Monet was born in Paris in 1840. When he was 16 years old, he started painting satirical caricatures and met the painter Eugène Boudin, who brought him with him to paint nature.
In Paris, he met Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley, the core of what would become Impressionism. He encouraged his friends to come and paint outdoors in the forest of Fontainebleau. At that time, he also met Georges Clémenceau, then a medical student who would later become Prime Minister of France during the Third Republic.
In 1870, Monet fled the Franco-Prussian war and found refuge in London. He married Camille Doncieux, with whom he had two sons, Jean, in 1867 and Michel, in 1878. The hazy atmosphere of London inspired him to paint very beautiful paintings. Then he settled in Argenteuil, France which would become the center of Impressionism. The changing light on the Seine river and the countryside, the endless variations of colors in the fields gave Monet an ideal motif. Finally, his move to Giverny in Normandy in 1883 marked a decisive turning point in his life and his work. His garden in Giverny was both its most precious motif but also a remarkable creation in which nature flourishes.
“It is a profession that I learnt during my youth… when I was unhappy…
It is maybe to flowers that I owe becoming a painter”
For his garden, Monet asked the municipality to divert an arm of the river Epte. His request would be accepted and the river gave him the possibility of creating a pond which he surmounts with a Japanese bridge. The garden blossoms and develops to contain a multitude of trees (weeping willows, ash trees, poplars) and flowers dominated by thousands of water lilies.
“I want to paint the air around the bridge, the house, the boat. The beauty of the air where they are, and it is nothing other than impossible”
His flower garden helped Monet overcome adversity. Indeed, the First World War found him weakened by age, his anguish of losing his eyesight, the loss of his second wife Alice and his son Jean. He continued to paint his garden and its water lilies, which he approached from multiple points of view. It was a difficult quest that made him doubt his abilities.
Dissatisfied, he started over, erased, sometimes destroyed. Supported by some close friends who believed in his genius and encouraged him, Monet advanced in the realization of his project. Absorbed by this work which he failed to submit, so eager to correct it indefinitely, Monet would not see the Water Lilies installed in the Orangery museum after his death.
“It took me some time to understand my water lilies… I cultivated them with no thought of painting them… One does not fully appreciate a landscape in one day… And then, suddenly, I had a revelation of the magic of my pond. I took my palette. From this moment, I have had almost no other model”
He died in Giverny in 1926. For his funeral, he wanted “neither flowers nor wreaths. […] It would be truly sacrilegious to destroy, on this occasion, all the flowers in my garden… ”.
When Clemenceau saw the black sheet on the coffin of his faithful friend at the funeral, he exclaimed: “No, no black for Monet!” and the Head of the Government Clémenceau substituted it with floral cloth.
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