Rebellious Aspect to Monet’s Personality

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Claude Monet is an artist who continues to be adored and held in high esteem even to this day. There may be many who perhaps are not familiar with the name, yet still at least recognise one piece of his work. His paintings are a celebration of nature; the subject which captivated Monet completely especially in his later chapters in life. Monet’s art is cherished greatly and has been studied for years, something which began during his career through till now. The aim here is to travel through some of Monet’s journey, analysing select pieces of work and discussing just how nature inspired him. This essay will discuss his life, his process and evolution throughout a long career and how Monet grew to be the painter he longed to be.

At a young age Monet had taken an interest in drawing; having been born in Paris on 14th of November 1840, his father moved them by the Normandy coast, a place Monet would hold dear for years, and serves as the starting point for his landscape art (Brodskaïa, N 2018: 172 - 75). Interestingly, Monet began his journey by practicing the art of caricatures in his youth, receiving pay from neighbours. These were spotted by Eugene Boudin, taking in the evident talent Monet already possessed, before informing him he should learn to paint. Initially there was little interest in it for Monet, thinking of Boudin’s methods as odd, however after a little time and realisation Monet grew an acceptance towards them. Being out in nature whilst painting became something he loved. Perhaps we can see Monet’s greatest work as inspired from the gift Boudin bestowed upon him, being one with the outdoors.

Monet did attend secondary school in Le Harve for a time yet is noted to have dropped out when the dream to become a painter ran at the forefront of his mind (Rachman, C 1997: 18). Many may relate to Monet in the sense that school held not much in ways to entertain him; preferring to drift off into sketching during lessons, as Monet is recorded to have spoken of this: ‘I drew garlands in the margins … and covered the blue paper of my exercise books with the most bizarre ornaments, which included highly irreverent drawings of my masters, full-face or profile, with maximum distortion’.

This is showing us a somewhat rebellious aspect to Monet’s personality, preferring to live in his own world. That characteristic of Monet is what we can discuss in more detail. There had been a part of him that wanted to go off and do his own thing, always. Boudin had noticed this, alongside the potential to master the art of outdoor painting. Monet later admitted “Eventually my eyes were opened, … and I really understood nature. I learned to love it at the same time” (Brodskaïa, N 2018: 174).

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His understanding of outdoor elements we could argue was a part of who Monet had always been, from his childhood to a young adult upon meeting Boudin, where he encouraged the young painter to be out there, witnessing landscapes as he did, expanding the creative eye.

Monet was a painter whose subject matter varied only slightly throughout his career, residing in the family of landscapes and figures. Figures proved prominent in many works before narrowing down his ideas to solely studies of his surroundings. Later on, we aim to look at in more detail, his most famous series of paintings, Monet’s Water Lilies.

It is worth mentioning that Monet lived a section of his life working on Tourism paintings. At a resort in Etretat he created an array of paintings showcasing the views that drew his eye. Unlike a lot of artists in this period, Monet seemed to pick out what intrigued him most, putting together his own custom viewpoint instead of simply copying what lay before him. Rather than capture every building and tourist present, Monet had the evident preference of constructing his own view. Perhaps this was for the eventual viewer of said paintings to see the world as he did; Monet adored the outdoors. His choice to forego intricate detail on manmade subjects and instead draw the eye to hilltops, water, sea and sky is an interesting one. The artist is recorded to have said:

‘Never would I bend, even in my tender youth, to a rule. School always appeared to me like a prison, and I never could make up my mind to stay there, not even for four hours a day, when the sunshine was inviting, the sea smooth, and when it was such a joy to run about on the cliffs, in the free air, or to paddle around in the water’.

From this we understand a calling Monet received from the outdoors. He did not wish to be kept inside, wanting to explore his own path and way of working. It proves to us that he did feel trapped to what was deemed normal in his youth, so he fought to reject this for years. Even during the time he studied with Boudin, Monet began to show what he longed to put on canvas. Taking this into consideration, we shall take a look at an early work of his. A piece titled The Point de la Heve at Low Tide (See Fig 1).

The Point de la Heve at Low Tide is one of the first few works Monet proceeded to show to the public at an annual exhibition in Paris. Twenty-four years old at the time, the exhibited paintings were ambitious, with the intention of Monet putting himself out there for the world to see (Herbert, Robert L. 1994: 9). The piece is measured at almost five feet wide, ambition evident. He needed to prove capability and get people into a discussion.

In The Point de la Heve at Low Tide we see a directness that divides the studies from Monet’s earlier work as compared to later career. We witness this sharpness to the painting, it is certainly not soft or gentle, being almost moody. It lacks that typical Monet feel most viewers will recognise in his work, overall. The tones are dull and muddy, depending on a viewer’s individual eye and preference they may find that the sea is what calls to attention first.  

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