Claude Monet & Georges Clemenceau
Clemenceau (1841-1929) was sociable, Monet (1840-1926) was only interested in his painting, working hours and hours non stop, trying to catch the fleeting moment. These two great personnalities had one of the most iconic friendships in the french history.
Clemenceau, nicknamed the Tiger, was a french politician and journalist. He led the french government from 1917 to 1920 and did much for the French victory during the First World War. Monet was the master of the Impressionist movement. They met at the age of 20, but their friendship strengthened at the age of 50.
All started in 1895, when Clémenceau saw the serie of Rouen’s Cathedrals by Monet. The serie is composed of 40 masterpieces.
Shortly after publishing an article in the newspaper, « La Justice »; he was obsessed by the artist without knowing why. Clemenceau was finally introduced by the art critic Gustave Geoffroy in Monet’s house, in Giverny.
Indeed, it was difficult to be greeted by Monet in his private paradise. Claude Monet was secretive and liked to work alone. But Clemenceau was an art lover, and the friendship between these two was unavoidable. They shared the same ideas on different things, like education, politics. During the Dreyfus affair, begun in 1894, Monet and Clemenceau supported Zola when he published the letter « J’accuse ». It was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic until its resolution in 1906. It became the symbol of the modern injustice and anti-Semitism.
Claude Monet offered to his friend the famous painting « Block of Creuse rocks” (now in the Royal collection in England) The title given to the painting refers to a sentence pronounced by Clemenceau in a speech of 1891 “the French Revolution is a block”
After this affair and during the war, Clemenceau kept coming to visit his old friend in Giverny. They both loved nature, shared bulbs and seeds…
These two tireless workers have admired each other, waiting for the next time they will meet by writing letters. Some are funny because they use nicknames like « my poor crustacean » or « my old biped »
They almost had an argument when Monet, who was working on the Water Lilies, wanted to stop, discouraged. Clemenceau wrote to Monet that he was ready to give up to their friendship if Monet gave us his job. These paintings, now in the Orangerie Museum, are important because they were offered to the French State by Monet the day after the Armistice of November 11, 1918, to pay homage to the thousand young men who died in the trenches.
They are a symbol for peace. The Water Lilies were installed as planned at the Orangerie Museum in 1927, a few months after Monet’s death. This unique set was named the”Sistine of Impressionism”, in the words of André Masson in 1952. It is the most beautiful bouquet offered to Marianne.
The ensemble is one of the greatest monumental achievements of early 20th century painting. This unique masterpiece has no equivalent in the world. When Clemenceau saw them, he cried.
But Monet’s masterpiece is even more precious because Monet painted them with a cataract.
Monet could barely see the colors and painted from his memory ! In addition, due to te size of the canvas, he had no choice to paint in a workshop, located in his garden in Giverny.
In January 1923, Clemenceau urged Monet to undergo an operation on the eyes. It was a small success, Monet could see the colors again, for the last 3 years of his life…
The 5th of December 1926, Monet died of lung cancer. When Clemenceau receive the phone call telling him that Monet was dying, he jumped into his car, and shouted every 1 minute on his driver « faster !!!». He arrived in Giverny, ran to Monet’s room, located on the second floor of the house, and took his friend in his arms. Monet died few minutes after.
On the day of the funeral, a black drapery was placed over the coffin. Clemenceau, full of rage and energy, withdrew it, ran to the kitchen and took one of the yellow curtain, and said « No black for Monet ! Black is not a color ! »
Clemenceau died 3 years after his beloved friend, after an exceptional friendship.