Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)
Oil on canvas
23 7/8 x 31 5/8 in. (60.6 x 80.3 cm)
Signed (lower right): Claude Monet
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 2002, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002 (2002.62.1)
Monet's art depends on observation of his environment, and to that extent it is always autobiographical. In his pictures, one can chart the seasons, the weather, or as here, the look of women's fashion in 1873. Monet's wife, Camille Doncieux, is as easily recognizable as the mounds of geraniums in the garden of the couple's rented house in Argenteuil.
Camille Monet on a Garden Bench is the most enigmatic of Monet's rare genre pictures. Numerous interpretations have been offered, yet nothing has been found in the literature or theater of Monet's time that corresponds to this scene. The most telling clue may be biographical: the death of Camille's father in September 1873. Camille was an impassive model, but here she telegraphs sadness, while holding a note in her gloved hand. Later, Monet identified the gentleman as a neighbor—perhaps one who had called to offer his condolences and a consoling bouquet.