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.)
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*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 SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved