Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The jealous love rival who tried to erase all trace of Monet's muse, his 1st wife Camille

 Pierre Auguste Renoir (French Impressionist painter, 1841-1919) Camille Monet Reading 1872

The jealous love rival who tried to erase all trace of Monet's muse, his 1st wife Camille

David Sharrock
The Guardian, The Observer, Saturday 5 March 2011

Camille Doncieux...was model, lover & eventually wife of Claude Monet, whose early paintings of her gave him his 1st taste of commercial & critical success.  But when Camille died young after a long illness following the birth of their 2nd child, the woman who replaced her in Monet's life was determined to obliterate her memory.

Alice, Monet's 2nd wife, was consumed by jealousy of her departed rival & destroyed all photographic records of Camille. Only one photo is known to have survived. Taken in Holland in 1871, it was kept in a private collection about which Alice knew nothing...

Camille was 18 when Monet, 7 years her senior, first met her. Introduced by Frédéric Bazille, with whom he shared a studio, Monet was captivated above all by her eyes & asked her to pose in The Picnic...Renoir & Monet were lifelong friends, often setting up their easels side by side. It was not surprising that Renoir also painted Monet's beautiful consort.

Despairing of finishing The Picnic in time for display at the Salon, Monet instead submitted a full-length portrait of Camille, which drew admiring comparisons with the work of Edouard Manet. The painting sold for 800 francs, an astonishing sum for a young, unknown artist in 1865. A year later Camille gave birth to their son Jean. It wasn't until June 1870, that they married in a civil ceremony in Paris.

Monet's scandalised family, who had withdrawn their support for the struggling artist, boycotted the wedding. Fellow impressionist Gustave Courbet was one of the witnesses. For the rest of their marriage Monet's financial circumstances were precarious, but in 1876 he met the mercurial collector Ernest Hoschedé & his wife Alice, with whom he is presumed to have commenced an affair. Monet painted at their lavish Château de Rottembourg in Montgeron, south-east of Paris. But Ernest lost everything & fled to Belgium to escape his debts. In 1878, Monet invited the impoverished Hoschedés to move in with his family in Vétheuil.

Ernest Hoschedé started working for the newspaper Le Voltaire, spending most of his time in Paris, leaving Alice & the family in Vétheuil. Camille's health deteriorated – the cause has never been fully explained although theories include the after-effects of abortions. In August 1879, Camille was close to death & a priest was called to administer the last rites & sanction her marriage to Monet. She died 5 days later, aged 32.

Monet painted her on her deathbed, overcome by grief. The painting remained in his possession for most of his life. "I caught myself watching her tragic forehead," he wrote to a friend after Camille's death, "almost mechanically observing the sequence of changing colours that death was imposing on her rigid face. Blue, yellow, grey & so on … my reflexes compelled me to take unconscious action in spite of myself."

After Camille's death, rumours began to spread about Monet's relationship with Alice. Ernest Hoschedé did not even return to his family that Christmas; & in January 1880, Le Gaulois newspaper announced a mock funeral, reporting the "grievous loss" of Claude Monet who was living in Vétheuil with his "charming wife" – Alice Hoschedé. The article said that Monet supported his former patron, Ernest Hoschedé, who was financially bankrupt & living in the artist's studio in Paris.