Lessons and early influences on Monet
Eugène Boudin was a landscape painter fifteen years older than Monet. He was a native of Le Havre and had once owned a stationer’s shop where both he and Monet had sold their work. Boudin first introduced Monet to painting landscapes en plein air, inviting him to Rouelles, north-east of Le Havre, to work on their canvases. Monet later described the experience to a friend:
…at Boudin’s suggestion I agreed to go out and work with him in the open air: I bought a box of paints and we went off to Rouelles… Boudin put up his easel and set to work … for me it was like the rending of a veil; I understood, I grasped what painting could be … my destiny as a painter opened up before me … Gradually my eyes were opened, and I understood nature; at the same time I learned to love her.
In 1859, Adolphe Monet applied unsuccessfully for a grant to allow Oscar-Claude to study painting in Le Havre. The teenage artist instead moved to Paris to receive guidance from established artists. He visited the studios of Amand Gautier (1825–1894) and Constant Troyon (1810–1865), who urged him to practise drawing. At the 1859 Salon, Monet saw the work of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875) and the Barbizon painters, including Charles-François Daubigny (1817–1878), Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) and Théodore Rousseau (1812–1867).
The Barbizon School was a group of French landscape painters who from the 1830s to the 1870s set out to paint nature. Every summer they visited the village of Barbizon, in the forest of Fontainebleau, and by the late 1850s had achieved success and recognition in the Salon. Their work heralded a distinct shift from the much-revered Classicism of earlier landscape artists such as Claude Lorrain (1600–1682) and Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), who had been concerned with the insertion of mythological and historical subject matter into formal and idealized representations of nature. The Barbizon School, with its dedication to drawing initial inspiration from sketching en plein air, is now widely seen as forming a transition between Classicism and Impressionism.
After a period working at the independent art school in Paris, the Académie Suisse, where he first met Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Monet enlisted in the French army and was sent to fight in Algeria. He returned to Le Havre in 1862 on sick leave, and his family bought him out of his remaining service on the condition that he study in an artist’s studio. He met Johan Barthold Jongkind, a Dutch landscape painter who, along with Boudin, was the most formative influence on his painting and career. He returned to Paris in the autumn of 1862 and joined the studio of the Swiss painter Charles Gleyre (1806–1874). At Gleyre’s studio, Monet met and worked alongside Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, who were to become two of his most famous Impressionist counterparts, and Frédéric Bazille, who became his loyal friend, peer and supporter. In the spring of 1863, the two men visited Fontainebleau, the forest with almost hallowed art-historical traditions, to which they would regularly return. A recently discovered journal suggests that Monet had visited Fontainebleau with his wealthy relatives while a teenager, but he was certainly taken with the place and repeatedly drew and painted it.
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This text is abridged from the Royal Academy Education Department
Introduction To The Unknown Monet (816 KB)