Cliff walk at Pourville, 1882 by Claude Monet
In the previous instalment Monet begins to experiment in earnest, but his art is met with public derision…
My story, by Claude Monet (part 4)
One evening when I had stopped in the street in the midst of a band of onlookers to hear what was said of me, I saw Manet arrive with two or three of his friends. The group stops, looks, and Manet shrugged his shoulders disdainfully exclaiming “Do you see this young man who wants to paint in the open air?!” As if the ancients had never thought of it!
Manet held an old grudge against me. At the salon of 1866 on the day of the opening he had been welcomed at the entrance by acclamation; “Excellent, my dear, your picture!” And clasps of hands, bravos, and congratulations. Manet, as you may imagine, gloried in the attention. Great was his surprise when he realized that the canvas they were congratulating him on was mine of the ‘Woman in Green’!
Unfortunately as he slipped away he fell in with a group that included Bazille and I. “How are you?” Said one of us. “Ah! My dear it’s disgusting, I’m furious. I am only complimented for a picture which is not mine. One would think it a hoax!” When the next day he learned from M.Anstruc that his discontent had been vented to the author of the painting, he offered to introduce me to him, Manet. He refused. He held a grudge against me for the the trick I had played without knowing it. He had been congratulated for a masterly stroke struck by another. This was a bitter blow for one as sensitive as him.
It was not until 1869 that I saw him again, but we became friends at once. From the very first meeting he invited me to join him every evening in a café, the ‘Batignolles’, where he and his friends would gather at the end of a day spent in their studios, to talk.
I met Fantin-Latour, Cezanne and Degas, who arrived shortly afterwards from Italy, the art critic Duranty, Emile Zola who was then beginning to write, and a few others. I brought Sisley, Bazille, and Renoir myself. Nothing could be more interesting than these talks, with their perpetual debates.
We encouraged each other to explore ideas and enthusiasms for weeks and weeks, supporting each other until the idea took a final shape. We always came out better tempered, more confident our thoughts clearer.
The war came. I had just married. I went to England. I found Bonvin and Pissarro in London. I also knew misery. England did not want our paintings. It was tough. A chance brought me to meet Daubigny, who had lately shown some interest in me. He was painting views of the Thames which pleased the English very much.
My situation moved him. “I know what you need” he said “I’ll find a dealer for you”. The next day I met Durand-Ruel.
For us, Durand-Ruel was a saviour. For fifteen years and more my painting, and those of Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro had no other outlet than his. One day, when he had to restrain himself and buy fewer paintings from us, we thought we were seeing ruin ahead but what we could see was success.
Paintings were offered to Petit, to Boussod and our work found buyers through them. Our work was thought to be… less bad. At Durand-Ruel they were not wanted, but once placed with others confidence grew and people bought.
Today, everyone wants to know us.
As told to Thiébault-Sisson by Claude Monet.
Published on 26 November 1900 in ‘Le Temps’ newspaper
Café Batignolles mentioned by Monet was probably the Café Guerbois, located on Grand rue des Batignolles now 11, Avenue de Clichy.
Paul Durand-Reul’s first major exhibition of Impressionist paintings took place in his London gallery in 1872, while he and many artists were forced away from Paris during the Franco Prussian war.
Monet enjoyed his success for another 26 years, dying age 86 on 5 December 1926.
Read the original article in Le Temps on Gallica