Unlike Rossetti’s Elizabeth Siddal, Rodin’s Camille Claudel, Salvador Dalí’s Gala, and Pollock’s Lee Krasner, almost nothing is known about Monet’s model, mistress, muse, and first wife, Camille. Monet’s second wife, Alice Hoschedé, with whom he had had a scandalous premarital liaison, destroyed “every memento attesting not only to Camille’s role in his life but to her very existence.” Since we know nothing of Camille’s character, Monet and His Muse is not about Camille herself but about the sequence of pictures she appeared in.

When Camille became pregnant, Monet naturally feared that she had tried to trick him into marriage. Mary Matthews Gedo condemns him for leaving Camille “in Paris, pregnant and penniless, while he retreated to the comforts” of his family home in Normandy. But at a time when men frequently abandoned their inconvenient...


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