…the almost unknown collection of the grand old man of impressionism was left to an equally unknown museum. At the death of Michel Monet, in 1966, the only son of Claude Monet, the officials knew they were going to get something, but the actual wealth of the legacy far exceeded expectations. Here, stacked in the cellar, piled up in the attic, even shoved under beds were ninety two works of art, including forty-two by Monet himself; as part of the trove there were Renoir’s, Caillebotte, Delacroix and Signac. The irony of it was, Michel Monet cared little for his father’s paintings and sold one whenever he needed some liquidity. In addition, in his will, the twelfth he had drawn up, the paintings were left to France, but not to the Louvre: to the Musee Marmottan, a small bourgeois mansion in Auteuil, crammed with bric-a-brac from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
Michel’s eccentric will was in keeping with his character. He had inherited his father’s gruff, individualistic disposition. He had two passions in life: fast cars and Africa. In the 1930’s he had gone on several trips of exploration to that continent, but their contribution to science may be doubted: Michel Monet was all but illiterate. Claude Monet, who himself left school at a very tender age, had given little thought to his son’s education.
At Sorel-Moussel Michel Monet led a misanthropic existence, surrounded by his hot-rods, a monkey or two, and his “museum” of African tusks and trophies. He had no interest in art, ad whenever the do-re-mi was running low, for he never worked a day in his life, he would sell one: at the outset, the collection may have been double the size he bequeathed.