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Claude Monet (1840-1926)

( Originally Published 1955 )

Outstanding French Impressionist landscape painter. An artistic prodigy, Monet began his landscape study at his home, Le Havre, where he painted with the plein-air painter of weather, Boudin, and the Dutchman Jongkind, an atmospheric interpreter of exquisite touch. In Paris Monet found the studio of Gleyre stifling and, with Bazille, Sisley and Renoir, he abandoned it for the Forest of Fontainebleau. These painters were at the time affected by Corot, Daubigny and Courbet. By the mid-1860's Monet was employing the clear, flat colors of his early maturity and was actively associated with the radical Cafe Guerbois group, in which Manet figured so prominently. During the Franco-Prussian war he was in London with Sisley and Pissarro, and there he met the dealer Durand-Ruel. Following the war Monet worked closely with Renoir and together they developed the characteristic broken-color technique of middle-Impressionist painting. Monet is notable for applying this method in clinical fashion to "series" paintings of the same subject, such as the Gare St. Lazare under changing light conditions. The result is, perhaps, more subjective than scientifically convincing, especially in the later series of Rouen Cathedral and the Thames, which are imbued with poetical fancy and a highly personal color sense. These latter paintings with their modern symbolic overtones reveal the crisis that Impressionism passed through in the 1880's when its outstanding members changed from objective to subjective modes of vision. Monet was simple in character and did not show that flair for theorizing and writing that marked several of his contemporaries.

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