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The Masterpiece (Les Rougon-Macquart, #14)
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The Masterpiece (Les Rougon-Macquart #14)

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,376 ratings  ·  75 reviews
The tragic story of Claude Lantier, an ambitious and talented young artist from the provinces who has come to conquer Paris and is conquered by the flaws in his own genius. While his boyhood friend Pierre Sandoz becomes a successful novelist, Claude’s originality is mocked at the Salon and turns gradually into a doomed obsession with one great canvas. Life—in the form of h ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press (first published 1886)
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MJ Nicholls
You have this friend, a writer. He’s written this terrible bildungsroman about his tedious student exploits, I Want Vagina. You tell him tactfully that a 900-page, unspellchecked homage to sexual frustration doesn’t fly in the marketplace. Your friend scurries off and signs up for a Creative Writing MA at Dorset Polytechnic, taught by Vernon D. Burns. He returns, a few months later, with a new 900-page spellchecked homage to sexual frustration, I Want to Squeeze Bosoms. You arrange for him to lo ...more
There's a character in this novel who decides to embark on an ambitious project to write a series of novels that "scientifically" demonstrate the effects of heredity and environment on a large family living during the regime of Napoleon III. (Whatever happened to Napoleon II?) The idea is that each book will examine some specific aspect of society and feature one member of the extended family as main protagonist. Which is odd, because Zola wrote a series of 20 books that examine the effects of e ...more
David Lentz
"The Masterpiece" is itself a masterpiece from Emile Zola about the utter anguish of an artist over the gap between life and art. Claude is a French artist living in Paris when naturalism was just beginning to give way to Impressionism. By a naturalist we mean "one who studies nature" itself in the same way in which Seamus Heaney wrote in "The Death of a Naturalist" and the depiction of nature in a strictly natural way: that is, the quest of the artist was to show life within nature through a ph ...more
First of all, I understand that Zola - and this novel in particular -- do not appeal to all readers. However, The Masterpiece is a fantastic tour of the French art world in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Zola's main character is a synthesis of Cezanne/Manet/Monet -- a trained eye will recognize that Lantier's opening painting closely resembles the aesthetic of Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, that his city "sketches" recall Monet's urban series work, and that Lantier's eventual frust ...more
This book is a masterpiece, so to speak. It centers around the "open air" (i.e., impressionist) Claude Lantier and his struggles to create a masterpiece. The counterpoint is his depressing and tragic relationship with Christine, who ends up a near-martyr to his art. Claude is surrounded by a La Boheme-like group of artists, writers, journalists, and others--including a character based on Zola who is writing a cycle of novels like the Rougon-Macquart cycle.

Zola sets out to write a naturalistic, s
I think this is one of the most depressing stories I have ever read. Like Jude the Obscure, this is the kind of story that leaves you feeling cold...almost like you’ve been punched in the experience akin to a kind of betrayal. The Masterpiece is truly an awful story, yet Zola somehow manages to infuse a kind of beauty into his prose that counteracts the harsh naturalistic point of view that typically dominates Zola’s work. To reflect the artist Claude’s internal conflicts between romant ...more
Gary Inbinder
This is a story about how a creation destroys its creator, and the fine line between genius and madness. In that regard, it reminded me of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

Zola's descriptions of late 19th century Paris are astounding; you see, breathe, taste, and feel it. His characters are flesh and blood men and women. They leap off the page and bore into your consciousness. His observations of the human condition are compelling, his philosophical musings on the creative life profound. But it's a
Joe Adelizzi
I wanted to hate this book because I had read of the life of Cezanne and genuinely liked the artist, the man. I had read of Cezanne's childhood friendship with Emile Zola, a friendship which continued well into adulthood - until Zola published this book. I had read of the sensitivity of Cezanne, his dedication to his work, to his art and how he maintained that dedication in spite of very little positive feedback from society at large. I had read how Zola, flush with success from his novels seeme ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is Zola's most autobiographical novel and is the world of art and artists he knew well. His life long friend from school age was impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne. When he and Paul left Aix-en-Provence for Paris, Zola was introduced further into the art world and, in fact, was an art critic in his early years.
Edouard Manet was so appreciative of an article favoring the new style of art that he painted Zola.

