Exhibition on Screen: I, Claude Monet (2017) - full transcript

From award-winning director Phil Grabsky comes this fresh new look at arguably the world's favourite artist - through his own words. Based on over 2500 letters and narrated by Henry Goodman, I, Claude Monet reveals new insight into the man who not only painted the picture that gave birth to impressionism but who was perhaps the most influential and successful painter of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I was born in 1840 in Paris,

but raised in Le Havre.

I was born unruly.

Even as a very small child, I could not accept rules.

School seemed to me like a prison,

and I couldn't bear being locked indoors for four hours a day.

In Le Havre, when I was around 15 years old,

I began to earn a reputation as a caricaturist.

I became known throughout the town.

I charged between 10 and 20 francs for my portraits

and signed them with my second name, Oscar.

It was at the picture framer's that I often exhibited my caricatures.

There, I also met Eugène Boudin.

At Boudin's suggestion,

I agreed to go out and paint with him in the open air.

I became fascinated by his quick sketches,

born of what I call immediacy.

For me, it was like the removal of a veil.

I understood, I grasped, what painting could be.

My destiny as a painter opened up before me.

One day, Boudin said to me,

"You're talented. Your sketches are excellent."

"You're not going to leave it at that."

"Learn to draw well."

I took his advice.

Paris, 19th of May, 1859.

My dear Boudin, I have to tell you

of all the fine paintings I'm seeing in Paris.

The Troyons are superb.

The Daubignys are beautiful.

And there are some nice Corots, too.

And how's this for a good bit of news? Before I left Le Havre,

I was given an introduction to meet Troyon. I duly went.

I showed him two of my still lifes.

His comment was, "Well, my dear chap,

your colour's OK, the effect is correct."

"However, you must get down to some serious study,

for this is all very fine, but it comes very easily to you;

that's something you never lose."

"If you want my advice,

and want to take up art seriously,

begin by joining a studio

which specialises in figure painting;

an académie."

Take heed and you'll see I'm not wrong."

"Draw with all your might."

"You can never learn too much."

Honfleur, 15th of July, 1864.

Every day I discover more and more beautiful things.

My head is bursting.

I want to paint it all.

It really is appallingly difficult to do something

that is complete in every respect.

I think most people are content with mere approximations.

Well, I intend to battle on, scrape off and start again.

Since one can do something if one can see and understand it.

And when I look at nature, I feel...

I feel as if I'll be able to paint it all,

capture everything,

and then it vanishes, once you're working.

All this proves

that you must think of nothing else.

It's on the strength

of observation and reflection that one finds a way.

We must dig and delve unceasingly.

I'm working hard.

I'm quite content,

although what I'm doing is far from being as I should like.

I must tell you that I'm sending my flower picture

to the Rouen exhibition.

There are some really beautiful flowers out at this time.

Sadly, I've got so much to do on my outdoor studies

that I dare not start on any more.

Though I'd love to paint those gorgeous daisies.

Paris, 22nd of May, 1866.

I'm happier than ever.

I'm working non-stop and my courage is as high it has ever been.

My Woman in a Green Dress was accepted by the annual Salon

and that success led to my selling several paintings.

I've made 800 francs.

I hope, when I have contracts with more dealers,

it'll be better still.

Paris, 20th of May, 1867.

My dear Bazille, Manet's opening is in two days,

and he's in a frightful state.

Courbet opens a week today.

Can you imagine, he's inviting every artist in Paris to the opening?

He's sending 3,000 invitations, and on top of that,

every artist also gets a copy of his catalogue.

Renoir and I are still working on our views of Paris.

25th of June, 1867.

My dear Bazille, what a pitiful situation this is.

My poor Camille, she is so kind, a really good lass.

I'm writing to ask you

to send whatever you can,

since, although I'm getting along well with my relations,

they've warned me that, yes, I can stay here as long as I like,

but if I need money, I have to earn it.

On the 25th of July,

Camille's baby, our baby, is due.

I'm going to Paris where I'll be for 10 or 15 days

and I'll need money for a lot of things.

