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The Private Lives of the Impressionists [Kindle Edition]

Sue Roe
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Though they were often ridiculed or ignored by their contemporaries, today astonishing sums are paid for their paintings. Their dazzling works are familiar to even the most casual art lovers—but how well does the world know the Impressionists as people?

Sue Roe's colorful, lively, poignant, and superbly researched biography, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, follows an extraordinary group of artists into their Paris studios, down the rural lanes of Montmartre, and into the rowdy riverside bars of a city undergoing monumental change. Vivid and unforgettable, it casts a brilliant, revealing light on this unparalleled society of genius colleagues who lived and worked together for twenty years and transformed the art world forever with their breathtaking depictions of ordinary life.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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, Cézanne, 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As a grand urban-renewal project engineered by Baron Hausmann transformed Paris under Napoleon III, a group of independent, tenacious, and ambitious painters brought equally radical change to the realm of art. Roe constructs a penetrating group portrait of the revolutionary artists dubbed the impressionists for their atmospheric landscapes and forthright depictions of everyday life. Here, masterfully set against a panoramic rendering of their turbulent times, are Manet, Pissarro, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley, Morisot, and Cassatt, each incisively defined as an individual and in terms of their complex interactions as they devoted themselves to paintings that met only with derision. The entwined stories Roe tells about these disciples of light, color, atmosphere, and commonplace beauty are fascinating and heartbreaking. Roe writes entrancingly of artistic bliss, rowdy cafe life, profound friendships, and transcendent love. But most of the impressionists endured not only contempt but also poverty, familial conflicts, war, and tragedy. Roe's scintillatingly detailed and empathic chronicle of the on-the-edge lives of these paradigm-altering artists will deepen appreciation for the emotional depths of the impressionists' indelible paintings. And for readers interested in learning more about them, see the adjacent Read-alikes column. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
87 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Overview of the Impressionists January 7, 2007
Format:Hardcover
One common lack in the multitude of books on the French Impressionist painters is that most books concentrate on the individual artists, or at least on one artist at a time, and do little to connect the artists in the context of their private lives. A few concentrate on correspondence between artists, but don't draw it all together. There have been some notable exceptions (such as Rewald's almost encyclopedic "The History of Impressionism"), but I think that for a relatively short intimate and interconnected history of the Impressionists Sue Roe's "The Private lives of the Impressionists" stands out. I was literally caught up in the story from the start (even though I have read several other versions) and learned a great deal about who knew who when and how various painters influenced others in the movement. Here Manet grumbles about his confusion with a new painter- Monet. Cezanne wonders in an out of the group, always apparently angry and paranoid. Monet is chased by creditors and has difficulties with his parents over his mistress, a problem also for several other male Impressionists. Berthe Marisot is alternately wooed and rejected by Manet (despite his own commitments). Pissarro extols his socialist ideas and various important painters- Degas, Bazille, Courbet, Caillebotte, Cassatt, Renoir, Sisley, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Marisot, Cezanne and others work together, get angry with each other, fight for recognition and daily bread, and have romances (or not in the case of Bazille). Indeed we see them as real people, not geniuses, with real problems.

The Impressionists made up a varied lot, who's main bond was painting, but who ran from rich to poor, socialist to conservative, and shy to outrageous.
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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is the story of one of the great movements in Art History, French Impressionism. It does not however focus on the Art itself, but rather on the lives of the artists, on their relations to each other, on the story of the time and world in which they lived. It tells a story of a great deal of rejection at home where the Impressionists work was frequently jeered, and concludes with the tale of the immense success the great agent and promoter Rurand- Duel had in New York in his exhibition of 1880 a success which truly put the Impressionists on the road to success. In the twenty odd years from 1860 roughly to 1880 in which Manet, Pisarro, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, Cezanne, Degas, Morisot, Cassatt, truly create Impressionism most of this group could not make a living from their painting.

