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Camille, Claude's first love...

First wife of Claude Monet and mother of his children, Camille Doncieux was probably introduced to him by Frédéric Bazille in 1865. From a modest family, the 18-year-old girl is beautiful, slender, although of average height. The elegant face, black hair, fine, straight nose of the young model conquered the painter. Burning passion? Probably not.

Serene love, hidden love, sharing moments of glory and misery, Claude and Camille's relationship went through the years until the young woman's death in 1878.

Evocation of Camille through two paintings by Renoir and two paintings by Manet.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. Camille et Jean dans le jardin d'Argenteuil. 1874. National Gallery of Art. Washington.
Pierre Auguste Renoir. Camille et Jean dans le jardin d'Argenteuil. 1874. National Gallery of Art. Washington.

Daughter of a merchant from Lyon who had retired to Paris in the Batignolles district, Camille Doncieux inspired Claude Monet to create some of his most emblematic paintings. In 1867, the artist announced to his father that Camille was pregnant. The latter recommends him to abandon the young woman, which Monet will refuse. Their eldest son, Jean, was born the same year, and it was not until 1870 that Claude and Camille married. After the refuge in London during the war, then a few months spent in Holland, the couple settled in Argenteuil from 1871.

After a lean period, 1874 notably marked the rapprochement of Claude Monet and Édouard Manet. The latter will call him "Raphael of water".

Édouard Manet. Claude Monet dans son bateau atelier. 1874. Neue Pinakothek Münich
Édouard Manet. Claude Monet dans son bateau atelier. 1874. Neue Pinakothek Münich

Under the influence of Berthe Morisot, Édouard Manet increasingly sought inspiration from the motif. It was then that he painted Claude Monet in his studio boat. He is accompanied by Camille in a landscape of blue, green and ocher tones, punctuated in the distance by factory chimneys, a bold concession to modernity. In this painting, Monet is clear and Camille, more in the background, is just sketched.

Édouard Manet. Claude Monet dans son bateau atelier. 1874. Staatsgalerie. Stuttgart
Édouard Manet. Claude Monet dans son bateau atelier. 1874. Staatsgalerie. Stuttgart

One could sleep in this floating studio, and even travel, so much so that Monet took his family there to Rouen. In this second painting, it is Camille who is drawn and Claude who is only suggested, under the scalloped canvas which protects them from the sun.

Camille died in Vétheuil at the age of 32, on September 5, 1879, after giving birth the previous year to little Michel Monet.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. Camille Monet. 1872. Musée Marmottant Monet.
Pierre Auguste Renoir. Camille Monet. 1872. Musée Marmottant Monet.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...



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