Do try and send me a little more, if only 100 or 150 francs?

Please bear it in mind.

Without it, I'll be in a very awkward position.

12th of August, 1867.

Once again I've had to reach out to people I barely know

and receive snubs from them.

I'm going through the most terrible torments.

I had to come back here

not to upset the family,

and also because I didn't have enough money to stay in Paris

while Camille was in labour.

She has given birth

to a big and beautiful boy, and...

..I don't know how,

I feel that I love him.

And it pains me to think of his mother having nothing to eat.

I was able to borrow the bare minimum for the birth and my return here,

but now, both she and I are totally without money.

29th of June, 1868.

I must have undoubtedly been born under an unlucky star.

I've just been turned out, without a shirt on my back,

from the inn where I was staying.

I have found somewhere safe in the country

for Camille and my poor little Jean to stay for a few days.

As for myself, I leave this evening for Le Havre.

My family refuse to help me any more.

I don't know where I'll sleep tomorrow.

I was so upset yesterday

that I was stupid enough to hurl myself into the water.

Fortunately no harm was done.

December, 1868.

I'm in Étretat. I'm very happy, very delighted.

I'm setting to like a fighting cockerel,

for I'm surrounded here by everything I love.

I go into the country, which is so lovely here

that I perhaps find it even more lovely in the winter than in the summer.

And naturally, I'm working all the time,

and I think this year I'm going to do some serious things.

In the evening, I come home to my little cottage

to find a good fire and a dear little family.

If only you could see how the little lad is now.

How lovely it is to watch this creature grow.

I am enjoying the most perfect tranquillity.

Argenteuil, 28th of June, 1875.

My dear Manet, it's getting more and more difficult.

Not a penny left since the day before yesterday

and no more credit at the butcher's or the baker's.

Even though I believe in the future,

you can see that the present is very hard indeed.

You couldn't possibly send me a 20 franc note

by return of post, could you?

That would help me for a quarter of an hour at least.

25th of July, 1876.

The creditors are proving impossible to deal with,

and short of a sudden appearance on the scene of wealthy art patrons,

we are going to be turned out of this... this dear little house...

..where I led a simple life

and was able to work so well.

I do not know what will become of us.

I had so much fire in me and so many plans.

15th of January, 1878.

In two days, we must leave Argenteuil,

and to do that, I must pay my debts.

30th of March, 1878.

My wife has just had another baby

and I find myself penniless and unable to pay for the medical care

that both mother and child must have.

I have pitched up on the banks of the Seine at Vétheuil,

in a ravishing place.

I am once again a man of the country,

and I shall only go to Paris

on those occasions when I need to sell my pictures.

10th of March, 1879.

I'm absolutely sickened with and demoralised by

this life I've been leading for so long.

When you reach my age, 38,

there is nothing more to look forward to.

Unhappy we are, unhappy we will continue to be.

14th of May, 1879.

My dear Monsieur Hoschedé, I must accept the hard fact

that I cannot hope to earn enough money from my paintings

to pay for our life at Vétheuil.

We can't be very good company for you and your wife Alice.

Myself more and more embittered, and my wife nearly always sick.

I believed I could create dreams of work and happiness here.

I am now utterly without hope...

..and see everything at its blackest and worst.

Dear Monsieur de Bellio,

for a long time I have been hoping for better days ahead, but alas,

I believe the time has come for me to abandon all hope.

My poor wife is in increasing pain

and I cannot imagine that she could be any weaker than she is now.

Not only does she not have the strength to stand up or walk one step,

but she cannot hold down the slightest bit of nourishment,

although she has an appetite.

One has to be at her bedside continually

attending to her smallest wish, in hope of relieving her suffering.

And the saddest thing is that we cannot always satisfy

these immediate needs for lack of money.

For a month now, I have been unable to paint,

because I lack the colours.

But that is not important.

Right now, it is the sight of my wife's life in jeopardy

that terrifies me.

It is unbearable to see her suffering so much,

and not be able to provide relief.

Hence I ask a favour of you, dear Monsieur de Bellio,

which is to help us out from your own pocket.

We have no resources whatsoever.

