In 1870 Monet married Camille Doncieux, and they moved to London to avoid involvement in the Franco-Prussian War. This visit was the first of several sojourns in London. They stayed in London for nine months, during which time he painted both Green Park and Hyde Park and the Thames from several different sites. Camille Pissarro was also in London at the time, and the two artists exhibited their work at The International Fine Arts Exhibition in Kensington. Pissarro and Monet visited the London museums and galleries together, and Monet developed a keen interest in the work of the great English landscapists, namely John Constable (1776–1837) and J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), who had painted the Thames and the Houses of Parliament from similar viewpoints as Monet was to do. It was also probably in London that Monet consolidated his love of Japanese prints, in which he remained keenly interested throughout his life.
Monet had been introduced by Daubigny to Paul Durand-Ruel, who became his first dealer. The first London Durand-Ruel exhibition in December 1870 featured a Monet canvas. Durand-Ruel was to have an important influence on Monet’s career, artistic development and life. By 1871 Durand-Ruel was buying large numbers of Monet works, and he supported Monet and Camille for two years after they returned to France. The family settled in Argenteuil, which became a hotbed of Impressionist activity for that decade. Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Manet and Caillebotte all followed Monet to Argenteuil once he started producing his images of the Seine and the town.
In 1873 Durand-Ruel found himself in financial trouble and was forced to rein in his support of the artists. The Impressionist group formed the Société des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc, and Monet was one of its most forceful and dominating figures. The following year, they held an independent exhibition of their work at the studios of the photographer Nadar (1820–1910) on the Boulevard des Capucines. Among the works Monet exhibited was Impression, Sunrise, a painting which gave the group its name, despite its derogatory origins at the hand of an unimpressed art critic. A textile merchant named Ernest Hoschedé bought Impression, Sunrise and several pastels for 800 francs, which at the time was a huge sum of money. In the spring of 1876 he commissioned Monet to decorate his wife Alice’s country estate in Montgeron. Monet moved to their home and painted four panels for the salon. In 1877 Alice gave birth to a boy named Jean-Pierre, who in all likelihood was Monet’s son. Both the Monet and Hoschedé families found themselves facing severe financial difficulties. Monet sold some paintings in an auction of Impressionist work in 1877, but the pieces fetched dismal prices. The two families moved into a house in Vétheuil – further away from Paris and the Seine – in 1878, and Camille gave birth to Michel, the Monets’ second son. The following year Camille died, and Ernest left for Paris to raise money. In 1883 Monet and Alice and the eight children they had between them moved to a rented home in Giverny. Although his living arrangement was certainly unorthodox, it was probably the first time Monet had experienced such domestic stability.
This text is abridged from the Royal Academy Education Department Introduction To The Unknown Monet (816 KB) .