Impressionism: Claude Monet and His Gardens

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Luncheon in the Garden by Claude Monet

Claude Monet was born in Paris on November 14, 1840. He took drawing lessons in school and began making and selling caricatures at age seventeen. Artist Eugene Boudin introduced him to painting en plein air or out of doors. The invention of oil paints in portable tubes enabled artists to paint en plein air. The palette also changed with the introduction of paints made with chemical dyes, making a wider range of colors available.

In Paris, Monet met painters like Gustave Courbet and Pierre August Renoir. In 1874 he exhibited with the Société anonyme, where his painting Impression: Sunrise earned the group the title, “Impressionists,” as critics thought their paintings were unfinished impressions.

In 1883, Monet moved to Giverny. There, he began his paintings of the French countryside, and many of his paintings depict his property at Giverny. In many of these paintings, one subject was painted several times, so that different effects of light and atmosphere were shown. Champ d’Avoine is one painting in a series of three. Although in his earlier career, he focused on industrialization, people and popular leisure spots, he eventually focused on the landscape, emphasizing the beauty of light and the lushness of nature.

Light and its effects on color and the innovation of photography, with its ability to capture the fleeting moment, fascinated the Impressionist painters. Inspired by that freeze-frame in time, they realized the potential for painting these effects in color. Working out of doors (en plein air), their hues became more vivid with their renderings of sunlight and its interplay with nature.

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