5th of September, 1879.

My poor wife, after the most ghastly suffering,

gave up the struggle this morning at half past ten.

I am in a state of distress, finding myself alone with my poor children.

I am writing to ask another favour of you.

Could you retrieve the locket for which I am sending you the ticket?

It is the only keepsake my wife had managed to hold on to.

And I would like to be able to place it around her neck

before she is taken.

My dear Pissarro, you more than anyone will understand my grief.

I am overwhelmed.

I have no idea which way to turn.

Nor how I am going to be able

to organise my life

with my two children.

I am much to be pitied.

Fécamp, 26th of March, 1881.

Dear Monsieur Durand-Ruel, I received your letter.

Thank you for your generosity.

I am working hard.

I'm putting a lot of effort into it

and I hope to bring you some good things.

Pourville, 15th of February, 1882.

Dear Alice, I am with some good people

who are delighted to have a lodger and can't do enough for me.

One could not be any closer to the sea than I am,

on the shingle itself, and the waves beat at the foot of the house.

4th of April, 1882.

I am definitely getting harder to please.

Nothing is working.

Apart from that, nature is changing so much at the moment.

How lovely the countryside is becoming.

What a joy it would be for me

to show you the delightful places there are to see here!

2nd of February, 1883.

Dear Alice, it makes me miserable to know you are unhappy.

It is absolutely essential that you see Hoschedé whatever you do.

The longer it drags on, the harder it will be.

There must be a way of drawing him out

to have a serious and reasonable discussion.

As for me, have no doubts.

I think of you constantly.

You can be sure of my love.

Be brave.

19th of February, 1883.

I feel I am going mad.

I feel very strongly that I love you more than I thought possible.

So you can imagine how I felt

when I received your four lines this morning.

I read each line 20 times.

I collapsed in tears.

Do you mean you want to separate from me right away?

Nothing means anything any more to me.

I couldn't care less if my paintings are good or bad.

It's all the same to me now.

Dear Monsieur Durand-Ruel,

you have to see what little progress we've made

since we first took a stand.

As for myself, this new and unfamiliar public indifference

has affected me deeply.

When we were attacked and even vilified in the newspapers

we could always comfort ourselves with the thought

that it was all a measure of our worth,

since no one would have bothered about us if that weren't the case.

So how should this silence be interpreted?

You mustn't imagine that I want to see my name in the newspapers.

I really am above all that, and I couldn't care

in the least about what the press and so-called art critics think,

since they rival each other in their stupidity.

I know my worth,

and am harder on myself than anyone else could be.

But things have to be looked at from the commercial angle.

21st of March, 1883.

People must first of all learn to look at nature,

and then they may see and understand what we are trying to do.

29th of April, 1883.

Alice and I are still in the throes of moving house.

In the past week I've experienced every kind of difficulty imaginable.

We are so short of money.

Anyway, this morning, with some of my children,

I'm setting off for Giverny.

The garden's been taking up all my time

as I want to have some flowers to paint when the weather's bad.

I've also had a shed made on the bank of the Seine

to shelter my boats and store my easels and canvases.

I was very concerned to organise my boats,

as the Seine is not very close to the house.

They had to be made secure.

Do send more money.

Don't forget me, because you surely know

that tranquillity is essential in the pursuit of good work.

12th of January, 1884.

I've decided to leave for Italy straight away.

I want to spend a month in Bordighera.

But I ask you to tell no one of this voyage,

because I insist on doing it alone.

I have always worked best in solitude and according to my own impressions.

Alice, I'm hard at work

with four paintings under way.

It's now a matter of finishing them and doing four more, and so on.

Mine is a dog's life and I never stop walking.

I walk here, there and everywhere.

As a break between studies, I go on explorations down every path I find,

always on the look-out for something new,

so by dusk, I've had it.

I dine well.

I write to you as usual, I climb into bed

and, crossing my hands, I ruminate on Giverny.

My eyes dwell on the painting on the wall,

then after a little reading I'm off, sound asleep for the night.

One can wander indefinitely under the orange trees,

the lemon trees and palms,

and also beneath the admirable olives.

