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Monet and His Muse

Camille Monet in the Artist’s Life

“The mourning never stops, it just changes.” (Edward Albee)

For Claude Monet (1840–1926), the founder of French Impressionist painting, these words are a fitting testament to his lifelong relationship with the female muse, most notably—and most hauntingly—with his first wife, the model Camille Doncieux.

For the esteemed clinical psychologist and art historian Mary Mathews Gedo, Monet and His Muse represents a project twenty years in the making. Artfully interweaving biographical insight with psychoanalytic criticism, Gedo takes us on an exploration of Claude Monet’s conflicted relationships with women, complete with exquisitely researched material never before understood about one of our most popular—and inimitable—artists. Beginning with Monet’s childhood, Gedo delves into his relationships with a distant, unreliable father and his beloved, doting mother—whose death when Monet was just sixteen, the author establishes, inspired a lifetime preoccupation with the sea, its lushly imagined flora, and the figurative landscapes Monet painted to such acclaim.

And then—Camille. Entering Monet’s life when he was still a young man, becoming first his model and then mistress and then—finally—his wife, Camille Doncieux always fulfilled the function of muse, even after her life had ended, as Monet not only painted her one last time on her deathbed, but preserved her memory through the gardens he planted at his home in Giverny. Demonstrating how Monet’s connections with women were exceedingly complex, fraught with abusive impulses and infantile longing, Gedo sensitively uses Monet and Camille as exemplars in order to explore links between artists and muses in our modern age.

272 pages | 50 color plates, 73 halftones, 1 line drawing | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2010

Art: Art--Biography, European Art

Gender and Sexuality

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgments

Prologue: Monet’s Character

Part One                      The Youth of the Artist, the Art of his Youth

1          The Perils of Young Love, Monet’s Magnificent Failure

2          Success and Scandal

3          Camille as Flora

4          Painted Metaphors for the Absent Woman

5          Ariadne on the Grande Île

            With William Conger

6          The Myth of the Bourgeois Family

7          Honeymoon and Exile: Camille’s Status Legitimized

Part Two                      The Argenteuil Years

8          Argenteuil, 1872–1873: Classic Impressionist Landscapes, Mythic and Enigmatic Images

9          Camille as Collective Muse

10        Camille Ascendant; Camille Redux

11        Camille’s Captive Samurai

12        The Muse of the Past, the Muse of the Future

Part Three                    Camille and Argenteuil in Decline

13        The Course of Camille’s Final Illness and Its Repercussions in Monet’s Art

14        Death and Transfiguration

Epilogue: The Memorial Garden of Claude Monet


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