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Claude Oscar Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926), sometimes referred to as simply Monet, was a French Impressionist painter and the leader of the Impressionist group of artists. He was the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the Impressionist philosophy, which emphasized expressing the artist’s perceptions before nature rather than copying nature. He influenced subsequent generations of artists, and his work is regarded as fundamental to the Impressionist movement. His paintings of the Rouen Cathedral and water lilies are considered some of the greatest masterpieces of French painting.
Born in Le Havre, France to a poor family, Monet was the oldest of six children. He began to sketch and paint in his early teens, often spending time in the museums in Paris where he copied works by contemporary painters like Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet. He was taught by local art teachers such as Jacques-Francois Ochard and Eugene Boudin, who introduced him to the technique of painting “en plein air.”
Monet was initially drawn into military service but contracted typhoid and was discharged after only two years in the army. After his discharge he was encouraged by his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre to attend an art course. He became a professional artist and, in the 1870s, joined forces with fellow impressionists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley to create an arts organization that would challenge the strict standards of the dominant arts organization at the time, the Academia des Beaux-Arts.
He travelled extensively in the 1880s to London, Venice, Norway and around France, but eventually settled in Giverny where he produced his famous series of paintings showing a single subject under different lighting conditions. These include his famous series of poplars, haystacks, paintings of the Rouen Cathedral and his garden at Giverny.
During the 1920s Monet suffered from declining health and the death of his wife Alice in 1933. His son Jean died in a car accident in 1935, and his mental health deteriorated. In the last decade of his life, he began to show signs of dementia and became estranged from his sons. Despite his decline, he continued to produce new works until shortly before his death in 1926. He was buried in his beloved garden at Giverny.