As to this novel, there can be no doubt that the novelist Sandoz represents Zola
Dec 16, 2013 Stuart rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like arts and letters
Recommended to Stuart by: no one
I thought I would check out some Zola after reading Madame Bovary, and Last of the Mohicans. Might as well wallow in the same century for a while, right?

The book is set in Bohemian Paris of the mid-19th century. Zola was a renowned art critic before he was a famous writer, and he knew this world intimately. It's about a group of young artists and writers who come to Paris thinking they're going to take it by storm, and the book traces this circle from their youth to middle age. (And yeah, I was
J.M. Hushour
One of the weaker R-M novels, but that doesn't carry the resonance it might have for another author since it's still quite superb. This is Zola's account of the rise of Impressionism and the stirrings of the ideas of the "modern" and the "new" in art during the Second Empire. He used his friendship with Cezanne and the lives of Manet, Monet and a few others to populate this book, which apparently pissed them all off! The poor schmuck of the titular obsession is Claude Lantier (Nana's half-brothe ...more
The beginning was excellent. It has all the intensity and humor you'd expect from Zola. But then something happened to the writer. I've never seen anything like it in any of his other books. After an amazing first chapter, his protagonist turns into a 2-dimensional stick figure. His wife fares a little better as a cartoon. And what's worse, everyone else seems rather realistic.

FYI: the inspiration for the main character is Zola's childhood friend, Paul Cezanne.

I don't think Zola was in his rig
I thought I would like this book much more, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I disliked it, because I knew going into it that Zola's dismal portrayal of the state of art in the late 19th century is frequently blamed for ending his friendship with Cezanne.

I enjoyed reading about Paris and the Impressionist gatherings in the first half, but then the book turns awfully bleak, and I began to dread picking it up. I can see why Cezanne might interpret Zola's treatment of the Impressioni
In 'The Masterpiece,' Zola makes clear what he thinks of the Parisian art scene in the mid 19th century- of the young artists who, in their effort to capture the truth in 'Art' and 'Nature,' lose grasp of what is real, of the museum curators and art dealers who turn art into a commodity for their status and financial gain.

For the first half of the book, I thought that this was Zola's critique of the artist's ego-centrism. However, as I kept reading, I was reminded that with Zola there are no vil
This Masterpiece follows the story of Claude Lantier, a talented but obsessive artist whose passion and drive for perfection in art ultimately leads to tragedy. Said to be the most autobiographical of Zola's novels, it offers a fascinating insight into the ambience of the time, and the sorts of discussion and debate that would no doubt have been held amongst Zola and his friends in the cafes and bars of Paris. Typical of Zola, an inherent sexism is never very far from the surface, but on the who ...more
Andrew Carr
If books are valuable, and tourism is enjoyable, books about the locations one is a tourist in are a winning combination. Thus I picked up Zola's The Masterpiece while recently in Paris on vacation.

This beautiful, funny, philosophical and ultimately tragic story is at heart a treatise on ambition. While it centres on a painter, it involves a cast of writers, sculptors, architects, musicians and could apply to anyone who is bound by larger visions for their life's purpose. Less a mere 'goal' but
Superb! Absolutely engaging! Any artist (writer, painter, musician, etc) MUST read this. Everybody should. Excellent portrayal of the artist, his psychology, his beliefs, his reason for being, his failures.
The Masterpiece is incredibly true to the time period it depicts. Zola succeeds in capturing the French Bohemian lifestyle through the characters of Claude and Christine, as well as Claude's friends within the artistic community. However, the utter hoplessness of the story is relentless. If you want to get an idea of the French Bohemian lifestyle in the early 19th century, then this is for you. But in no way is Zola's Masterpiece a pleasure-read.
Anfernee Price
i was mad because the main character in this book was an entertainingly obnoxious fop in a different zola book but in this one he was a weepy artist-type. anyway the lesson from this book is do NOT draw nude women because it is an immoral act that will lead to mental decay. a funny part of this book is when the guy's stupid looking kid dies and claude (the artist) doesn't care and paints a picture of the still-warm corpse and then when he displays it (the painting, not the corpse) all the idiot ...more
Zola was a childhood friend of Cezanne. The publication of this work ended their relationship.
Peri Измайлова)
This book is about painter who tried to create a masterpiece and how slowly his own work destroyed his life. Creation can make an artist the happiest person, especially when the one is satisfied with his own work, but also can cause a pain, when the one can see imperfection of his own work.

