'For me, Monet was the king!'

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, by Claude Monet (1840–1926), 361⁄2in by 29in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

Bobby Dundas says:
Impressionism has always been my favourite movement in art history and, although Manet was considered its father, for me, Monet was the king! I love how he depicts light and reflection in his waterlily pond series. His brushstrokes and the striking use of his colour palette make it seem as if the lilies are alive and real, so much so that I want to reach out and grab them. Hypnotic in effect, this painting gives me an immediate sense of calm and peacefulness every time I see it, and the thought of sitting down on the edge of the pond with a good book surrounded by such tranquility makes me very happy.

Bobby Dundas (Viscount Melville) is a professional polo player and an ambassador for British Polo Day.

John McEwen comments:
Monet’s early career was a struggle. His artistic mother died when he was 16; his father wanted him to join the family grocery business. He married Camille, his favourite model, the first of their children having been scandalously born out of wedlock.

Ernest Hoschedé, a rich Parisian businessman, was an early supporter. He and his wife, Alice, entertained lavishly. In 1876, Monet was commissioned to paint pictures and panels for their château. He became Alice’s lover and may have fathered her youngest and sixth child; meanwhile, Camille gave birth to their second. Hoschedé went bankrupt.

The Monets and Hoschedés (Ernest fitfully) lived together outside Paris, which was cheaper. When Camille died in 1879, the arrangement continued. Alice jealously destroyed all evidence of Camille, but would neither rejoin nor divorce Hoschedé. Monet left if Hoschedé stayed. He travelled extensively to paint new subjects and was helped financially by his association with the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who crucially established an American market.

In 1883, Monet rented a house with a garden and watermeadow at Giverny, Normandy. He began to paint sequential subjects. In 1890, he bought the house. Hoschedé died the following year, leaving Alice free to marry Monet. The Giverny garden became a preoccupation. The footbridge, copied from a Japanese print, was built as a vantage point to contemplate the new lily pond, which replaced the meadow. From 1899, Monet painted 18 views of the bridge and pond, peaceful reflections after years of financial and domestic strife.

‘Inventing Impressionism: How Paul Durand-Ruel created the Modern Art Market’ is at The National Gallery, London WC2, until May 31 (020–7747 2885; www.nationalgallery.org.uk).

This article was originally published in Country Life May 13, 2015.