Most people have heard of the famed French painter—and father of French Impressionist painting. Even the name given to the style, ‘Impressionism,’ comes from the title of one of Monet’s early pieces—Impression, Sunrise.
But the French artist was more than just an Impressionist. His fascinating life saw him overcome tragedy, loss, bullying, and adversity to remain one of the world’s most prolific and consistent artists ever.
To this day, all of Monet’s art is in high demand. In May, 2019, a Monet painting sold for $110m at auction. Here are 9 more facts you might not know about the founder of French Impressionism.
Monet: 9 Fascinating Facts about the French Artist.
1. He turned the traditional art scene upside down.
Oscar-Claude Monet used oil paint on canvas to create beautiful landscapes, full of flowers, beautiful gardens, rivers, and bridges. His use of light and shadow created a type of art that many contemporary artists use in landscape painting today. Before him, traditional painting didn’t offer the depth or creative license that Impressionism made available. But as we’ll learn later, not everyone was grateful for the change.
2. His parents called him Oscar, not Claude.
Monet was born in Paris in November, 1840, in a fifth floor apartment on rue Laffitte. His family’s home was just several houses away from where Louis Napoleon III, the first president of France, was born. Monet was the second child of Claude Adolphe and Louise Justine Aubree. He was baptized as Oscar-Claude, but his parents called him Oscar, and he signed his early pieces ‘O. Monet.’
His mother was quite a successful singer, and she encouraged Monet’s love of art. His father, on the other hand, encouraged him strongly to join the family’s grocery business, an interesting fact about Claude Monet.
3. He showed artistic talent as a teen.
At 11 years old, Monet enrolled at a secondary school of the arts, where he became quite well-known for his charcoal caricatures. Before he reached his teens he was selling his art for up to twenty francs a piece—enough to buy 3 chickens and a week’s worth of bread.
At this age he also took drawing lessons, and found a mentor in artist Eugene Boudin. Boudin taught Monet about oil paints and outdoor painting techniques.
4. He lost his mother when he was 16.
While studying art, Monet’s mother—Louise—passed away. Because she had supported her son’s love of art, and essentially running interference with his father, losing her was difficult for him. He continued to refuse to join the family business, and moved out of his father’s home to live with his aunt. Without his mother’s support, he was unable to continue at art school, and dropped out before he turned 17, an interesting Claude Monet fact.
5. He got drafted.
In 1861, at age 21, Monet was drafted into the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry. Algeria, which was a French-controlled territory in 1861, became Monet’s base. Under French law, you could purchase a military discharge, and Monet’s fathered offered to pay his—provided he give up his art dreams. Monet refused.
Monet caught Typhoid fever a year into his seven-year draft. His aunt, who feared for his health and safety, paid his military discharge. He returned to France, and his aunt enrolled him at a Parisian art school.
6. He attempted suicide in his 20s.
The young Monet became jaded about the French art scene, and the strict guidelines around what was considered art at the time. He despised copying the style of the great artists of the time, but his original artwork was often rejected.
He was so frustrated and depressed over his struggling career that he jumped off a bridge, and into the Seine. He survived the fall, but ended up finding a community of “outsiders” who shared his frustration with the Academie and its restrictive rules.
7. He had a rocky love life.
Monet met Camille Doncieux, a model, in the mid-1860s. They married in 1870, and he painted her often throughout his early career. The couple had two children together. In 1879, Camille died of what historians believe was uterine cancer.
Monet had an affair with Alice Hoschede, the wife of an art collector and businessman. When Alice’s husband went bankrupt, the couple and their six children moved in with Monet. After Camille’s death, and while Monet was still mourning his beloved wife and muse, Alice burned all her letters and photographs in a jealous rage. She and her family were turned out on the street, but following her husband’s death in 1892, she returned to—and married—him, an interesting Claude Monet fact.
8. Renoir once painted a painting of Monet painting a painting.
The painting-within-a-painting came about in 1873. Monet was spending the summer in a Parisian suburb, and Renoir visited him to paint outdoors. Both men were anti-Academie, and were in the midst of creating what would become the Impressionist style. Renoir painted Monet painting in the Argenteuil garden, calling it ‘Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil’—a fairly accurate title.
9. People made fun of him.
If it wasn’t enough that the entire French Academie rejected his art, he was also mocked by critics later in life. Monet began losing his sight in his late 60s, and was legally blind in his 80s. He continued to paint by memory, making sure certain colors were on specific parts of his artist’s palette.
The art community mocked his blurry painting, insinuating that the Impressionist style was due to his sight problems and not his brilliance as an artist, an interesting fact about Monet.
Oscar-Claude Monet had an enviable career that spanned decades and garnered global fame that has lasted more than a century. His paintings now come with multi-million dollar price-tags, and hundreds of thousands of people visit his home each year, to walk through his famous garden and blue sitting-room. Monet died of lung cancer in 1926.
I hope that this article on Monet facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!