There's a lot of straight historical fact in this biography of course, but it's the non-judgemental sensitively handled human aspects of a complex man and the people in his orbit which lifts this book from a straight biography to an illuminating glimpse into the past culture and society in which he lived and worked. I think for most of us who are not completely obsessed by something, it's difficult to understand even to a small degree the mindset of someone who is. One of the quotes, directly from Monet himself, referring to painting the deathbed scene of his beloved wife, Camille Doncieux struck me deeply.
“ You can’t imagine,” Monet replied to me, “how true everything you just said really is. It’s what obsesses me, torments me, and fills my days with joy. To such an extent that one day, having found myself at the bedside of a dead woman who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself, as I stared down at her tragic face, casually wondering about the pattern, about the gradual loss of color that death had brought to her lifeless features. Hues of blue, yellow, grey? That’s how low I had stooped. It’s a natural reflex to want to reproduce the last image of the one who has just left us forever. But before the idea came to paint the features I was so deeply attached to, my natural instinct was to react to color first, and my reflexes were leading me, in spite of myself, to subconscious rote behavior that swallows up my day-to-day life. Like a beast grinding at the mill. Feel sorry for me, my friend.” (Clemenceau, G. (2010) : Claude Monet “ intime ”, Parkstone Press International, New York, p. 24).Wow.
It is always fraught to use a visual medium to explain visual art. The illustrations in this biography are beautifully rendered by EFA and pay homage to (and mirror in many clever ways) the original subjects they depict. Many of the page setups are explained in the afterword: Monet’s Mirror:
Behind the Canvas. These pages (about 15% of the total content) give the background and supporting information for the graphic novel and also include pictures and biographical info about the artists and models whose lives Monet touched in his long and productive life.
This is a beautifully written and illustrated and (so far as I am able to ascertain) unvarnished and accurate biography of Monet. 112 pages, hardcover and Kindle/comiXology versions.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.