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The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism
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The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  7,608 ratings  ·  219 reviews
While the Civil War raged in America, another very different revolution was beginning to take shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been, at its ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Walker & Company
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Community Reviews

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King looks at two decades of French history focusing on two exhibitions of paintings, one in 1863 and the other in 1874. The battlefield between the artistic establishment and the new Impressionism is told through the lives of two opposities, Ernest Meissonier, the most famous painter of the nineteenth century and Edouard Manet who represented the radical change that would become the most popular representation of creative art.

Onto this scaffolding, we learn the political means of the artist's a
This review MAY contain a spoiler -- I'm not sure..., it's hard for me to tell….

(It has taken me quite a while to write this review -- I wasn't sure why…. I thought maybe I was just being busy, or just being lazy…; but I think the reason is deeper than that.... Anyway, this is what I originally wrote, and didn't post, when I finished the book:)

This was the perfect book for me. I knew just enough to profit from this informed and intelligent review of the roots of Impressionism and this fascinatin
Robert Boyd
Stirring and dramatic. The book tells the story of a sea-change in art by concentrating on two painters, Manet and Messonier. If you've never heard of Meissonier, don't worry--few have. He was the most successful French painter in the second half of the 19th century, but his reputation collapsed almost instantly after his death. But choosing these two artists to focus on doesn't take away from the other artists whose stories intersect in the Paris of the 1960s. Courbet is an especially appealing ...more
I very much enjoyed this history of the beginnings of Impressionism in France. It was well written, fairly well illustrated (there is always the internet for looking up more of the paintings mentioned, but I hate getting up from my reading to do that), and the subject matter and people involved were fascinating to me. Thanks AC and the Artist Lovers group on GR for drawing my attention to this book, which I doubt I ever would have heard of otherwise.

I wanted to add that after reading this, I am
Mar 28, 2011 Lori rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious art students
This is an excellent exploration of the political, social and artistic background that led to the birth of Impressionism. It is a very detailed, in-depth look at the artists Manet and Meissonier, their work and how that work both exemplified and defied the artistic trends and political environment of 19th century Paris - the crucial time period that both shaped and changed the art world.

This is not a book for the casual art observer, but an in-depth exploration for those seriously interested in
Nov 04, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Good Reads Art Lovers group
I came across The Judgement of Paris via GoodReads where the Art Lovers group were reading it, and it’s a most interesting book. It’s the story of the birth of the Impressionist movement and the initial hostile reception by conservative forces in Paris, but the book also traverses the tumultuous period of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune so it’s interesting as a work of general history too.

To represent the opposing forces, King focuses on Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) and Edouard Manet (1
Frank Stein
Ross King, author of the pop-histories "Brunelleschi's Dome" and "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling," writes another great story that combines artistic and political intrigue. This is a tale of the 1860s in France, when Edouard Manet and the not-yet-named Impressionists challenged the artistic establishment while Napolean III's "Second Empire" teetered on the brink of disaster.

Most interesting is King's ability to tease out the relations between the political and artistic world, which were ad
Florence Millo
This excellent book brings to life Paris and the artists of Paris during the decade 1863-1874. Although many of the Impressionist artists such as Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, and Morisot are woven into the story, it is particularly focused on Edouard Manet and Ernest Messonier. Wait, you say, who is Messonier? Well you may ask. For while he was alive, Messonier was the wealthiest and most prominent painter of the time. He won three grand prizes from the Salon during his life, he was wealthy beyond ...more
I have had this book in my to read stack for a while and finally picked it up and read it! I really like this kind of book, but the last half reads too much like a history book. The book follows the events of 1863-the 1870's Paris and the Salon and the events of the time with Napoleon III and then into the Franco-Prussian war in the early 1870's, and how the events affected the artist’s lives. Mostly I find it interesting how Manet plugged along without any success like the other young Parisian ...more
1. I listened to half on my way home from Ohio, and now I'm going to actually READ the second half. I like to see events coincide: the Civil War and the birth of Impressionism and the downfall is it? of Napoleon III of France. I like to learn about art history this way, with new facts tossed in as part of the larger story: : Impasto is paint layered thickly. Chiaroscuro is paint getting gradually lighter, with a dark background, to show volume. Painting for Paris of mid-nineteenth century was li ...more
Adrian Stumpp
King's exploration of the birth of Impressionism, which he considers the greatest revolution in art since the Italian Renaissance, interweaves the stories of two French artists: Ernest Meissanier, the most famous artist of his time who is now derided, dismissed, and virtually forgotten by art historians, and Edouard Manet, considered the father of Impressionism and one of the most influential artists in history who was scorned and insulted for most of his professional career. This dichotomy repr ...more
Patricia Raybon
Ross King is the master of nonfiction historical accounts involving such well-known figures as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, painters Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and others whose works now fill museums and cities worldwide. Most known for his first bestseller, "Brunelleschi's Dome"--the story behind the great cathedral in Florence, Italy-- Ross King moves to France in "The Judgement of Paris." It's a fascinating account of the determined rise of impressionist painters (Manet, Monet and others ...more
More of a survey of events, rather than an examination of how the societal conditions affected the success (or lack thereof) of the two artists and styles. It moved slowly and I would have enjoyed reading more analysis of the broader implications of the art, but interesting subject matter nonetheless.
I don't know how others who don't care much for art let alone art history would appreciate this but I enjoyed it very much. It's given me a good lesson on the beginnings of impressionism and those artists that dared to challenge the strict traditions of the French art institute and to shock, even offend, the French public.
King is apparently a bigger admirer of the Impressionists because I felt his writing of Ernest Messionier bias and unfair. If in his lifetime the man found his wealth and fame
Brunelleschi's Dome was full of intrigue and suspense and I was hoping for the same with this book. Alas. It's a little dry. There's not much passion in the writing and not much art analysis either. What analysis is there is safe and familiar. Not all familiar, but mostly.

