Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son [Claude Monet]

Griff Stecyk


Camille Monet was the original “Recessionista.”

The Monets spent most of their relationship in crippling poverty, with Camille and their bastard son Jean once living in a one-room flat without heating while Monet kept her secretly on the side. Yet somehow Camille always had money to wear the latest fashions. The French will be French.

Department stores had just shown up on the Paris scene, so for the first time in history middle class women had access to affordable reproductions of haute couture styles. Monet created a sensation painting Camille out and about in the new designs, and soon women were flocking to Impressionist exhibits to see what Madame Monet was wearing.  Here we see her in one of her signature veil and parasol ensembles.  She maintained this look to the bitter end, even painted by Monet in an ultra-chic death shroud in the beautiful but morbid portrait Camille on Her Deathbed.

She died tragically at the age 32 of cervical cancer, tuberculosis or botched abortions, depending on which theory you believe.  Their friend and physician Georges de Bellio,  who treated her throughout her long illness, was the original owner of this painting.  Because the Monets were destitute, they usually paid him with art.  Bellio probably acquired this to settle his bill. He had similar arrangements with the other Impressionists, amassing works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot in exchange for his services. Bellio was a true believer in Impressionism, and usually offered money anyway. He was the hipster of his time, collecting the Impressionists long before it was cool.

This painting later passed to Bellio’s daughter, who also modeled for Renoir, and finally into the hands of Paul Mellon. Mellon was a philanthropist and horse breeder, who happened to be heir to one of America’s greatest fortunes.  His wife Bunny, despite having the yuppiest name imaginable, had fabulous taste in art and a generous heart. She adored the Impressionists, and this was probably one of her picks, or a gift from Paul.  The Mellons donated two buildings and over 1,000 artworks (including this one) to the National Gallery of Art, of which Paul served on the board of trustees for 40 years.  They were true old school American royalty, back when you actually had to be classy to earn the title. We traded them in for the Kardashians, who have confused class with ass. Is it too late for trade-backsies?

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son [Claude Monet] is mentioned on Sartle Blog -