometimes became frustrated with his own work. According to some reports, it is said that he destroyed a great number of paintings—estimated as high as 500 works ( That garbage would be worth millions today!!). Monet would either burn, cut or discarded his unwanted artwork.

Monet buys a house and land in Giverny

By 1890 (at the age of 50), Monet starts gaining acknowledgement and buys a large house and garden in the small sleepy town of Giverny. 

He lived in Giverny for the rest of his life.

Painting of Monet's Japanese bridge  in Giverny - ukiyo-e influence
Giverny – Impressionist Art – Monet – Japonisme style
Monet's garden at Giverny - Green Japanese bridge over the pond
Monet’s garden, pond and Japanese bridge

Monet’s garden in Giverny was one of his biggest sources of inspiration. He created a Japanese garden, containing a large pond full of water lilies and a green arched bridge crossing over it.

The most famous of Claude Monet’s paintings are in fact his garden landscapes from his beautiful garden and pond in Giverny.

After his death, his only surviving child, Michel, was heir to the Monet family property in Giverny. It has since been restored and opened to the public, including the vast gardens.

Photo of Monet's kitchen
The kitchen in Monet’s house

Giverny is a beautiful place to visit and a wonderful day trip from Paris. 

Museums in Paris to view Claude Monet’s Paintings

If you are in Paris, there are three amazing museums to view the Claude Monet’s paintings.

Musee D’Orsay is truly a major fix if you are addicted to Monet’s paintings. This is my absolute favorite art museum in the entire WORLD! Press here for details.

Another magnificent museum in Paris that should not be missed for seeing Claude Monet’s paintings is the circular L’Orangerie museum. This museum is famous for Claude Monet’s massive Water Lilies. Many paintings of the other famous impressionists are also exhibited here. Click here for more information.

The third museum with a beautiful collection of impressionist paintings is the Marmottan Museum, in the arty district of Montmartre. Here you can also view many Monet masterpieces.

Museums in Normandy

Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts ( The Museum of Fine Arts)

If you are a fan of Impressionism art, then you MUST visit Rouen’s Museum of Fine Arts . This museum showcases an impressive impressionism collection including paintings of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and others. For more information about opening hours, ticket prices and current exhibitions, press here.

The Musée d’art moderne André Malraux in Le Havre

The Musée d’art moderne André Malraux is also known as Musée Malraux or  MuMa. It is a very popular Normandy tourism attraction. This gorgeous museum is located by the sea in Le Havre, Normandy. It contains one of France’s  most extensive collections of the impressionism art movement from the late-19th and 20th-century.  

The permanent exhibition on the first floor showcases the famous French impressionists and post-impressionists including Pissaro, Sisley, RenoirDegas,  Monet, Matisse, Courbet, Dufy and others. It is a first class collection. 

For more details about the museum and current exhibitions, press here

A good historical fiction book about Monet?

And if you love a good historical fiction book, I highly recommend the novel Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell . Press here for my book review.

Interested in further reading about Monet? Press here

For more articles about Claude Monet & travel tips for the places that inspired him, press on the articles below: