Claude Monet is one of the most familiar and best loved of all Western artists. His images of poppy fields, poplar trees, water lilies and elegant ladies in blossoming gardens are familiar to people who have never seen the original paintings and may never have visited an art gallery. Monet's works have won a place in the affection of the general public that seems almost without parallel. (Rachman, 4) In the decades since his death in 1926, Monet's work has been intensely studied by a variety of art critics. However, none of his works have been as deeply studied as those done in Giverny, in the early twentieth century. During this time Monet's paintings, which focused on specific subject matter from various viewpoints, became the most famous of his career and also the most analyzed, bringing forth a variety of different opinions.
Monet's parents were members of the lower middle class, the 'petite bourgeoisie'. His father, Claude Adolphe Monet, had been enrolled in the merchant navy at the channel port of Le Havre. However, in 1835, when he married Louise-Justine Aubry, he was living in Paris. The couple's first son, Leon, was born in 1836, and their second and last child was born on November 14, 1840 and baptized Oscar-Claude Monet. Monet's parents seemed to have kept some sort of shop there, but it apparently did not flourish, and around 1845 they left Paris for Le Havre. There Claude Adolphe had a half-sister who had married into a prosperous merchant family. Marie-Jeanne Lecardre was some years older than Monet's father, and her husband was willing to employ him in their grocery business. In 1857 Monet's mother died and his aunt, childless, artistic and comparatively wealthy, became the main supporter of his early art career. (Gordon, 35)
Monet's early training as an artist seems to have been confined to conventional drawing lessons at the school he attended in Le Havre. He and his brother were sent to the local secondary school, which provided a traditional education in the classical languages and commerce. Leon went on to study chemistry, a serious and solid profession in which he did well, but Oscar-Claude was of less credit to his parents. He claimed that 'school always felt like a prison'. As an elderly man he insisted that he had never paid attention to lessons, spending his tome doodling, 'I drew garlands in the margins…and covered the blue paper of my exercise books with the most bizarre ornaments'. At some time between 1855 and 1857 Monet left school and expressed the wish to become a painter. (Gordon, 37)
By the time he was seventeen, Monet was already making money from his work and had won a local reputation as a caricaturist. Skillful and amusing, his caricatures were displayed in the window of a local frame maker, Monsieur Gravier, where they drew crowds of appreciative viewers. Gravier also displayed paintings by the landscape painter Eugene Boudin, who was an old friend of his. ...