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Born in 1840 in Paris, France, Claude Oscar Monet is one of the most influential artists to ever live and is commonly known as the founder of French impressionist painting. French impressionist painting is all about expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially when applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term “impressionist” is actually derived from Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise”. 

Early Life

Monet was born on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, located in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was born to Claude-Adolphe and Louise-Justine Aubree, both of whom were second-generation Parisians. Monet was also their second son. 

6 months later, in May of 1841, Monet was baptized in the local church as Oscar-Claude and a few years later he and his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. As tends to happen with children, Claude Monet’s father was adamant that he gets involved in their family grocery store business. Monet yearned to be an artist, and his mother being a singer herself likely helped inspire him. When Claude Monet was 11, he entered the Le Havre secondary school for the arts and began his artistic career, becoming known locally for charcoal caricatures. Monet took drawing lessons from Jacques-Francois Ochard and eventually took oil painting lessons from Eugene Boudin, who also taught him “en plein air” or “outdoor” painting techniques.

Paris

When Claude Monet became an adult, he joined the military, specifically the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria. While Monet was meant to be part of the calvary for seven years, he only stayed for two years due to contracting typhoid. This was when Monet left the military and began taking lessons from Charles Gleyre in Paris. Under Gleyre’s tutelage, Monet met artists such as Pierre-August Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley who he ended up collaborating with to share new approaches to art which eventually led to the creation of Impressionism. 

Impressionism and Later Life

Fast forward to 1872 when Monet painted Impression, Sunrise which depicted a Le Havre landscape. This painting hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is currently displayed in the Musee Marmottan-Monet, in Paris. The term “Impressionism” was coined by art critic Louis Leroy and was originally intended as an insult. Impressionists chose to take the insult and use it as their own term for the type of artwork they created. Money eventually married Camille Doncieux and had two children together. Camille grew ill in 1876 and eventually passed in 1879 of tuberculosis, resulting in Monet painting her on her death bed. Monet’s struggle with his wife’s death led to him creating some of his best paintings, many featuring the French countryside.