“I represented there, in the most irreverent way, by distorting them as much as possible, the face or the profile of my masters”. Thus Claude Monet will describe his occupations during his teenage years in high school.
Even at this early stage, the boy, who would later be known as the master of impressionism, very well knew that he had much more interest for his drawing lessons than for the rest of his studies.
And it sounds somewhat strange to think that a painter who would encounter success mostly for his landscapes started out by sketching people instead. However he actually made a name for himself, in the provincial town of Le Havre, Normandy where he grew up, precisely with those caricatures.
Firstly the young Monet was giving away those drawings to his schoolmates.
But soon enough, judging by the appreciation he would get from them, the inattentive student realized he could indeed make profit from them. What if his comrades had known who Monet would become and had kept those pieces of paper he was spreading one might wonder?
His talent was forthwith acknowledged by bourgeois from Le Havre who asked the boy whether he’d be interested to sell some of his works to make pocket money. Monet jumped the chance, his mother had just passed and he couldn’t refuse the opportunity. For 20 francs each, he would draw on command noteworthy people from the town. And the demand was so steady he managed to save 2000 francs in total.
Thus, at the age of 15 only, Monet already was exhibiting his drawings at a local art furniture’s dealer. He loved standing nearby, unnoticed, as the passerby would stop by the shop’s window and laugh identifying the person that was caricatured.
Yet the boy was not relying solely on his innate talent: he was working hard on improving his skills by copying caricatures published in national newspapers from which he would draw inspiration for his own creations.
After that, another man noticed these drawings: Eugène Boudin, an established painter from Le Havre. He arranged for a meeting with the young Monet and told him: “You’re gifted. But I hope you won’t stop here. Study with me, learn to see and to paint, make landscapes”.
From there, Monet would drop his pencils and take up a paintbox and some brushes to go on with his journey as an artist.
Come and learn more about Monet’s life and art with us on our Giverny and impressionism tour !