The Life and Art of Claude Monet

Written by Erin Blais – University Intern

Early Life

Claude Monet

Parisian painter Claude Monet changed the direction of the art world with both his talent and influence in the creation of Impressionism.  Born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, Monet was the second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louisa Justine Aubree Monet.  While his father wanted Monet to follow his lead and go into the family grocery business, Monet longed for a different life – the life of a painter.  His aunt, an amateur painter herself, was his first supporter and encouraged him to attend art school.  He attended Le Havre Secondary School of the Arts where he had his first success at age 15 when he sold charcoal caricatures on the streets.  


Monet’s Art Style and Impressionism

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

As Monet advanced in his art career, he found friends and mentors that introduced him to new mediums and places of inspiration. Among his favorites were the styles of Japanese prints, painting en plein air (outdoors), and nature. His medium of choice was oil paints.

As Monet gained confidence in his work, he developed his unique style. He began to pull away from painting the subject exactly as he saw before him, and instead painted the essence of the subject and how it made him feel. This produced paintings that had small visible brushstrokes, unblended colors, and an emphasis on light and open scenery. This style later became recognized as Impressionism. 

In 1872, Monet created a painting titled Impression, Sunrise.  This was one of the first Impressionism works and it is where the style got its name. It was shown in the first Impressionism exhibit in 1874 where it inspired a new generation of artists.      


Lasting Impact

Just one of the paintings inspired by Monet’s garden

In 1890 Monet purchased a home in Giverny France where he created a lush Asian-inspired water garden, complete with exotic plants, birds, and a pond.  This inspired him to paint one of his most recognizable series of paintings- The Water Lilies.  Throughout his life, Monet painted over 250 water lily paintings, including some that stretched over 6 feet tall. 





Monet’s Garden in Giverny


In 1926 Monet died in his home surrounded by his family.  He was a dedicated painter right up until his death despite having cataracts which affected his vision.  His house in Giverny stands as a museum and memorial to the famous painter and is open to the public. 

Cabane à Sucre: A Québecois Legacy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Traditional Cabane

Beginnings of the Cabane à Sucre

Cabanes à Sucre, or sugar shacks, are small cabins or groups of cabins located in Eastern Canada and Northern New England. In these cabanes, sap collected from maple trees is boiled into maple syrup. This style of production were developed through a combination of Native American and European innovations. For the next century or so, it remained primarily a family-related cottage industry in Québec. The busier period for sugar shacks is from late October to the end of April when maple sap becomes available. Collection efforts occur during the thawing period of early spring when temperatures are ideal for the sugaring process. Sap collection is usually performed during the first two weeks of April, which has become the focus of an annual spring celebration.

Family-run Cabane

Today, many cabanes are commercially operated and offer reception halls and outdoor activities. Most, however, remain family-owned despite their growing size. They even open to the general public during certain months for their “sugaring off” celebrations. 

Traditional “Sugaring Off” Celebrations

At a cabane à sucre, meals traditionally begin with yellow pea soup. Next come savory dishes such as baked ham, omelets, sausages, tourtière, baked beans, cretons, and deep-fried pork rinds. These foods are often cooked with or drizzled in maple syrup. The meal is often the central focus of “Sugaring off” celebrations, as familys and friends gather around for a maple-filled dinner. Beyond eating, activities at sugar shacks vary but can include traditional music and dancing, snowshoeing, and observing the maple syrup-making process. 

The FAC Event

Next Saturday, April 1st, the FAC is hosting a Cabane à Sucre event at the Oscar Barn in Hooksett, New Hampshire. To learn more about the maple farm on site, visit this website. From 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, there will be a series of presentation on the sugaring process and how the local farm manages their production. Then, from 6:00 to 7:30, there will be a traditional “Sugaring Off” dinner with tons of traditional foods and, of course, an immense amount of maple syrup. From 7:30 to 10:00, the night will finish off with dancing and music from The Reel McCoys. Tickets for the event are now sold out. 

The French Experience of Dominic Girard

March is International Francophonie Month, recognizing the 80+ countries of the world where French is spoken. 

Although French is a global language, you don’t need to travel to Paris, Congo, or Canada to find it. There are plenty of communities here in the United States that celebrate French, including our New England region. In NH, over 23% of the population identifies as having French or French-Canadian Heritage. Many families no longer speak the language at home but some still consider it an important piece of their heritage.

One example of a young professional who continues to celebrate his French roots is Dominic Girard, son of Richard and Jennifer Girard, proud Franco-Americans and Lifetime FAC Members. I recently spoke with Dominic about his experiences with the French language and culture. He shared with me stories of his study abroad experience and tales of his childhood. 

Growing up in Manchester

Manchester Mills

In the largest city in New Hampshire, there are many people from many diverse places of the world. Francophone culture in particular is well represented. The largest Francophone influence in the city came from the Quebecois, many of whom ended up there to work in the mills between 1840 and 1930.

Dominic grew up in this city. He told me that French language and culture had always been a part of his life, if only a backdrop at times. His father had studied French in college, and his Nana was fluent. His 8th grade year of school, Dominic was homeschooled, and in that year was taught the basics of the language. He studied French in high school as well, and again in college, where he earned a minor with it. 

Study Abroad in Strasbourg

While in college, Dominic had the opportunity to study abroad. He landed in Strasbourg, France, near the border with Germany. Dominic said this location was an exciting place to stay largely because of its location in central Europe. He could reach just about anywhere in Western Europe in less than 6 hours. 

One of his favorite memories, he told me, was of the Christmas market in Strasbourg. There, he enjoyed vin chaud, a spiced wine drink served warm. 

He said he would highly recommend a study abroad experience in college. Studying helps build familiarity with a language or culture, but traveling helps you truly understand it. 

The Importance of Language Study

Dominic said he recommends studying another language. It helps a person better understand their own culture and language, and learn about other approaches to life. There’s so much more out there that we don’t always see in the US. We are surrounded by an ocean on either side, and only share two borders with other nations. 

He says studying another language is loads of fun, but also very practical. It helps build connections and understanding of every part of our world. 

Dominic’s story is one example of how the combination of a family’s commitment to their heritage and a young person’s desire to keep that heritage alive keeps adding new chapters to the Franco-American story.

Félicitations Dominic et merci!