I should like to paint orange and lemon trees

standing against the blue sky,

but... as to the blue of the sky and sea,

it is beyond me.

I wish I could send you

a little of the sunshine.

I am slaving away on six paintings a day.

I'm giving myself a hard time over it

as I haven't yet managed to capture the colour of this landscape.

There are moments when I'm appalled at the colours I'm having to use.

I'm afraid what I'm doing is just dreadful.

The light is simply terrifying.

I am exhausted and you know how hard I work once I get going.

A task like this is possible for a month,

but for more than two...

..it's murderous.

Giverny, 27th of April, 1884.

Dear Monsieur Durand-Ruel,

I will come to Paris as you wish tomorrow morning

but with very few paintings...

..and only because I don't want to offend you,

since every single one of my paintings is in need of some sort of revision...

..and the finishing touches must be done with care.

I hope you'll understand that, for if I were to do otherwise

I'd turn into a mere painting machine

and you would be landed with a pile of incomplete work

which would put off the most enthusiastic of art collectors.

20th of October, 1885.

Dear Alice, Étretat is becoming more and more amazing.

It's at its best now.

The beach with all these fine boats,

it's superb,

and I rage at my inability to express it all better.

You would need to use both hands and cover hundreds of canvases.

27th of October, 1885.

My dear Pissarro,

I had no idea I'd stay here in Étretat for such a length of time,

but I've been so poorly favoured with the weather

and it's a devil to finish anything.

Would you kindly apologise for my absence to all our friends

and send my best wishes?

What are you up to, and what about Renoir, Cézanne, Sisley?

9th of November, 1885.

Alice, you say that making savings is all you think about,

but you can't seem to manage to.

You have to manage though.

You mustn't count on having anything other than what we've got already,

nothing more for the time being.

Now take it from me that if my two and your six children

are brought up simply with not too many frills,

they'll be the better for it, and more appreciative,

and that goes for you, too.

And it is quite possible to be happy in such circumstances.

So, why so much sadness?

Now take courage and cheer up or I'll get upset.

Many kisses to the children and all my love.

27th of November, 1885.

An accident befell me.

I was hard at work beneath the cliff, well sheltered from the wind.

I took no notice of the waves that came and fell a few feet away from me.

Absorbed as I was, I didn't see coming a huge wave.

It threw me against the cliff and I was tossed about in its wake

along with all my materials!

My immediate thought was that I was done for,

as the water dragged me down.

But in the end I managed to clamber out on my hands and knees.

What a state I was in!

My boots and my coat were soaked through.

The palette which I had kept a grip on had been knocked over my face

and my beard was covered in blue, yellow, et cetera.

The worst of it was that I lost my painting...

..which was smashed to bits, along with my easel, bag,

et cetera.

Anyway, I was lucky to escape.

Giverny, 22nd of January, 1886

Dear Monsieur Durand-Ruel, I have looked at all my paintings

and it's no use.

There aren't any, as far as I can see,

which could be said to be finished and good as they are.

No doubt there are some interesting ones,

but they're too unfinished for the average collector.

But do you really need quite so many paintings for America?

Surely you already have a fair number?

You do, it's true, keep them cleverly hidden,

since they're never on display, which in my opinion is a mistake.

What is the point of us painting pictures

if the public never gets to see them?

It's not that I don't want to give you any,

that there would be some I could give you,

and I wouldn't be angry if you actually displayed them.

You think only of America, while here we are forgotten,

since every new painting you get you hide away.

Look at my paintings of Italy

which have a special place among all I've done.

Who has seen them, and what has become of them?

If you take them away to America,

it will be I, over here, who will lose out.

Anyway, you doubtless have your reasons.

But I deplore the disappearance of all my paintings like this.

It has now been a month and a half since you left for America

and I've had no word from you, or any money from your son.

Dear Madame Morisot, thank you for your letter.

I have had an exhibition in Paris.

I'm not sure if I should call it a success,

but it has all the appearances of one,

if sales are anything to go by.

Everything on display was sold for a good price to decent people.

