Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, indeed the term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.
Many of Monet’s paintings were inspired by places which held a particular significance for him at various stages of his life, including Le Havre and the Normandy coast, Venice, Argenteuil and Giverny in the Eure department in Northern France, the inspiration for his famous water lily paintings.
The cities of Paris and London were to provide particular inspiration for Monet as he progressed and developed his impressionist style of art. Monet was actually born in Paris but moved at the age of five to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery store business, but Claude Monet wanted to become an artist. As a young man, Monet lived in Paris for several years and met several painters who would become friends and fellow impressionists, including Édouard Manet.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken colour and rapid brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.
Whilst living in Paris, Monet’s paintings included the Quai at the Louvre, The Pont Neuf, the Boulevard des Capucines and the Parc Monceau but perhaps one of his best known series of paintings depicts the atmospheric Gare Saint-Lazare from different angles and in varying light conditions.
After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 Monet took refuge in England and studied the works of Constable and Turner. During this visit to London, and more particularly during a later visit in 1899, Monet found particular inspiration in views of the Houses of Parliament and the River Thames. Some of his best known series of paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions, were of the Houses of Parliament, WaterlooBridge and Charing CrossBridge.
The largest collection of Monet art in the world can be seen at the Marmottan-MonetMuseum in Paris, where more than 150 pieces are displayed. The Musee d’Orsay also has a large number of Monet paintings amongst its large impressionist art collection. The OrangerieMuseum in the TuileriesGardens displays Monet’s 8 very large water lily paintings, the “Nympheas”.
In London there are works by Monet at the National and Tate Galleries, but many of the London-inspired paintings have been dispersed around the world to be displayed in galleries in Chicago, Washington, St. Petersburg and Zurich, to name just a few.
Still, it’s good to gaze on the familiar London scene of the River Thames and Houses of Parliament, knowing that it gave such inspiration to one of the greatest artists who has ever lived.