In the ""First Impressions"" series, an excellent introduction to the best loved and most prolific Impressionist. The journalist author focuses on Monet's development as an artist and the lack of recognition and financial troubles that dogged the first half of his 80 years--when he was 37, his evocative image of a train in La Gare St. Lazare caused a furor: ""A critic said that Monet was trying to make his viewers feel the way travelers did."" What happened to the man is only outlined--his family's insistence on traditional training in art, Monet's marriages, children, friends, infirmities; and the whys remain a mystery--why did he antagonize his family and lose its support by living unwed with a woman he loved and later married? Why did his good friend Bazille fail to send money he owed Monet when Monet was desperate? There are a few revealing glimpses: e.g., Waldron remarks near the end that Monet had such a terrible temper that he once, in a fit of pique, gave up painting on Saturday, discarded his palette and brushes--then had to beg a supplier to send him new supplies on a Sunday. Still, the art is the important thing, and its genesis is intelligently presented: Monet's evolving concerns with light, color, and subject are discussed in the context of the art world of his time. The many reproductions are well placed and chosen, including informal paintings of Monet by such friends as Renoir and Manet. List of paintings and photos; index.