It has been a long time

since I believed that you could educate public taste,

and it would be asking too much to want to sell only to connoisseurs.

That way starvation lies.

Giverny, 13th of May, 1887.

Dear Monsieur Durand-Ruel,

there's a growing movement in our favour.

There's no doubt we are getting a better reception

from the people who buy pictures.

In other words, business is going well.

I've sold almost all of my paintings.

Cap d'Antibes, 1st of February, 1888.

Dear Alice, I'm weary, having worked without a break all day.

How beautiful it is here, to be sure, but how difficult to paint!

I can see what I want to do quite clearly but I'm not there yet.

It's so clear and pure in its pinks and blues

that the slightest misjudged stroke looks like a smear of dirt.

Anyway, I'm hard at it and when I'm working away like this,

I'm bound to come up with something.

I've 14 canvases under way.

So you see how carried away I've become.

The weather's absolutely superb again

but, alas, my motifs have changed utterly

and I'm having a lot of trouble resuming work on them.

In some, the lighting's changed,

in others there's so much snow on the mountains

that it's something else entirely, so I'm feverish and bad-tempered.

I feel quite ill.

19th of April, 1888.

I'm continuing the good work,

but I felt so uncomfortable this morning that I had to lay down my brushes.

I had a headache, and was so dazed I couldn't see straight.

7th of October, 1890.

I'm hard at it, working stubbornly on a series of different grain stacks.

But at this time of the year, the sun sets so fast

that it's impossible to keep up with it.

The further I get, the more I see

that a lot of work has to be done

in order to render what I'm looking for.


The same light spread over everything.

Rouen, 12th of February, 1892.

It really doesn't suit me living in a town,

and I'm very fed up.

But today I feel a little more cheerful.

I've been able to move into an empty apartment opposite the cathedral,

but it's a tough job I'm setting out to do.

I'm hard at work, I'm taking great pains and think only of my cathedrals.

I'm shattered.

I've never felt so physically and mentally exhausted.

I'm quite stupid with it and long only for bed,

but I am happy, very happy, and would be happier still

if this wonderful weather holds out for a few more days.

I'm at work by 7am.

I continue until 6:30 in the evening,

standing up all the time,

nine canvases.

It's murderous, and to think I've dropped everything.

You, my garden...

All for this.

Every day I add something

and stumble unawares on some new aspect

that I hadn't been able to see previously.

How hard it is, yet it is coming on.

I'm broken. I cannot work any more.

I had a night filled with bad dreams.

The cathedral was collapsing on me.

It seemed to be blue or pink or yellow.

Dear God, this cursed cathedral is hard to do!

Since I've been here, a week tomorrow,

I've worked every day

on the same two paintings

and I cannot get what I want.

It will come in the end, with a hard struggle.

I'm very glad I decided to come back.

Anyone who claims he's finished a painting

is terribly arrogant.

To finish something means it's complete, perfect.

And I'm forcing myself to work, but I can't make any progress;

looking for something, groping my way forward,

but coming up with nothing very special,

except to reach the point where I'm exhausted by it all.

My darling. Fourteen paintings on the go today.

It's unprecedented.

If I lived in Rouen,

it's now that I'd be starting to understand my subject.

I won't be here much longer, first because I am too tired

and also, because the light is changing dramatically.

Every day it gets whiter and higher up.

Giverny, 17th of July, 1893.

Monsieur le Préfect, may I humbly submit a few observations

relative to the opposition drawn up by the municipal council

and a few inhabitants of Giverny concerning my request

to obtain authorisation for a water channel on the River Epte,

the purpose of which is to supply a pond

where I would like to grow aquatic plants?

I feel I must point out to you that the above-mentioned opponents

are using public health as a pretext,

their sole intention being to interfere with my plans out of pure ill-will,

a common enough attitude in the country

where a private individual, a Parisian, is concerned.

Moreover, the number of people opposing me,

which is very small in relation to the town's population,

consists of people I do not employ,

or have ceased to employ, at my home.

