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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blanche Hoschedé Monet

Blanche Hoschedé at her easel in the woods at Giverny (with Suzanne Hoschedé reading), 1887, Claude Monet
Unless their last names happen to be Pissarro or Renoir or Morisot, you hardly hear anything about second-generation Impressionists. There's a good reason for that. First, there were so many first-generation impressionist works painted there was hardly much of a market for anything by derivative artists. Second there simply weren't many second generation impressionist. Most who might have been moved on to Postimpressionism or Expressionism. Moreover, the Pissarro family alone pretty much crowded the market for new Impressionist works. However one last name trumped that of this prodigious clan. Her name was Blanche Hoschede Monet. She came by her name honestly. Her mother, Alice Hoschede, was Claude Monet's second "wife" after the death of Camille in 1879 (they were never officially married) thus making Blanche his unofficial step-daughter. Moreover, she was the wife of Claude Monet's eldest son, Jean, making her (if not her mother) officially a Monet. However, even more important than the niceties of a family tree was her close association with her step-father/father-in-law during his declining years at Giverny.

House and Garden of Claude Monet, Blanche Hoschede Monet
Blanche and Claude were inseparable. They lived, ate, and painted together for nearly 45 years. She and her mother were his primary caregivers until Claude Monet died in 1926 (the man lived to be 86). One art historian contends, quite reasonably, that they even worked together on some paintings. In any case, their work is virtually indistinguishable. Moreover, Blanche also studied with the art icon, Edouard Manet, who, though not technically an impressionist, was about as close as one could come without donning the label. Born in 1865, Blanche took up painting at the tender age of eleven about the time her family first became acquainted with the Monets. At one time, Claude Monet painted for her wealthy father (a department store owner) who went bankrupt and later deserted his family (and six kids). From about 1881, Blanche and her sister grew up with the two Monet children, Jean and Michel. She painted with him outdoors, sharing his canvases, easels, paints, brushes, and palette.

Meule, 1890-91, Claude Monet

le Meule, 1889-91, Blanche Hoschede Monet
It could easily be said that Claude Monet taught Blanche "everything he knew" about painting and Impressionism. When Claude Monet painted haystacks (above), Blanche was right beside him painting her own. (Left, hers being somewhat less colorful than his.) As his health waned, Blanche became Monet's studio assistant, doing for the invalided painter everything he could not do for himself. Claude Monet had few followers, but no artist could have asked for a more devoted student or daughter. She died at Giverny in 1947 at the age of 82.

Claude Monet, Giverny, 1920s, with water lily canvases.

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