Landscape Painting: Coquelicots by Claude Monet

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Landscape Painting: Coquelicots by Claude Monet

Though born in Paris, Claude Oscar Monet — his parents called him Oscar — had passed his youth in Le Havre, where his father owned a grocery store together with a brother-in-law, Lecadre. Monet’s youth had been essentially that of a vagabond, as he himself later remarked; it had been spent more on the cliffs and in the water than in the classroom. He was undisciplined by nature, and school always seemed to him a prison. He diverted himself by decorating the blue paper of his copybook and using it for sketches of his teachers, done in a very irreverent manner.

He soon acquired a great deal of skill at this game. At fifteen he was known all over Le Havre as a caricaturist. His reputation was so well established that he was sought after to make caricature-portraits. The abundance of these orders, and the insufficiency of subsidies derived from maternal generosity, inspired him with a bold resolve that scandalized his family: he took money for the portraits… 20 francs.

Having gained a certain reputation by these means, Monet was soon “an important personage in the town.” In the shop window of the sole frame maker his caricatures were arrogantly displayed, five or six in a row, and when he saw the loungers crowding in admiration and heard them exclaiming: “That is so and so!” he “nearly choked with vanity and self-satisfaction.” Still, there was a shadow in all this glory. Often in the same shop window, hung above his own productions, he beheld marines, which he, like most of his fellow citizens, thought “disgusting.”

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