Monet was fifty years old in 1890. Always a complainer, he now confessed to his intimates that he was feeling his age. Bad weather plagued him not just because it interrupted his work but because it brought on his rheumatism: it was time to review the past, to count his days.

The public had had twenty years and more to accustom itself to his vision. Monet was now secure, ensconced in the house in Giverny, his well-planted domain expanding around him. Recently there had been a large retrospective at the Galerie Georges Petit, shared with Rodin and timed to coincide with the 1889 Universal Exhibition, in which Monet had shown 150 works. It had been a famous success. His works were selling at unprecedented prices: that year an American had bought a painting for the vast sum of nine thousand francs.

Since Manet’s death in 1883, Monet had been the unquestioned leader of his...


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