One of the most surprising and moving features of this story is how these painters tried to help each other, were very often true friends to one another. Here the model and example was Pisarro whose kindness and generosity seemed to come natural.

A number of the Impressionists had for a long time their parents as principal patrons. And this book traces the often complicated family relationships involved .Also the love - relationships, or lack of love relationships in the lives of the artist are tastefully recorded.

The most moving chapter of the book tells of what finally happened to each of the artists after they grew apart from each other.

To my mind the major failing of the work is that it does not really give a sense of the painting, nor show how each artist developed his own unique way of seeing the world.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These Guys Could Paint December 15, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I read this book because I have recently been viewing alot of Impressionistic art and I thought I needed some stories about the artists to make their work more memorable. The title made me think I was going to read alot of gossip and scandal, but after 100 years their tales hardly seem that flagrant. The major themes of their private lives seems to have been hard work, disappointment and penury. (Caillebotte and Cassett were the exceptions, as they were from wealthy families.) The author's style most resembles a professional biographer- not a gossip columnist. However, I did get a feeling for the personalities of some of the major Impressionists. Their relationships with each other are especially well recorded because they all knew one another and sometimes worked together.

If you are unfamiliar with this art, I would not recommend the book. The reproductions are small and few. And, there is no prose capable of capturing the beauty of Impressionism. However, Roe's book is a useful adjunct to an art centered study of the period.

It is satisfying to note that Impressionism continues to grow in the estimation of both critics and the public. It was the first French art to combine pedestrian life with a nebulous , colorful technique. Viewed from this century, it has the added attraction of being the last period wherein subject matter was as important as style and whose artists demonstrated verifiable talent. Ultimately, one's understanding of Impressionism can only proceed so far. To wit: on the day Renoir died, he reluctantly yielded his brush saying, "I think I am beginning to learn something about it."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Informative September 5, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While most art history books provide a wide sweep of the historical epoch of Impressionism, this book is different. We are allowed to peer into the private lives of the individual artists who were part of this dynamic new movement in art. We are witness to the difficulties that vexed most of these artists, not the least being lack of money and recognition. We also learn that while all of these artists remained friends, they were not as homogenous a group as one would think. After the 1870s, only Monet remained true to the movement while the others moved in new directions in their art or, in some cases, returned to the classical. All in all the book is worth reading for the intimate protraits of these now very famous people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid information about the Impressionist painters and their times
I thoroughly enjoyed all the information in this book that helped in pulling together the many images in my head of how the artists of the Impressionist Period lived, influenced... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Karen Halpern
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting book about the impressionists!
Published 5 months ago by grinder
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Super read!
Published 6 months ago by Pearl
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting stories of the impressionists intertwined together.
Published 7 months ago by Deirdre Shurland
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressionists as human beings and not as artistic Gods.
Recently I had to give a talk for my women's club. and I didn't want to just repeat all the common things that artists know about impressionists. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jane C. Nowlin
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not a great book, but for anyone interested in where all ...
Too often the Impressionists are treated in isolation from one another. This book brings them all together, including some of the more obscure artists. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Gordon Bugbee
5.0 out of 5 stars A very detailed book about the personal lives and struggles ...
A very detailed book about the personal lives and struggles to have their art accepted. If one is interested in the origins of impressionist art this will be a must read.
Published 9 months ago by paul shaw
3.0 out of 5 stars I love Impressionist art and wanted to love this book but ...
I love Impressionist art and wanted to love this book but the writing style just didn't hold my interest. I abandoned the book about 1/4 of the way into it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Donna S. Meredith
4.0 out of 5 stars Read if you're going to Paris soon
Many similarities to Renoir, My Father. Seemed to be well researched and is highly recommended if you are planning a trip to Paris and going to the Musee d'Orsay or Monet's home at... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Brenda C Dailey
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Read!
This book takes the reader right smack dab in the middle of the Impressionists lives and how they met , painted and lived . Read more
Published 13 months ago by pastelpainter
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