Claude Monet painted over 100 impressionism paintings of London! Although his first trip to London was as a refugee, he developed a life long infatuation with this city. After that first visit, he vowed to return. It took him 30 years, but Monet came back with three separate visits & fell in love! He set up his easel and painted galore!
Monet’s First Glimpse of London as a Refugee in 1870
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in 1870, Paris was under siege by the Prussian soldiers. Claude Monet decided to flee Paris in order to avoid military service. He fled with his newly married wife, Camille and their young son Jean. They escaped Paris by sailing across the English Channel and settled in London. The Monet family first lived close to Leicester Square and then later moved to Kensington.
Moving to London was not easy for the Monet family. They hardly spoke English and were very poor. He even found the weather annoying (don’t we all?). The rain made en plein air painting nearly impossible!
Hanging out with other French refugee artists, such as his friend Pissarro and Charles-Francois Daubigny, helped keep Monet sane in this foreign city. Daubigny introduced Monet to Paul Durand-Ruel, also a refugee and an art dealer. Durand-Ruel would later play an important role in the later success of Impressionism art.
In this trip, Monet was in no mood for impressionism painting and painted very little. Around 5 months later the war ended and Monet returned to his beloved France.
Monet Returns to London Thirty Years Later & Falls In Love
Claude Monet promised to return to London and he did. But it took him over thirty years. Monet was now an established artist & he was able to appreciate London and its beauty. In fact Monet became a fully fledged Anglophile! He dressed in tweed and enjoyed his daily English Tea!
Monet, now married to his second wife Alice, came to London three times between the years 1899 and 1901.He stayed for weeks at a time. He often stayed at the Savoy Hotel. From there he could paint from his balcony on the 5th and 6th floors the stunning views of the Thames River.
Looking eastwards, Monet could see Waterloo Bridge and the industrial activities of the South Bank. Looking westwards from his balcony, the artist could see Charing Cross Bridge.
Monet Paints the Same Views Over & Over Again
In typical Monet style, the French impressionist painted these two views from his balcony over and over again. This way, Monet was able to capture the changing colors under various weather conditions and at different times. Monet’s most enjoyed painting at sunrise, midday and sunset, when the light and the colors were most striking .
His letters to Alice describe both his fascination of London and his frustration with the weather!!
Excerpts from his letters to Alice while in London, 1900
‘Good day’s work today in spite of the never-ending rain, which stopped me from going to the hospital – to my great regret, because what I have begun there is marvellous to paint and much more interesting than what I have been doing at the Savoy’.
‘Anyway, I’m going strong now, although it’s very difficult, for no one day is anything like another: yesterday there was sun, with an exquisite mist and a splendid sunset; today, rain and fog, to the point that I am writing to you by electric light at four in the afternoon, whereas yesterday I was able to work in daylight until almost 6 o’clock.’
Monet’s Serious Infatuation with the Thames River
Monet painted a series of impressionism paintings dedicated to the Thames River. This series comprises of around 100 different views of the river. Some overlooking Waterloo Bridge and others depicting the Houses of Parliament.
Monet exhibited many of these paintings at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in 1904. This exhibition was a huge success and his paintings sold like hot cakes.
In 2015, one Monet’s painting entitled “Houses of Parliament – Sunset” hammered down for a crazy $40,485,000 at a Christies auction !!!!
Today, many of these impressionism paintings of London are exhibited in the most prestigious museums around the world.
Museums in London Exhibiting Monet’s impressionism paintings:
- The National Gallery has the largest collection of Claude Monet impressionism paintings. It even has one of Monet’s Thames paintings entitled: “The Thames below Westminster” Look out for it! For more information, press here
- Tate Gallery showcases three Monet paintings including a lovely “Water Lilies” masterpiece
To View Monet’s Artworks in Paris
If you are in Paris, there are three major museums exhibiting impressive collections of Claude Monet artworks:
- Musee D’Orsay showcases a fantastic collection of Monet’s paintings. Press here for details.
- Another magnificent art museum is the L’Orangerie museum. This museum is famous for Claude Monet’s impressionism painting Water Lilies. However it also exhibits paintings of the other famous impressionists. Click here for more information.
- The third museum with a beautiful Monet collection is the Marmottan Museum, in the arty district of Montmartre.
Museums in Normandy
- Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts ( The Museum of Fine Arts) – The Rouen 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 – This fantastic museum is located by the sea in Le Havre, Normandy. It contains one of France’s most extensive impressionism art collections from the late-19th and 20th-century. Here you will find artworks of the big names like Pissaro, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Matisse, Courbet and Dufy. For more details about the museum and current exhibitions, press here.