on May 10, 2014
I first read this book in college, over twenty years ago, and was so impressed with it that I read Rewald's follow up to it, The History of Post-Impressionism. I found of used copy and decided to reread it. It was almost as great as I remembered.
The book is lively, heavily illustrated with photographs both in color and in black and white, and it covers to period from roughly 1855 to 1905 when the art movement called - derisively at first - Impressionism was born, matured, and ultimately became accepted. It chronicles the lives and struggles of artists such as Monet, Degas, Pisarro, Renoir, Manet, Moriset, Cezanne, Cassatt, and others. A struggle it truly was. What impressed me as a student and impresses me still is how hard they worked and with so little reward or recognition. Indeed, they were met with derision, laughter, and ridicule. It took decades for modest success to be achieved.
Their opponent was the establishment in the form of the French Academy, which controlled the artistic tastes of the time and for the world. Painters who today are largely forgotten, such as Cabanel, Gerome, and Bouguereau, where world famous, rich and powerful, and they controlled who got into the shows at the Salon. The Impressionists were almost entirely excluded. The academic painters gained all the benefits of the power of the French state to advance the arts, while those outside got little.
The book is inspiring and beautifully written and illustrated. It is a large book, over 500 over-sized pages, my only complaint is I wish more of the illustrations were in color. I highly recommend this book. You will learn a great deal about painting theory, history, and much about the painters themselves. They had colorful personalities and each is lovingly portrayed by Reward, with Monet, Cezanne, and Manet being standouts.
on June 9, 2015
When I first checked this book out from the public library at 12, I didn't know much about Impressionism. There were simpler books I could have read, but this one fascinated me from the beginning. Instead of reading it from cover to cover, I sampled it sporadically. I was more interested in the pictures than the text, and I still am today. What I found most interesting was the accounts of contemporary art critics and how they responded to Impressionism. Some of them condemned it outright, but others were surprisingly receptive, and, as John Rewald points out, they could also be hard on the more conventional Salon painters.
Rewald's book was a distant memory when I found I could buy an inexpensive used paperback on Amazon. My copy was a bit battered, but I enjoyed refreshing my memories.
on May 8, 2015
This was the forerunner of the modern art book, before it's publication most art books images were B&W with poor paper quality. The author and this book brought back Impressionism to the forefront of the art world. With the high quality glossy paper and color images this was a best seller allowing the author to make numerous, updated and improved editions The prices of the paintings we see today and the continuous popularity of Impressionism owes a debt to the author. I would still highly recommend this book to the student of Impressionism and even though there have been many books about Impressionism this one is still the best researched and document book on the subject..