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The Judgment of Paris [Kindle Edition]

Ross King
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Judgment of Paris chronicles the dramatic decade between two famous exhibitions-the scandalous Salon des Refuses in 1863 and the first Impressionist showing in 1874-set against the rise and dramatic fall of Napoleon III and the Second Empire after the Franco-Prussian War. A tale of many artists, it revolves around the lives of two, described as "the two poles of art"-Ernest Meissonier, the most famous and successful painter of the 19th century, hailed for his precision and devotion to history; and Edouard Manet, reviled in his time, who nonetheless heralded the most radical change in the history of art since the Renaissance. Out of the fascinating story of their parallel lives, illuminated by their legendary supporters and critics-Zola, Delacroix, Courbet, Baudelaire, Whistler, Monet, Hugo, Degas, and many more-Ross King shows that their contest was not just about Art, it was about competing visions of a rapidly changing world. With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and a revolutionary movement had the power to electrify and divide a nation.

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.


Product Details

  • File Size: 2762 KB
  • Print Length: 474 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802715168
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00480O9LO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,728 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hero is Meissonier February 25, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Ross King has written a fine book, rich in detail, which covers the emergence of the Impressionists against an engaging background of the political, military, scientific, and cultural trends of mid-19th century France. Perhaps unintentionally, he has also made a case for rehabilitating Ernest Meissonier, the painter whose reputation went into eclipse as the world went nuts over Manet, Monet, and their ilk. We are told that Meissonier possessed colossal self-regard and hauteur, but the details adduced in THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS show him to be: generous (he supported a bankrupted blacksmith and a poor woman in Antibes), forgiving (when his son damaged his most important canvas), an ally to other artists (he signed his name to a petition over restrictive judging rules), a meticulous craftsman (he made countless models and sketches and even grew a wheat field to be trampled so he could paint it), and, most especially, wise about the vagaries of posthumous reputations ("Life. How little it really comes to.").

It is fine to argue now, as a fatuous NY Times review did, that Meissonier's major work, Friedland: 1807, is "fussy," but attention must also be paid to the quote in King's book that sheds important light on the Impressionists: On page 196, Claude Monet says: "It really is appallingly difficult to do something which is complete in every respect, and I think most people are content with mere approximations." Meissonier emerges, like his paintings, in three dimensions; Manet, like his, in two. Manet is portrayed as petulant, mean, and petty, refusing at first even to meet Monet because of a belief that the younger man was stealing his name.
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109 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Live the King! January 26, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I dislike many history books. History books written by academics for academics. (Publish or perish isnt exactly producing pageturners.) Books written by people who have "colleagues" and actually use that word more than once a week. Ahhh, but I love art. I love the history of art. Ross King is my hero. He can take a time line filled with people, places and dates and keep me turning the page. He made me understand one of my favorite times in the history of art, the passing of the french academic tradition into more modern forms of art. King infuses the caracters with life and makes you care about them. We meet Manet and learn the hardships he endured trying to show his work under the Salon system. We are introduced to Meissonier, the reigning champion of art in the 1800's. Never heard of him? Same here. This book is the story of the "greatest" artist, who we have completly forgotten and an artist who never was accepted in his life time, whom we all know.
THAT is the suff of great literature and life lessons. Long life the King!
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No plates and many typos November 16, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although the book is entertaining, I am surprised at the huge number of typographical errors that appear in the Kindle version. Not having the hard copy, I don't know if these errors are in the original publication but names are misspelled throughout as well as common words. These errors are repeated. Words such as intuition, unfortunately, prostitute appear as inmition, unformnately, prostimte, respectively. The architect of the Paris Opera is Charles Garnier but in the book is Gamier. There are many more of these errors.

In addition to this, in the Kindle edition, plates are referred to but do not appear. Since this is a book on painting, this is indeed important and a pity that they do not do so.
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79 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book Does Not Deliver April 18, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ross King had a good idea in contrasting the lives of Ernest Meissonier, the most famous painter of his time with Edouard Manet, the father of Impressionism. Using the annual painting Salon as a fulcrum, King attempts to illustrate the reversal of fortunes of these two great painters. Unfortunately, King does not deliver on the central argument of his book.

By focusing on the painting Salons of 1863-74, King shifts the focus of the book from a biography of Meissonier and Manet to the business component of these Salons. Ross never really takes us into their interior lives. This was a very important decade for the development of modern painting and unfortunately we only get thumbnail sketches of the other great Impressionist painters and the world that helped shape them.

Finally, I was dissapointed that King quickly concludes his thesis on the reversal of fortunes in the very last chapter of the book. There is no doubt that Edouard Manet was the more influential painter of the two. He was one of the giants of the 19th Century. However, for King's thesis to work, Manet must reach great heights while Meissonier must dissapears into mediocre obscurity. But I am not so sure that Meissonier is the forgotten figure that King wants us to believe. Ernest Meissonier was one of the great historical painters and his works are very well known to people who appreciate this genre of painting. Ernest Meissioner was not the mediocre figure that King dishonestly wants us to believe.

Ross King writes very well and his book is geared towards the general reading public. I wanted to like this book but in the end, he was not able to sell me on his thesis. For those who like the period, I would recommend "Art, War & Revolution in France 1870-1871: Myth, Reportage and Reality" by John Milner. Milner's beautifully illustrated book is not geared for the general reading public but it does a much better job of capturing the feel of the period.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read. great service.
Published 10 days ago by ellie
5.0 out of 5 stars or who just loves reading a well researches and beautifully written...
This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of art, or the history of France or Europe, or who just loves reading a well researches and beautifully written narrative... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Kai Bergman
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Art History Students
Gives some interesting insight into the historical context in which the French impressionist movement developed.
Published 1 month ago by Tom Bishop
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look into the past...
I found King's book to be a fascinating tour of the Paris art world of the 1860s and early 1870s. Manet and the unjustly forgotten Meissonier are given equal treatment and are each... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Christopher Rowe
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written
One of the most entertaining books of art history I have read. The quality and amount of photos could be better but the text content is so well written that I still give it five... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sampo Kaikkonen
5.0 out of 5 stars The author did a great job of researching the topic
An interesting and well-written history of the rise of Impressionism. The author did a great job of researching the topic.
Published 2 months ago by Gary
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history
The inner workings of the 19th century Paris art world are described in fascinating detail. This book fills in much that I didn't know about before the Impressionists. Read more
Published 3 months ago by S. Wells
1.0 out of 5 stars Thorough Research, Faulty Premise!
In this book, Ross King sets out to present the beginnings of impressionism in France in the latter half of 19th century. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Pierre Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding history of French Artists during the the turmoils of Paris
A wonderful Artist''s perspective of the Paris history during a time of grave social/political turmoil and the birth of the Impressionists school. Read more
Published 4 months ago by tjd
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a page turner
Great overview about French art history during the time of the impressionist. This book is very well written, informative and also quite entertaining.
Published 4 months ago by CHRISTINE T. CHITSAZ
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More About the Author

Ross King is the author of the bestselling Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling, as well as the novels Ex-Libris and Domino. He lives in England, near Oxford.

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