Artwork the Woman in the Green Dress by Claude Monet

This painting of “Camille” (“The Woman in the Green Dress”), features Claude Monet’s young wife in a full-length portrait. The painting was done in haste, with a Salon deadline looming, but it gained great attention for the then-struggling artist. It also commanded the attention of Collector Arsene Houssaye, a French novelist who later became Inspector General for Works of Art. The painting commanded 800 francs, a stunning amount (at the time) for the work of an unknown artist.

Unlike many of Monet’s characteristically soft Impressionist works of art, “The Woman in the Green Dress” (1866) is a study in Realism and features dark colors and a deep background. It captures Camille in an engaging pose at a young age, with much attention given to her fashionable dress.

At the time the portrait was painted, Monet and Camille were newly married and struggling financially. The sale of the painting was a source of great happiness for them both, and because of its success, garnered the artist the commission of another important portrait. That painting, “Portrait of Madame Gaudibert” (1868), is of the Realist School as well, both having been painted before Monet’s breakthrough work of art, “Impression Sunrise” (1872).

Woman Behind the Portrait

“The Woman in the Green Dress” features Camille Doncieux, Monet’s first wife. She was also his mistress and model before the couple wed, as well having modeled for other notable painters (such as Edouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir).

A beautiful woman in her late teens with dark hair and eyes, she was also from a humble family, and the marriage was never sanctioned by Monet’s family. Unlike most artists (who never married their mistresses), Claude Monet bucked convention. However, they lived in poverty during that time, and Camille died at the very young age of 32, never knowing of Monet‘s true success as an artist.

While it appears that Monet was unfaithful to Camille, it’s also likely that Monet did love his wife. Several of his most important early works feature her, including “Women in the Garden” (1866) in which all four of the women in the painting are based on Camille. In this work, as well as “On the Banks of the Seine, Bennecourt” (1868), which also features Camille, one can see the beginning influences of Impressionism in his brushstrokes.

The Woman in the Green Dress

While most know Claude Monet (1840-1926) as an Impressionist, his early years were filled with painting portraits in a Realist style, and “The Woman in the Green Dress” is but one of them. In this portrait, Monet seeks to capture his audience’s attention by not only selecting an attractive model, but by painting her in the latest Parisian fashion. He makes particular use of his painting skills in her fur-trimmed cape and green silk striped dress. Set against a dark background, with Camille almost inattentive to painter (walking away), it captures a lovely moment in time.

Unlike so many paintings of Monet that were to come later, “The Woman in the Green Dress” encapsulates much of the artist’s early style and history. It still shows the brilliant promise of a young painter and the face of one of the most painted models during her time, Camille.