In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Claude Monet

  • Introduction
  • Catalogues Raisonnés
  • Museum Collections
  • General Overviews
  • Monet’s Home and Gardens
  • Primary Sources
  • Critical Reception
  • Technical Studies

Art History Claude Monet
Steven Z. Levine
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0106


Claude Monet (b. 1840–d. 1926) is the artist most closely associated with the term “Impressionism.” His paintings are among the most frequently viewed on the Internet, ranking fourth after Picasso, van Gogh, and Leonardo. Monet’s paintings command high prices at auction and his works are continuously featured in exhibitions around the world. Despite the international currency of Monet’s work, the scholarly literature since the mid-20th century is characterized by significant differences in interpretation from formalism to social history, feminism to psychoanalysis. It is not possible to include every worthy item here, but the annotated entries will orient the reader to the most significant trends. The point of view espoused with regard to these divergent perspectives is that they all enrich the literature on the artist because “the interminable reinterpretations to which [the work of art] is legitimately susceptible change it only into itself” (p. 139, The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, ed. Galen A. Johnson and trans. Michael B. Smith. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993). Monet began his career during the Second French Empire as a Realist painter under the influence of the older artists Courbet and Manet whose common goal was the representation of modern life. Monet achieved modest success at the principal art venue of the era, the Salon exhibition, with a pair of seascapes in 1865 and a large-scale portrait of a woman of fashion in 1866. However, Monet failed to complete for the Salon in 1866 or to have accepted in 1867 his attempts to achieve monumental representations of modern women and men engaged in public and private recreation. Such failures at the Salon may have encouraged Monet to organize in 1874 an independent exhibition along with his colleagues Pissarro, Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, and Morisot that has come to be known as the first Impressionist exhibition. It was during this nascent stage of the Third French Republic that Monet incurred the ridicule of the critics for his now-iconic painting, Impression, Sunrise, which gave the movement its name. The group held seven more independent exhibitions between 1876 and 1886, but by then Monet was already moving away from group exhibitions toward the solo presentation of ensembles of works at commercial galleries in Paris between 1888 and 1909, such as the Grainstacks, Cathedrals, and series of London and Venice. The dispersed monumentality of Monet’s series paintings eventually coalesced after World War I in the mural decorations of Water Lilies, posthumously installed at the Orangerie, now one of the most visited museums in Paris. The refurbishment of his home and gardens at Giverny and the exhibition of his final sketches and paintings at the Musée Marmottan Monet have made of these places shrines of art and tourism that attract thousands of visitors each year.

Catalogues Raisonnés

The laborious work of compiling the complete catalogue of Monet’s painted and graphic oeuvre of some two thousand items was first consolidated in the five largely black-and-white volumes Wildenstein 1974–1991 and then corrected and updated in the four full-color volumes Wildenstein 1996. Both editions are essential to obtain the most complete documentation and reproduction of Monet’s art. The massive documentation of the biography of the artist, the public exhibition and criticism of his works, and the worldwide acquisition of his canvases by collections both public and private necessitated the formidable resources of the Wildenstein Institute, the research arm of the Parisian gallery that employed a large team of historians and archivists. Essays in the celebratory catalogue Claude Monet (1840–1926): A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff reveal behind-the-scenes elements of the production of the catalogue raisonné. The financial stake of the Wildensteins, first Daniel and more recently his son Guy, in determining the authenticity of Monet’s paintings should also be borne in mind, and some attributions and rejected attributions remain controversial (see Adam 2016). Pissarro 2010 clarifies the attribution to a little-known Swiss artist of a presumed self-portrait of the painter. Also listed here for its large catalogue of reproductions is the Flickr website Claude Monet.

  • Adam, Georgina. “Owner of Purported Monet Loses Case in French Court: Work Featured on BBC’s Fake or Fortune Programme in 2011.” Art Newspaper (7 January 2016).

    Brief reference to controversy among Monet experts regarding the attribution of a painting, The Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil, not accepted by the Wildenstein Institute.

  • Claude Monet.

    Compiled by Petrus Agricola, valuable collection of nearly 1,700 photographs of Monet’s paintings, many of high quality, with Wildenstein numbers and other pertinent elements of documentation.

  • Claude Monet (1840–1926): A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff. New York: Wildenstein, 2007.

    Celebration of Wildenstein’s contributions to Monet scholarship, with essays by Joseph Baillio on the collaborative making of the catalogue raisonné, by Charles F. Stuckey on the attribution of the 1884 portrait of Monet in his studio to John Leslie Breck, by Paul Hayes Tucker on Monet’s gridded compositional strategies, by Eric Zafran on collecting and exhibiting Monet in America, etc. Reviewed by Richard Kendall, The Burlington Magazine 149.1252 (July 2007): 510–511.

  • Pissarro, Joachim. “Monet’s Portraitist Unmasked.” Art Newspaper 219 (December 2010): 29.

    Identification of the recently discovered portrait of Monet in his studio at Giverny, painted in 1885 not by the artist himself, pace Wildenstein (W891a), but by the little-known Swiss artist Charles-Alexandre Giron (b. 1850–d. 1914).

  • Wildenstein, Daniel, ed. Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné. 5 vols. Lausanne, Switzerland, and Paris: La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1974–1991.

    With the collaboration of Rodolphe Walter, Sylvie Crussard, France Daguet, Madeleine Manigler, Michèle Paret, et al. The very model of a catalogue of a major modern artist, massive in its biographical documentation and meticulous in enumeration of paintings, drawings, pastels, letters, and supporting pieces of historical evidence from published and unpublished sources. Reviewed by John House, The Burlington Magazine 120.907 (October 1978): 678–681, and 135.1086 (September 1993): 642. Volumes were originally published separately as Vol. 1: 1840–1881, Vol. 2: 1882–1886, Vol. 3: 1887–1898, Vol. 4: 1899–1926, Vol. 5: supplement and index.

  • Wildenstein, Daniel. Monet ou le triomphe de l’impressionnisme: Catalogue raisonné, Werkverzeichnis. 4 vols. Cologne: Taschen, 1996.

    Unfortunately stripped of its scholarly apparatus of footnotes, letters, and supporting documentation, a full-color trilingual revised edition of the catalogue of paintings, minus drawings and pastels, with updated lists of bibliography, exhibitions, public and private collections, and pictorial subjects. Reviewed by Anthea Callen, Art History 22.5 (December 1999): 756–760. Catalogue consists of Vol. 1: biography; Vol. 2: 1858–1885, nos. 1–968; Vol. 3: 1885–1901, nos. 969–1595; Vol. 4: 1901–1926, nos. 1596–1983.

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