MONET AND HIS IMPRESSIONIST ART
Claude Monet is one of the most famous painters in the history of art and a leading figure in the Impressionist movement, whose works can be seen in museums around the world. On this post, we are going to follow Monet’s steps and look for his Impressionist art, visiting the most significant addresses in Paris (& beyond) related to his life and art work.
Monet was Parisian! He was born in 1840 at 45 rue Lafitte (Paris 9), a street that later would become an art gallery street during decades. It was only when he was 5 that he moved to Le Havre (Normandy) with his family. In Normandy Monet met Eugene Boudin, a local landscape artist who introduced him to painting outdoors. Plein air painting would later become the cornerstone of Claude Monet artwork.
In 1859 the painter traveled back to Paris to pursue his arts. In Paris he met other young painters, who would become friends and later fellow Impressionists. Monet was very active in the City of Lights, especially when the impressionist movement started.
NADAR ’S PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
Nadar (1820-1910) was a famous photographer of the XIXth century. Photographic portraits by Nadar are held by many of the great national collections of photographs. Nadar was a friend of Monet and around 1873 he hosted the painter in his photography studio, at 35 boulevard des Capucines in Paris 2. Monet painted at least one canvas (“Boulevard des Capucines 1873) from there. Nadar’s photography studio is also the place where the first impressionist exhibition was held, in 1874. In this event Monet exhibited the work « Impression, Sunrise » that marked the beginning of Impressionist art and was to give the group its lasting name.
Today, the building is transformed into a clothes shop but its singular architecture and facade are still worth a short stop if you are around. Outside, there is an information panel with the history of the building.
MONET AND GARE SAINT LAZARE
During his career, Monet painted many series of canvases using the same subject from different points of view or different lights. In 1877 he made a large series of paintings of Gare Saint Lazare in Paris.
Inaugurated in 1837, Paris Saint Lazare (Paris 8) was the departure point to trendy beach suburbs to spend the weekend. The station’s iron and glass architecture symbolized at that time the industrial progress and the speed. Gare Saint Lazare was immortalized by other artists like Zola (The human beast), Manet (The Railway), Gustave Caillebotte and many more.
IMPRESSIONIST ART AT PARC MONCEAU PARIS
Between 1876 and 1878 Monet painted six views of Parc Monceau, in Paris 8. Today it is difficult to find the exact point where Monet positioned his easel because the trees and plants have grown or changed. However, it is always pleasant to visit Parc Monceau, especially on a sunny day. Established in the XVIIIth century by the Duke of Orleans, he wanted to create an English garden with fantastic reconstructions of buildings of different ages and continents. Today Parc Monceau is one of the most elegant parks in Paris, surrounded by luxury buildings and sumptuous mansions. The park features many statues, a pond and a Renaissance archway.
ROUEN CATHEDRAL (NORMANDY)
Sometimes Monet traveled to find other sources of inspiration. In the early 1890s, we find Monet in Rouen painting a series of works focused on Rouen Cathedral. The different paintings (30) depicted the cathedral in different lights and weather, showing Monet’s fascination with the effects of light.
Rouen, the capital of Upper Normandy, is located by the river Seine at 135 km North-West from Paris. The city has a beautiful and compact historical centre, easy to navigate on foot. For this reason and its good connection with the French capital Rouen is a popular and easy day trip from Paris. Direct trains leave Gare Saint Lazare to Rouen train station hourly for a journey of 1 hr 10 min (22€-35€, one way).
MONET’S GARDEN GIVERNY (NORMANDY)
Apart from Paris, the painter also lived in other locations more suitable for painting directly in front of the nature. Monet moved in 1883 from Paris to Giverny, a place that would serve as a source of great inspiration for the artist and prove to be his final home. By November 1890, Monet was prosperous enough to buy the house which was renting, the surrounding buildings and the land for his garden. The painter dedicated a special attention to the garden. Monet wrote daily instructions to his gardener, precise designs and layouts for plantings. Despite hiring later seven gardeners, Monet always remained its architect and Monet’s garden appears on many canvasses.
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 (Claude Monet)
Every year thousands of visitors go from Paris to Giverny to admire the water lily pond that inspired Monet water lilies paintings. However, Monet house and studio are as interesting as the garden and water lilies. For me, it was not about a series of different rooms with the artist’s personal objects. It was a visual experience of different spaces, colors and materials where Monet left nothing to chance.
You can visit Monet’s garden in Giverny on a day trip from Paris. The train goes from Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon train station (2 hrs 5 min) where you can take a shuttle which drops you in front of Monet house. We find the transportation from Paris to Giverny a little bit expensive (15€-23€ train ticket + 5€ bus ticket, one way) so if you are traveling in a group maybe it is more convenient to rent a car for the day or join a tour. Another option, which is becoming very popular, is a bike tour from Paris.
Etretat is a small fishing village on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy. The village is famous for its huge towering cliffs painted by Monet. Monet did not hesitate to take the crazy path which descends from the top of the cliffs to its feet with all his equipment to have a better angle. He also used to ignore the storm to go to work. Apart from the cliffs and the beach, Etretat has also a beautiful traditional architecture, many hiking trails and good fish restaurants. The village can be visited on a day trip from Paris (4hr 5 min by train, 32€-64€ one way) but it is better to spend at least one night there to get the most out of it.
ORANGERIE MUSEUM IN PARIS
In 1911 Monet began a final series of 8 water lilies paintings commissioned by the Orangerie Museum in Paris 1. He decided to make them on a very large scale, to fill the walls of two special oval rooms. These rooms have the advantage of natural light from the roof and are oriented from west to east, following the course of the sun.
Monet wanted the works to serve as a “haven of peaceful meditation”, a place to forget about the outside world. The end of the First World War in 1918 reinforced his desire to offer beauty to wounded souls.
We like to go to Musée Orangerie when it rains hard outside. For us, the sound of the rain on the roof adds something special to Monet water lilies.
MUSÉE MARMOTTAN MONET
Marmottan Monet Museum, located in Paris 16, owns the largest Claude Monet collection in the world. The paintings, coming from Monet’s second son and other private collectors, give the public the opportunity to admire all the significant stages of the painter’s career and follow the evolution of his technique. Don’t miss Musée Marmottan Monet if you are a serious fan of Claude Monet. Among others, the collection holds the movement’s eponymous painting « Impression, Sunrise ». There are also paintings from his Argenteuil period, some views of Monet in Paris and some water lilies paintings coming from the water lily pond in Giverny.
We hope that you enjoyed our article about Monet in Paris and beyond. If you like Claude Monet and his Impressionist Art, it is essential to visit some of these places in order to better understand the Master, to better seize the origin of his inspiration and to imagine him still alive with us.
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The author of the paintings (Claude Monet) died in 1926, so the pictures showing Monet’s artwork on this article are in the public domain in their country of origin (France) and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 80 years or less.