"Is that a Monet?" As a nine-year-old boy with minimal knowledge of the arts, I wasn't exactly sure what I was being asked. I turned around to look at the painting on my grandparents' wall and saw the writing "Claude Monet 1903" in the bottom right-hand corner. I politely answered my aunt's question, "Yes, I believe so." After we both looked at the painting for a few moments, she commented on its beauty and praised Claude Monet as a "great artist." I liked the painting myself. The different shades of yellow, orange, red, and violet were very appealing, but I questioned why Monet was "great." He obviously had difficulty painting exact detail. The objects in the work were so simplistic and blurred that I had difficulty determining what they were. In fact, the painting reminded me of the seemingly pain, unsophisticated art found in some children's storybooks.
Since that time, I've come to understand the painting, The Houses of Parliament, from a historical and more mature perspective. The work lacks detail because it was painted from the Impressionistic style (which will be explained later). Furthermore, it contains more "depth" than what its surface reflects. The Houses of Parliament was created from hours of hard work and life experiences that "guided" Claude Monet's brush.
Even though I now have greater knowledge of Monet's background, I still question the extent of his creativity. In order to answer this question as completely as possible, I've analyzed three areas of Monet's life: Childhood and Early Influences, Military Service to Exhibitions at the Salons, and Early Impressionist Exhibitions to the Final Days at Giverny. By examining different aspects of Howard Gardner's model within each of these periods, we can better understand if Claude Monet was a true creative genius.
Childhood and Early Influences
Claude Oscar Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris, but he spent much of his childhood in the port town of Le Havre. During these early years, Monet had very few artistic influences. His father and uncles ran a grocery business, and Le Havre had no school of art or any noteworthy exhibitions (Kalinta 6).
Despite coming from a background which practically "disdained the arts," Claude Monet stumbled upon his artistic talent in a unique manner (Seitz 11). At school, Monet absolutely hated to sit through hours of classes. To pass the time, he caricatured his teachers on pages of his copy books "in the most irreverent fashion" (Seitz 11). Although his teachers considered him to be undisciplined and unlikely to succeed, it quickly became evident that what Monet might have lacked in scholastic intelligences was supplemented by his spatial intelligence (Sheff 1). He developed a solid reputation for his caricatures and began working for a picture framing store in Le Havre. Overall, like Picasso, Claude Monet's artistic abilities appeared to be enhanced by a fruitful asynchrony between his spatial and other intelligences.
At the picture framing store, the sixteen-year-old Monet's caricatures were placed in the windows and sold for twenty francs each (Seitz 45). Along with Monet's drawings, the paintings of Eugene Boudin were displayed. Boudin's works differed from those of the Realists, the dominant group of artists at the time. Instead of painting people and objects to their finest detail, he painted the changing colors and effects of light in nature (Seitz 12). Consequently, Boudin's works were mocked by the established art community and were also looked down upon by Monet. In time, however, Boudin became one of the greatest influences in Claude Monet's artistic career.
In Andre Arnyvelde's article, "At Home with the Painter of Light," Monet recalled that after much encouragement, he finally decided to paint with Boudin (Stuckey 271). He approached their first meeting in 1865 with a degree of apathy and uncertainty, but he later commented on its overwhelming effect: "Suddenly a veil was torn...
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