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Meet the Icons - Artists & Writers

Four of France's greatest artists and writers

France has always excelled in the Arts, producing some of the world’s most creative minds and prodigious talents.

Meet the artists & writers

  1. Claude Monet
  2. Henri Matisse
  3. Simone de Beauvoir
  4. Albert Camus

Claude Monet

1840 - 1926

A painter whose works were revolutionary at the time, though eventually appeared on millions of greetings cards, and which today command some of the art world’s highest prices.

"My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects"

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)
Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)

Monet’s early work was sneered at by critics who claimed it was merely an ‘impression’ of the subject, rather than a detailed study of form and light. He associated with other artists like Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir and Bazille, their work becoming some of the art world’s most sensational.

Despite his posthumous success and recognition, Monet struggled with depression and illness and never saw much in the way of financial reward until late in life. At Giverny in Normandy Monet painted the gardens, most famously the water lilies that became his most renowned legacy.

Why an icon?

Monet’s work gave a name to the Impressionist art movement and helped transform art by challenging the conventions of the past.


Henri Matisse

1869 - 1954

One of the greatest painters of the 20th century.

"I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have a light joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labours it has cost me".

Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)
Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)

Always a creative artist who saw merit in other styles, Matisse developed his own specialities and techniques. His work with colour, as in paintings like The Dance, Music and Bathers with a Turtle, is always striking.

Why an icon?

An imaginative painter, he used pure colours and, daringly, was not afraid to use the natural unpainted colour of the canvas. He was also influenced by other cultures, from Asia to Africa.


Simone de Beauvoir

1908 - 1986

Laid the foundations of modern feminism.

"One is not born, rather one becomes, a woman."

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 - 1986)
Simone de Beauvoir (1908 - 1986)

A prolific writer, Beauvoir covered both fiction and nonfiction, and threw her influence and voice behind various political movements. She wrote about the human struggle to be free and most notably her book ‘The Second Sex’ was hugely influential regarding women and the workplace, family and so on

Famously she had a lifelong relationship with the leading philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, though they never married.

Why an icon?

An important writer, thinker and intellectual champion who was instrumental in opening doors to the feminist movement.


Albert Camus

1913 - 1960

A philosopher, playwright and author whose views made him a spokesman for the post-war generation.

“You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer ‘yes’ without having asked any clear question”.

Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)
Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)

Born in French Algeria, he arrived in France a young man on the eve of war. He became one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance and went on to write his best works: La Paste, Les Justes and La Chute. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, he died in a road accident in 1960.

Why an icon?

A great thinker, whose energy and dynamism were forged in the years of French Occupation by the Nazis.


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