A Brief History of Claude Monet

The quintessential Impressionist, Claude Monet was born in Paris in 1840 but grew up on a beach town in Normandy, Le Havre. His father was a grocer and his mother was a singer.

From an early age he was bored with regular school and spent more time drawing sketches on the blue pages on his notebooks than dedicating himself to his lessons. These sketches were caricatures of teachers and famous people, and he was able to sell them easily for a fair price.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

In 1858, Monet met the seascape painter Eugène Boudin, who would have a huge influence on Monet’s style of painting. Monet began to appreciate nature and wish to paint the effects of light and shadows on water, trees, and flowers. He learned that the ideal way of painting was in the “open air”.

He decided to move to Paris and join the Académie Suisse in 1859. The atmosphere of the Académie was very relaxed, the hours were flexible, and the painters were free to develop their own experiments. Later, Monet joined the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he made friends with the artists Bazille, Renoir and Sisley.

The most important achievement for an artist in those days was to have his paintings accepted and shown at the famous Salón, an official annual exhibition in Paris, sponsored by the government. Despite the fact that Monet had some works accepted there, he soon realized that the kind of painting he was interested in would never be popular in that traditional environment.

The paintings in the Salón were usually idealized works, representing historical or mythological subjects. They were usually perfectly finished with extra coats of paint added to them. Monet, however, had realized very early on that what he enjoyed painting was the real world: landscapes, seascapes and contemporary Paris, applying vibrant colors, representing the way light was reflected on trees, grass, water, flowers and regular people. He was one of the first painters to paint outdoors from the start to the end of a painting. He thought it was essential to capture real light and the way it changed along the day and in different seasons of the year.

In 1874, his group of friends, who also had difficulty having their artworks accepted by the Salón, decided to have an exhibition dedicated to their own works. Of course, it was hard to compete with the Salón, and their exhibition only attracted a fraction of the public who would go to the traditional event, but that was a start, anyway. Their alternative exhibition was repeated every year for the next eight years.

In 1874 exhibition, Monet presented a painting called Impression: Sunrise (see image below). All we saw in it was a solitary boat on the sea in Le Havre with a red sunset reflecting on the water, painted in fast, diffused brushstrokes. An art critic, Louis Leroy, from the magazine Charivari, mocking the title and the style of the picture, wrote that the artists that painted like Monet were mere impressionists. His paintings looked more like sketches rather than finished works of art. Despite the derogatory use of the word, Monet and his friends boldly appropriated the name and started to use it officially to define their revolutionary new style. Impressionism had been born.

Impression, Sunrise, 1876.

Impression, Sunrise, 1876.

Claude Monet had financial problems for most of the first part of his life, but he started to make real money after he turned forty. By then, Impressionism had already become a recognized and important artistic style, admired and sought after by many art dealers.

He married twice. He had two sons by his first wife Camille, and 6 stepchildren from his second wife, Alice. He spent forty years living in a beautiful house with his whole family, painting views from his wonderful garden and artificial pond, carefully put together by himself with the help of 6 gardeners. This house was in Giverny and can still be visited by tourists today.

When he moved to Giverny in 1883, Monet started to paint what is usually known as the series paintings: he would paint the same subject on many canvas at a time, working on each one according to the right time of the day, giving continuation to each of them on the following day. So, as the light changed, he moved to the next painting matching the right time of the day, in a sequence. He started with haystacks, and then moved on to poplar trees, the Rouen Cathedral and, finally, the famous water lilies. He has more than 200 paintings on lilies, including the huge curved panels kept at the Musée de l’Orangerie, near the Louvre.

Blue Water Lilies: 1916-1919

Blue Water Lilies: 1916-1919

It is important to say that, although Monet was the official founder of Impressionism, he had been strongly influenced by the works of Manet and Courbet, who came before him, and, at a later stage, by the works of Turner and Constable, which he was able to get to know when he lived in London with his family, during the Franco-Prussian war. The group of Impressionists consisted of many artists, such as Renoir, Bazille, Sisley, Degas, Cézanne and others, who strengthened the movement with their powerful contributions. Cézanne was the one who took the movement forward, showing the way to the future, heavily influencing iconic artists such as Matisse and Picasso.

A chain smoker, Monet died of lung cancer in 1926, having worked hard on his paintings and his garden to the very end. Claude Monet is one of most famous and loved artists in history, and his paintings sell for millions of dollars today.

If you are interested in Monet, please check out our eBook series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Check out the video on Monet’s eBook below:

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.



Monet’s Fun Quiz: How much do You Know about the Artist?

