Manet, Monet, Pissarro, C�zanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Though they were often ridiculed or ignored by their contemporaries, today astonishing sums are paid for the works of these artists, whose paintings are celebrated for their ability to capture the moment, not only in the fleeting lights of a landscape but in scenes of daily life. Their dazzling pictures are familiar--but how well does the world know the Impressionists as people? The Private Lives of the Impressionists tells their story. It is the first book to offer an intimate and lively biography of the world's most popular group of artists.
In a vivid and moving narrative, biographer Sue Roe shows the Impressionists in the studios of Paris, rural lanes of Montmartre and rowdy riverside bars as Paris underwent Baron Haussmann's spectacular transformation. For more than twenty years they lived and worked together as a group, struggling to rebuild their lives after the Franco-Prussian War and supporting one another through shocked public reactions to unfamiliar canvases depicting laundresses, dancers, spring blossoms and boating scenes.
This intimate, colorful, superbly researched account takes us into their homes and studios, and describes their unconventional, volatile and precarious lives, as well as the stories behind the paintings.
From Monet and Pissarro's first meeting in Paris in 1860 to art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel's influential 1886 Impressionist exhibition in New York City, the group known as the Impressionists--Manet, Monet, Pissarro, C�zanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Morisot and Cassatt--struggled to build their reputations, support themselves financially and create meaningful personal lives. In this meticulously researched and vividly written book, British writer Roe (Gwen John) argues that their drive for success was the strongest unifying factor among this diverse group of artists, including the antisocial, celibate Degas, the socialist Pissarro and the chronically depressed Sisley, who resented the Impressionists' meager public appreciation until the very end of his life. Roe's nuanced portraits of these artists include personal details both small--the American Cassatt's booming voice and "atrocious" French accent--and significant--Manet's illegitimate son and his upper-middle-class family's elaborate efforts to conceal the child's existence. The result is a comprehensive and revealing group portrait, superbly contextualized within the period's volatile political, socioeconomic and artistic shifts. Roe's book will be of great interest to both art and social historians as well as to the general reader. 16 pages of color illus., b&w illus; 1 map. (Nov.)
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October 22, 2007
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