You know how much I love Monet's art and also his own personal history - his and his friends' , the other well-known Impressionists. I wrote about that on various occasions (HERE and HERE, for instance) . This is why I'm so happy and honoured to have Stephanie Cowell as my guest. She loves Monet at least as much as I do and has dedicated to him her latest book, "Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet".
Guestpost by author Stephanie Cowell
When I look back, I feel I was destined to write CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET. My parents were both artists. I grew up in the shadow of the easel, passing carefully by marmalade jars full of delicate sable brushes for pen and ink drawing, sturdier bigger ones for oil paint and colored pencils. My parents took me to museums and art exhibitions since my earliest memories when about all I could see were grown-up people’s legs and the bottoms of picture frames. Artists came to the house. The air always smelled of oil paint. And I learned the stories of the struggles of the great painters.
It was at an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York of the early works of that group of struggling, hungry young Paris artists who would be known eventually as Impressionists that I first conceived of my story. I was amazed at the close friendship between them. I was amazed at how many years it took them to be able to make a living and how most art critics laughed at him. (Claude’s great painting Impression: Sunrise was called a bad sketch for wallpaper when people first saw it.)
I was interested in the friendship of these great artists and also who they loved. And tragically there is so little known about Claude Monet’s great love Camille who died at the age of 32 when he could afford little medical care for her. Researching her took patience and care. After leading historians had told me almost nothing was known, I began to study his pictures of her. Monet was known for painting light and generally any human figures merely blend in with it….but he painted actual portraits of Camille, many of them. He lived nearly half a century after her death and all that time he kept a portrait of her in his bedroom and many others in the house, which must not have been easy for his second wife Alice. Alice may have been the person who threw out all Camille’s letters and diaries. We will never know. But it speaks of a great love which haunted him all his life.
Those were the two stories I chose to tell in CLAUDE AND CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET: the friendship of the young painters which grew into the most famous art movement in history, Impressionism, and this tragic story of young love cut short and the many complicated reasons why.Oddly, it was not until the last few months of writing that I was aware of the BBC series with Richard Armitage as Monet. I thought it was beautifully done!
In all my meetings with book clubs, the one question which arises again and again is, “Why didn’t Monet get a steady job and support his family?” There are always different opinions. I do wonder, though, that if Claude had gone into his family business of nautical supplies, would we have the great water lily paintings today? That is worth a lot of discussion!