I would also like you to know

that the above-mentioned cultivation of aquatic plants

is not as significant as the term suggests

and that it is merely intended for leisure

and to delight the eye and also to provide motifs to paint.

Finally, in this pond I will grow plants

such as water-lilies, reeds, different varieties of irises

which for the most part grow wild along the river,

and there is thus no question of this poisoning the water.

I am, sir, your most respectful servant, Claude Monet, painter.

Giverny, February, 1900.

My dear gardener, sowing.

Around 300 poppies, 60 sweet pea,

around 60 pots white agrimony,

30 yellow agrimony.

Don't forget the lily bulbs.

Should the Japanese peonies arrive,

plant them immediately if the weather permits,

taking care initially to protect the buds from the cold,

as much as from the heat of the sun.

Get down to pruning, rose trees not too long,

except for the thorny varieties.

Keep a close eye on the gloxinia, orchids, et cetera, in the greenhouse.

Don't delay work on tarring the planks,

and plant the Helianthus laetiflorus in good clumps right away.

London, 26th of February, 1900.

In the early hours of this morning, there was an extraordinary fog.

I did an impression of it that I don't think is bad,

otherwise it's still fine, but very variable.

So I had to start lots of canvases

of Waterloo Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.

Unfortunately the fog doesn't seem to want to lift

and I fear the morning will be wasted.

It's been very fine today with the sunshine,

which is a rarity and, as I had predicted,

the sun already sets a long way from the place I'd wanted to paint it,

in an enormous fireball behind the Houses of Parliament.

Although by nine, I'd already done some work on four paintings,

I was convinced, since I'd got up at six,

that I was going to have a very bad day.

As always on a Sunday,

there wasn't a wisp of fog.

It was appallingly clear, in fact.

And then the sun rose

and was so dazzling, I found it impossible to see.

The Thames was all gold.

God, it was beautiful, so fine that I began work in a frenzy,

following the sun and its reflections on the water.

Meanwhile, kitchen fires

began to be lit.

Thanks to the smoke, a mist descended followed by clouds.

I can't begin to describe a day as wonderful as this.

One marvel after another,

each lasting less than five minutes.

It was enough to drive one mad.

Giverny, 2nd of March, 1904.

Paul, thank you for your letter and the cheque for 10,000 francs.

All along I have continually rejected offers, many on very good terms,

to the point where I wrote to you a short while ago

to see if I should continue to reject such offers.

You replied that I needn't worry.

I'm entirely absorbed in my work.

These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession.

19th of October, 1908.

I am overcome with admiration for Venice.

Unfortunately I can't stay here long

so there's no hope of doing any serious work.

My enthusiasm for Venice

increases by the day,

and I'm very sad that I'll soon have to leave this unique light.

It's so very beautiful.

I've spent some delightful hours here,

almost forgetting that I'm now an old man.

Giverny, 18th of May, 1911.

My dear Paul, I have some very sad news for you.

My beloved wife is about to die.

It's only a matter of hours now.

I can't tell you what I've been going through,

particularly this last fortnight.

My strength and courage are giving out.

7th of September, 1911.

I so need cheering up.

I've had a few very sad months consoling myself

with my dear wife's letters,

all of which I reread

going back over most of our life together.

Otherwise, I haven't been able to find an interest in anything.

Giverny, 7th of June, 1912.

I'm not a great painter.

I only know that I do what I can

to convey what I experience before nature.

And that most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel,

I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting,

if they exist, that is.

In short, I let a good many mistakes show through

when fixing my sensations.

It will always be the same

and this is what makes me despair.

I can only see with one eye. I've got a cataract.

I'm following a course of treatment in order to delay,

and if possible avoid, an operation.

More than ever, and despite my poor sight,

I need to paint and paint unceasingly.

Giverny, 18th of July, 1913.

I can't see very well, it's true,

but at least it doesn't seem to be getting any worse.

I am old and live a retired life.

I loathe self-advertisement, interviews and the like.

People can talk about and discuss my work,

but my life is nobody's business but mine.

10th of February, 1914.

My poor son Jean died from illness last night.

29th of June, 1914.

