From Publishers Weekly
Listening to Layton is like sitting at a Left Bank cafe with a British friend who knows both the history and gossip of the 1860s' Paris art scene and can put it all in political context. Layton has a friendly, low-pitched voice, good tempo and pace. He's never overly dramatic, but does lift an amusing vocal eyebrow quoting some of the more pompous figures of the period. King describes the mid-century revolution in French art by focusing on the lives and canvases of the extremes of the period. Ernest Meissonier is wildly successful and wealthy, patiently mirroring every face and frock and hoofbeat in precise historical detail, while Edouard Manet is rejected and scorned by the public, peers, critics and buyers for the manner in which he illuminated his impressions of scenes and characters. As Manet gradually moves from brown hues to vibrant colors and from classical to modern settings, King shows his influence on those younger contemporaries—Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas et al.—who came to be known as the Impressionists. Artists, art historians and connoisseurs will be transfixed by this description of the seismic shift in art from the mirror to the lamp. The rest of us may slide over the names of unfamiliar artists, critics, mistresses, models and political figures to focus on the heart of this fascinating story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ross King has an impressive track record chronicling the transformative nature of genius. His Brunelleschi's Dome
and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
(**** Mar/Apr 2003) wrapped their author's extensive knowledge of European culture in brisk, compelling prose. King continues his march through art history's great moments in The Judgment of Paris
and emerges with another triumph. Though the central drama is focused on Manet and Meissonier, The Boston Globe
criticizes the book as "at heart an institutional, rather than artistic history." But it is King's sympathy for the fortunes of both Meissonier and Manet that affords him the narrative backbone to paint such a far-reaching story onto one interesting canvas.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.