Take que quiz and find out how much you know about Claude Monet:


Poppies at Argenteuil. 1873

Poppies at Argenteuil. 1873



1.  Where was he born? a. Le Havre, b. Naples, c. Paris


2. What was he like? a. Quick-tempered, b. Calm and peaceful, c. Cold and calculating


3. What kind of painting style is he famous for? a. Romantic, b. Impressionist, c. Baroque


4. What was the most original trait of his paintings? a. Bright colors and open-air painting; b. Idealization of reality and the use of myths c. Emulation of the classical models


5. How did he die? a. Of lung cancer, b. Killed in a battle, c. Of old age


6. Was he famous while he was alive? a. Not at all, b. Pretty much c. In the second half of his life


7. Was he ever married? a. Twice, b. Never c. Once


8. What didn’t he paint? a. Landscapes, b. Boats and water, c. Mythology


9. What’s the historical context he lived in? a. The Counter-Reformation, b. The Second Industrial Revolution, c. The Renaissance


10. Which one is not a Monet painting: a. Puppies in Argenteuil b. Blue Nude IV, c. Saint Lazare Station


Caravaggio's quiz



Claude Monet

Claude Monet


You may wish to take a look at our video clip: TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MONET (the eBook)



For further info on the titles of the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, click here:



Teaching English with Art

Teaching English with Art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette




My worst flying experience

With the sad news of the doomed fate of flight MH370, I could not help but remember one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had flying.

I had spent 15 days vacationing in London in the interval between the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2012. Everything went well, London had been sunny and warm for the most part of my stay. I had spent a lot of time sitting in green parks, visiting galleries and museums,  and walking up and down along the Thames riverside from Tate Modern to the Tower Bridge.  I had had such a great time that was even considering going back the following year.

But now I was ready to come home. It was a Friday evening and I was feeling relaxed and with my energies fully restored to resume work on Monday. My flight to São Paulo, Brazil, would leave from Paris. As you probably know, when you try to redeem the miles accumulated over months or even years of paid flights, when time has finally come for you to claim your reward, the airlines will give you the worst choices of flight plans they can possibly put together, short of making you take a route around the world to be able to get to the point on Earth you are aiming for.

So I needed to get to Paris first – a 90 min flight – before facing the uncomfortable and long journey back home in coach: although I fly all the time for work, the experience is far from enjoyable for me.


Horrible flight

Armed with a bunch of newly-bought crossword puzzles, I took my preferred seat on the isle, next to a  good-looking young couple, who seemed to be still in love with each other. “They can’t have been together for long”, I thought, by the way they looked lovingly into each other’s eyes with a silly grin on their faces. They were both dressed like business people and I wondered about their luck being able to travel together for work. Or they might have just met on the plane and fallen in love. I know this can happen. Good for them. I was distracted by these fantasies as the plane took off.

As soon as the plane reached the right altitude, taking a horizontal position, I proceeded to take out my puzzles, pulled down the food tray in front of me, and started working furiously on solving the crossword problems. After a couple of minutes, I came across a tough one: 10 letters: synonym for commotion; unruliness; insubordination; rioting… I bit my pen in deep thought.

Then it started.

It was first felt as a sudden plunge into the void, which made some of the passengers cry out in fright. I was one of them. Then the plane stabilized for a moment, a couple of seconds maybe, and then a full-fledged turbulence broke out. The vessel shook like we were a cocktail being made by one of the cool bartenders in the Soho pub I had been to the night before. I was in terror. Stealing a glance at the couple sitting next to me, I noticed they were tense but totally silent. The smiles had been wiped off their faces but their hands remained held tight. I wondered if they would mind if I intermingled my cold and trembling fingers with theirs. With much effort, I refrained from trying this approach.

The plane seemed to steady and flew smoothly for a couple of minutes. I sighed. Peace did not last long, though. Soon the shaking and bouncing started again. Some middle-aged Spanish-speaking ladies, probably members of some tourist package holiday group, had seats a couple of rows ahead of me, to the right, and I could jealously see them laughing and screaming at the same time, while holding each others hands in support. Meanwhile, I was on my own, firmly gripping both arms of my seat and murmuring repeatedly DEAR GOD, DEAR GOD, DEAR GOD. I only noticed I was voicing these words out loud when I took another look at the couple – maybe to see if any of them would offer to hug me or hold my hand – only to find them staring at me with a despising look on their faces. I shut up and closed my eyes.

Another big mistake. The moment I shut my eyes, images of all the “plane crash” disaster movies I had ever seen came rushing back in waves, reminding me of the horrors of AIRPORT 1,2,3,4,5…, the beginning of the TV show LOST, and a memorable graphic crash scene from the 90s movie FEARLESS. The latter, however,  gave me some hope, as Jeff Bridges’s character survived the crash after all, and decided he was invincible from then on. I might be the lucky one this time.

The turbulence never let up. It lasted the whole flight. Getting worse and worse, till we were told that we should start landing procedures. Never had I experienced anything like that before. I was shaken to my core when we arrived in Paris, and almost missed my flight to Brazil, having totally forgotten to adjust my watch to account for the one-hour time difference between London and Paris. My lips felt dry and white.

My heart goes out to the passengers on board any doomed flight. I deeply sympathize with how they may have felt in the final moments, as I believe I’m a survivor.

On the peaceful 12-hour flight back home from Paris, I resumed the crossword puzzle I had abandoned when chaos took over the flight from London to Paris. The 10-letter word I was looking for was obviously TURBULENCE.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.