I've started work again and you know I don't do things by halves,

getting up at four in the morning, I slave away all day

until, by the evening, I'm exhausted.

1st of September, 1914.

Most of my family has left me with no knowledge of their whereabouts.

Only my son Michel, who has been temporarily discharged, is with me,

along with Blanche.

A mad panic has swept our area.

As for myself, I'm staying here, regardless.

And if those savages insist on killing me,

they'll have to do it in the midst of my paintings,

in front of my life's work.

Giverny, 15th of January, 1915.

I resume work, which is the only way

to avoid thinking of these troubled times.

All the same I sometimes feel ashamed

that I am devoting myself to artistic pursuits

while so many of our people are suffering, and dying for us.

It's true that fretting

never did any good,

so I am pursuing my idea

of the Grande Décoration.

It's a very big undertaking, particularly for someone my age

but it's the project I have had in mind for some time now.



plants spread over a huge surface.

9th of October, 1917.

Having come to Paris for Degas's funeral, I'm exhausted.

Ah, Degas...

My youthful friendship with him and our common struggle.

I'm working more and more, but how hard it all is!

I'm enslaved to my work, always wanting the impossible.

I haven't many years left ahead of me, but...

..I must devote all my time to painting,

in the hope of achieving something worthwhile in the end.

Giverny, 24th of November, 1918.

I had a fine start to my 79th year,

with the glorious victory coming first,

and a visit from the great Georges Clemenceau

who came to take me to lunch, and on his first day off, too!

I'm very proud.

I'm not very fond of public displays,

and it's not false modesty on my part that prompts me to say

that I don't think I deserve it.

Far from it.

I've done what I could as a painter and that seems to me to be sufficient.

I don't want to be compared to the great masters of the past.

8th of December, 1919.

You can imagine how painful the loss of Renoir has been to me.

With him goes a part of my own life.

The battles and enthusiasms of youth.

It's hard.

I am the last survivor of the group.

31st of October, 1921.

Dear Georges, I am sending you the detailed information I promised you

on the subject of the donation of my Décorations to the State.

I will agree to the room in the Orangerie,

on condition that the Beaux-Arts administration

undertakes to do the work there that I judge necessary.

Instead of the 12 panels,

I'll provide 18.

It's true that the number doesn't matter, only the quality.

8th of May, 1922.

I'm almost blind and I'm having to abandon work altogether.

It's hard but that's the way it is.

A sad end, despite my good health.

9th of September, 1922.

Dear Georges, went yesterday for a consultation in Paris.

Result: one eye absolutely gone.

An operation will be essential.

Meanwhile, there's a course of treatment

that might make the other eye better

and enable me to paint.

22nd of June, 1923.

Doctor, I'm in the depths of despair.

I can see nothing outside or in the distance.

It makes me sorry that I ever decided to go ahead with that fatal operation.

Excuse me for being so frank and allow me to say

that I think it's criminal to have placed me in such a predicament.

The distortion and exaggerated colours that I see are quite terrifying.

21st of October, 1923.

Doctor, I received the spectacles from Germany

and much to my surprise the results are very good.

I can see green again, red

and, at last, an attenuated blue.

It would be perfect if the frames were better.

The two lenses are too close together.

Giverny, 27th of July, 1925.

Dear Doctor, I'm delighted to be able to tell you

that I've truly recovered my sight at last.

In short, I can live and breathe again.

I am overjoyed to see everything once more,

and I'm working passionately.

Giverny, 21st of June, 1926.

I have always had a horror of theories.

My only merit is that I have painted directly from nature...

..seeking to convey my impressions of her most elusive effects.

Giverny, 18th of September, 1926.

I'm glad to say that I'm getting better

although at times I'm in great pain, so much so that in fact

I was thinking of preparing my palette and brushes to resume work.

But relapses and a further bout of pain prevented it.

I'm not giving up that hope

and I am occupying myself with some major alterations in my studios

and plans to perfect the garden.

You ought to know in any case that,

if I don't recover my strength sufficiently

to do what I want to my panels for the Orangerie,

I've decided to offer them as they are.

Yours forever, Claude Monet.