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Claude Monet was born in Paris in 1840, but spent his childhood with his family in Le Havre, where he saw the work of Eugene Boudin which influenced his decision to become a painter. By 1859 he was spending much of his time in Paris, where he befriended Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. Monet worked outdoors, and experimented in rendering outdoor sunlight with a direct, sketch-like application of bright color. To the critics, these works seemed unfinished. Frustrated by the lack of official support, he and his peers organized their own exhibition in 1874, the First Impressionist Exhibition.

By the mid-1880's, Monet was regarded as the leader of the Impressionists, having pioneered the technique of painting from life and capturing the atmosphere as well as the image of what he saw. He remained faithful to the Impressionists' ideas throughout his life while expanding the technique in a more expressive manner. He traveled often, to London, Holland, the South of France, and Normandy, always in search of new motifs for his consistent approach to recording light effects.

In 1890, Monet purchased a farm at Giverny. He proceeded immediately to create a self-contained world for personal and artistic purposes, building a garden with a pond, a Japanese footbridge, trees and flowers, all chosen carefully for their colors. He painted there from the 1890's through the 1920's in an ever more subjective and abstract manner, culminating in the great decorative Waterlilies of the teens and 1920's. These paintings were conceived as a series and all are interrelated. It is the relationships of each canvas that was important to Monet, for he was painting about the changes made by the passage of time itself rather than nature -- time remembered, time anticipated and time enshrined.