According to Artcyclopedia, Claude Monet was a French impressionist painter who lived from 1840 to 1926. The Metropolitan of Art History lists him as one of the key figures in the Impressionist movement and states that he "transformed" French painting during the latter half of the 1800s.
About Monet and Impressionism
Monet grew up in Le Havre, France. He started out as a caricaturist, but was later mentored by Boudin who taught Monet to appreciate landscapes. By 1862, he had started painting with other impressionist painters such as Renoir, Sisley and Bazille and they began to form a unique style.
One of the founders of Impressionism, the term comes from the Monet painting titled "Impression Sunrise." Monet's approach to art was unique for his time. Instead of a traditional landscape painting that looked as the landscape appeared, Monet began to think outside the box. His paintings were soft, watery and meant to capture an overall concept or feeling rather than depicting the exact image.
Monet was completely devoted to the idea of oil landscapes in his beloved impressionist style, so it is befitting that the movement was named after his painting. Some of his well-known paintings include:
- Impression Sunrise: A depiction of the port at Le Havre. Most of the painting is blues and purples but standing out in relief is the sunrise, which is depicted with the sun's reflection in orange in the water. The portrait was stolen from Musee Marmottan Monet in 1985, but recovered in 1990 and is today displayed in the same museum.
- Water Lilies: Many of Monet's paintings feature water, where he can utilize reflections to present distorted images that create an overall mood. This painting is of water lilies and is thought to be from the pond in front of his home in Giverny. The paintings create a mix of light and dark that show the reflections and movement of the water. Some scholars have stated that this was early Abstractionism, but critics of the time didn't appreciate Monet's art.
- Haystacks: Haystacks is a departure from some of Monet's other works and is part of a series of paintings. Although still landscapes, it features stacks of hay in a field with some softer details in the background. Monet painted the haystacks in different seasons, including winter.
Create a Monet-like Art Project
Creating the soft look of a Monet painting is difficult with oil paint. Younger children will find it easier to work with watercolors, which is what this project uses. However, they should be informed that Monet used oil as a medium and encouraged to move into oil paints as they gain experience with the style of Impressionism.
- Poster board or canvas
- Watercolor paints
- Small jar of water
- Small towel or paper towels to wipe brush clean
How to Create
- The first step to creating a Monet-style painting is to choose a landscape. Have your child choose something near home that he is familiar with, such as a tree in the backyard, a small pond near your house or a garden.
- Instruct your child to dip the paint into the water and choose a color similar to the colors she sees before her. If painting a tree, then she'll want a brown trunk and green leaves, for example.
- If your child is grade school age or older, tell her to also pay attention to any reflections, and lighter and darker shades so she can adjust the paint accordingly.
- Now, the child should use wide, sweeping strokes and big circles to create the painting. The key is to avoid any harsh lines or angles.
- Once the painting is completed, instruct your child to look at it again. Is there anything missing? If she adds a bit of green under the tree will it signify the shadows there? Perhaps the sun is high in the sky and she needs a burst of yellow above the tree branches.
Remember that Impressionism is meant to capture a mood or a feeling. Ask your child:
- How does this painting make you feel?
- Is the painting happy, angry, sad?
- Can you tell what time of day it is from the painting?
- Can you tell the season?
- Are there any harsh angles that need to be softened?
The World Around
Art projects are a way for children to express what they see around them. Learning about impressionists like Monet helps a child see that art doesn't necessarily have to be detailed masterpieces, but can simply be an expression of the mood of a place or time.