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  • Russ Ramsey

Monet and the Birth of Impressionism

Today we’ll look at the life and works of the French painter and founder of Impressionism, Claude Monet. Hard to believe I haven’t done an Art Wednesday series on Monet yet, but his presence has haunted so many other series.

Monet, Water Lillies Mural, 1926


Monet submitted this for an exhibition. He said, “They asked me for a title for the catalogue, it couldn’t really be taken for a view of [the harbor], and I said: ‘Put Impression.’ They turned it into Impressionism.”

Monet, Impression Sunrise, 1872


For want of a title in an exhibition catalog, the name “Impressionism” was born. Critics didn’t intend it as a compliment. Many used the term to describe this emerging line of art that seemed to them undisciplined.

Monet, Japanese Foot Bridge, 1922


Émile Zola said, “They found themselves forming a group, with all of them having a more or less similar view of nature; so they picked up the description that had been made of them, ‘Impressionists,’ and used it as a banner.

Monet, Landscape in the Rain, 1886


Zola said, “They were called Impressionists in a spirit of mockery; Impressionists they remained out of pluck.” Before long, this grass-roots community took the art world by storm. Now museums give entire wings to their work.

Monet, Charing Cross Bridge, 1901


To study the Impressionists is to study community, friendship, and risk. Pissarro, Cezanne, Courbet, Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Manet gave one another their friendship, as complicated as that can be among artists.

Monet, Poppy Field in Argenteuil, 1875


Later in life, his eyesight began to dim, leading to a period of particularly dark canvases. Monet underwent Cataract surgery, which restored his ability to see color. He died of lung cancer in 1926 at the age of 86.

Monet, Waves at the Manneporte, 1883

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