But there are many bits in the book's favor. Such as:

You really get a feeling for the times in a way that you could almost see yourself living then. 140 years ago doesn't seem that far away...

Facts you grow up with now make
This book is definitely geared more towards art lovers, especially those of the Impressionist movement. I LOVE art and art history, so, if you do too, I highly recommend this book! It basically takes two artists, Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier, and uses their artistic achievements to show how Impressionism came to be accepted in Paris, and therefore the world. Who is Meissonier, you may ask? He was the most popular artist of his time: basically a multi-millionaire who made all of his money ...more
Bob Fowler
This book about the birth of Impressionism carried me along nicely, despite its lack of great action or drama. It is the story of the evolution of the art of painting in Paris during the decade from 1863 to 1874, largely following the twin careers of Meissonier, who was the most famous painter of that time, and of Manet, who was struggling to be recognized over this same period. It is also set against the backdrop of French society, the collapse of the Second French Empire, the disaster of the F ...more
Here Ross King concerns himself with the French art world leading up to the dawn of Impressionism. The book reads as easily as a fictional narrative in that it follows the seemingly disparate careers of Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. The 2 artists could hardly be comparable. Yet, King's selection of the artists resembles two oppositional ages in a France that experiences one cataclysm after another. King adeptly introduces other equally intriguing personalities from all aspects of society, ...more
Jesse Turner
Admittedly this book was required reading for a art history course, and also embarrassingly enough it was the first piece of historical non-fiction I had, at the time, completed. I found the book to be highly fluid, and never have I read a piece of historical non-fiction so wonderfully engrossing, since.

The tale of the two artist provides an insightful social commentary of 19c. France, and it was this interweaving of social and political history that had me more than ready to attend my first da
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ross King has again masterfully brought to life a vitally important art historical period by fashioning his text around two tremendous artists who were aware of each other, Meissonier and Manet. By delving only into these two artists we can appreciate the culture and history that shaped French nineteenth century art.
It is refreshing that King doesn't allow contemporary sophistic evaluations to shape his view regarding the aesthetic quality of these two's work. And in a very understated manner h
I liked this quite a bit. And the nice pun on the painting "The Judgment of Paris [that guy who started the Trojan War]" with the judgment of Paris about impressionism over the course of the 1860s was pretty good. The urban milieu comes through clearly: the journalists, the politicians (including Nap. III trying to prop up his reign and the whole mess of crap with the Franco-Prussian war and the commune and all of that), the regular people, the artists--they're all interacting at these artistic ...more
I'll read just about anything on Manet. I found this one particularly enjoyable.
Another great book from Ross King and a great perspective from behind the scenes of Impressionism. The book is dense and intense chock full of details that don't make it into "Gardner's Art Through the Ages". I loved appearances by Gustav Dore, Baudelaire, and Rossetti. I had no idea Rossetti loathed Manet's work. It's well known that Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe did not make it into the Salon but I had no idea how many times Manet's works were rejected after his initial submission. Ross' quote from ...more
The Paris Salon was the ultimate tribunal where French Art was judged during the 1800's. Thousands of artists submitted paintings, sculptures and other forms of art every year in hopes of being accepted.Being chosen or not could break or make an artists' career quite literally. Over the decades, the tribunal that selected the works had become a self-perpetuating institution with sclerotized ideas of what constituted Art- both in regards to content ( mostly mythological, classical or historical g ...more
This is the most fun I've had in a long, long time. True to type, these late 19th Century French artistes, typically sons of the privileged bourgeoisie, shun the professions for brushes and easels, pair up with avant garde mistresses they meet in the école des beaux-arts, and form alliances with others who oppose wearisome reactionists from yesteryear while engaging in engrossing conversation and sipping -- what else -- café au lait in the cozy cafés of Montmartre and Batignolles. This is the b ...more
I enjoyed the excellent contrast between the lives of Meissonier and Manet: one an exacting technician who enjoyed great success in his day by painting carefully researched historical scenes abound with war horses; the other scorned by the art elite and social mores of the day but revered by posterity for his thickly brushed impressions of Parisian life.

I am glad to have learned about both artists. The great lengths that Meissonier went to capture the movement of a gallop frozen in air are remar
Sue Pit
The Judgment of Paris , The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism as written by Ross King is a most informative and enlightening book regarding the transition of classical art to modern art. Art regarding noble moral lessons set in the far past or mythical settings were giving way to realistic art depicting not a glorified notion of the past but of the reality of the present. This book focuses on two artists primarily. Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. Ernest Meissonier was h ...more
Hannah Green
'In this bitch of a life, one can never be too well armed'
- Edouard Manet

Popular art history, for some, may sound like a nightmare incarnate. However, as an A-Level art history student frantically trying to revise the 19th century this book was a godsend and, although I did not finish it before the exam, it helped immensely.

Through King's easy prose, you really get a sense for the artists that are being spoken about - the motivations for their paintings as well as the everyday lives that they
Ross King writes popular art history, perhaps a genre with limited appeal. That said, I really enjoyed this book. King follows the stories of two painters active between 1863 and 1873 in Paris: Ernest Messonier, a painter who reveled in perfectly executed details, and Edouard Manet, who was one of the first of the painters trying to break away from such classical techniques. Both painters are portrayed sympathetically, as artists who were really trying hard to break away from the usual and strik ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Ross King (born July 16, 1962) is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He began his career by writing two works of historical fiction in the 1990s, later turning to non-fiction, and has since written several critically acclaimed and best-selling historical works.

More about Ross King...
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture Leonardo and the Last Supper Ex-Libris Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power

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