Monet: A Biography of Light and Water

Delving into the Life and Art of Claude Monet

Claude Monet, the renowned French artist, was a man of contradictions. From his early sketches to his iconic water-lilies series, water was a recurring motif in over 1,000 of his paintings. Monet’s passion for capturing the essence of this element was unwavering, even after an incident where he was swept away by a wave while painting the cliffs at Étretat. In her groundbreaking biography, Jackie Wullschläger explores the complex life and art of Monet, shedding light on his relationships, artistic process, and enduring legacy.

A Contradictory and Difficult Man

Monet’s personal life was fraught with contradictions. He infamously abandoned his muse, Camille, just before the birth of their child, yet he also displayed moments of generosity and empathy. Lasting friendships, including his bond with Georges Clemenceau, revealed a different side of Monet, one capable of enduring relationships.

A Sympathetic and Skilled Biographer

In Jackie Wullschläger, Monet has found a biographer who understands the intricacies of his life and work. As the chief art critic for the Financial Times, Wullschläger brings a unique perspective to the table. This biography marks the first comprehensive account of Monet’s life and art in the English language, making it a significant contribution to the understanding of this celebrated artist.

Unveiling Monet’s Artistic Process

Wullschläger’s biography truly shines when it delves into Monet’s artistic process. Through meticulous research, readers gain access to the artist’s account books, correspondence, and intimate moments. The painting “Impression, Sunrise,” which gave birth to the Impressionist movement, is vividly described as a moment of breaking light and ethereal reflections. The author also reveals the surprising truth behind the creation of “Women in the Garden,” highlighting how Monet’s unconventional method of digging a ditch provided him with a stable viewpoint.

Monet in His Own Words

Wullschläger allows Monet to speak for himself, offering glimpses into the artist’s personality and quirks. From his request to inflate the price of his paintings to his fib about working solely en plein air, Monet’s words reveal a complex and sometimes enigmatic character. The biography uncovers the truth behind his meticulous approach to painting, debunking the myth of effortless spontaneity.

The Complexity of Monet’s Character

Monet’s character is further explored through his financial struggles and conflicting judgments. While he shamelessly sought financial help in his youth, he later refused to let his stepdaughter marry an artist he deemed “impecunious.” This complexity is mirrored in his enduring relationship with water, a force that both inspired and challenged him throughout his life.


Jackie Wullschläger’s biography of Claude Monet provides an unprecedented glimpse into the life and art of one of history’s greatest painters. Through meticulous research and a deep understanding of Monet’s work, Wullschläger paints a comprehensive portrait of a contradictory and complex man. By exploring his relationships, artistic process, and enduring love for water, this biography offers readers a profound understanding of Monet’s legacy and the profound impact he had on the art world.






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