First, With the Last

“One day, when I found myself next to a woman's deathbed, a woman who has been and still is very dear to me, I realised at the sight of her tragic brow how I mechanically analysed the progression of the tones that death gave her motionless face.” Claude Monet directed these words to his friend, Georges Clemenceau, and continued: “Blue tones, yellow, grey – what else? This is the point I had reached. It certainly felt natural to reproduce the last impression of a woman who was disappearing forever. But, even before I had got the idea to set down the facial features to which I was so deeply attached, my organism responded automatically to the colour signals and my reflexes took control in an unconscious act that has always characterised my daily life.” The dying person was the artist's wife, Camille-Leonie Doncieux Monet, who died at 32 years old, probably as a result of cervical cancer. Camille and Claude had married in a civil cer...

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