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Claude 'Big Ponds' Monet was born in Paris but spent most of his boyhood (and pocket money) in the port of Le Havre where he sold cartoons to classmates, was described as a rascal by teachers, and met French painter, Gene 'Ozone' Boudin, who convinced the budding young artist the best way to further his career would be to paint al fresco (a smart move, al being the biggest gallery owner in town.)
After doing two years' National Service in Algeria and being completely knocked out by the spectacular light plus an equally spectacular bout of typhoid, Claude returned to France where he trained at the Suisse Art School. He then began work at the studio of Gleyre who offered discount rates to skint young daubers like Claude and his contemporaries, Renoir, Bazille, Sisley and Pissarro, charging just 10 francs for the use of studio and models (and for five more, you got to take them home for the weekend). Claude also spent many happy hours painting out of doors at Argenteuil and in the Forest of Fontainebleau, an experience that has given rise to some confusion over what are believed to be his 'almost magical' flicks of white light but are, in essence, large dollops of wood pigeon excrement.
In the late C19 Claude became a serial haystack painter and was only cured of this affliction when he fell victim to the even more powerful mass neurosis known as 'compulsive gardening disorder' (celebrated in his lost masterpiece, 'Bonjour Monsieur Titchmarsh'), finally using the fruits of long-awaited success to externalise this new obsession and buy his stonking great spread at Giverny*, now so beloved of modern day Monet-maniacs who visit the place by the trug load to venerate the master (and steal dahlia cuttings). * Graceland for artaholicsCopyright Michael Cox