It was interesting to read about Paris and life of painters and artists. It's about the time when new direction in art appeared and how it was difficult for society to understand and accept it. Some people we
Nel 1886 Zola pubblica L'opera e perde l'amicizia di Cézanne, offeso e tradito da un libro in cui il protagonista, Claude Lantier, è palesemente ispirato a lui. C'è qualche tratto di Manet, sì, ma i difetti, le abitudini, il carattere sono i suoi – così come Sandoz, il migliore amico e scrittore, è altrettanto palesemente basato sullo stesso Zola.

Vediamo la Parigi degli artisti, divisa tra accademismo e nuove tendenze, con i saloni, i gruppi di artisti e amici, le prostitute-modelle, gli studi,
I first heard of Zola with an extract from this book, and it was one of the most incredible things I'd ever read. It took me awhile to find a copy of this in English. I've read other Zola books before this but this was definitely my favourite. I admire what Zola was trying to do, write reality as it happened, but I feel that in a lot of his books he falls short doing that, making the humans more miserable than they need to be, using plot devices to make things go from worse to worse. Here there ...more
(1946 / Katherine Woods transl. / Howell, Soskin pub.)

And, after that, he had been overcome with sorrow and compassion in the face of this bankruptcy of genius; his heart was torn with desperate pity for this agony of impotence. Did one never know, in art, where madness lay? All failures moved him to tears; and the more a book or a picture went astray, in an effort at once ludicrous and pitiable, the more sensitively he longed for peace to come to those poor souls who had been struck by the thun
After Zola's childhood friend Cezanne read this novel, he never spoke to him again. The Masterpiece traces artist Claude's obsession with creating the perfect painting. Zola's descriptions of painting feel so authentic I felt as though he was holding a paintbrush rather than a pen. The story traces a group of artists full of hope and optimism in their youth, who are slowly strangled by their own dreams. Art is the mistress that Claude's wife can never compete with. The novel shows creativity as ...more
Nancy Burns
Although Zola and Cézanne were friends from childhood, they broke in later life over Zola’s fictionalized depiction of Cézanne in his novel L’Œuvre.
Zola uses this book as a pulpit to criticize the jury of the Salons for refusing artists as Fantin-Latour, Jongkind, Manet, Pissaro ane Whistler.

Here is my review:
another book in the Rougon-Macquart series plagued by wildly polarized reviews. is it a masterpiece on the tortured life of the artist or a self-indulgent bore about an inveterate whiner? i'll weigh in somewhere in between. Zola understood the artistic temperament and for most of this book i was thoroughly sold on the story (depressing as it was). but i feel like Zola betrayed (or compromised) his own premise of what constitutes a masterpiece by devolving into total melodrama toward the end. and ...more
Dani Ela
parížska umelecká bohéma, impresionizmus, Salón akadémie vs. Salón odmietnutých

„Ach, život, život cítiť a zachytiť ho v jeho realite, milovať ho taký, aký je, vidieť v ňom ozajstnú, večnú a menlivú krásu...“

The story of a troubled artist (based upon the author's friendship with Cezanne) living in 19th century Paris during the rise of impressionism battling against the prejudices of the art world is enough to seduce the reader from just the blurb. As I was reading, I realisied this was something spectacular.

There are many forces at play in this book: the inherited derangement of mind of Claude Lantier, the rise and fall of the artists in the "open-air" school, the grounded yet idealistic writer San
Janice D'agostino
Enjoyed this. I can see why so many of the Impressionists were a bit upset about the book. I think Zola was just being a tad too honest in his word painting - or perhaps they did not like to see it succeed when success eluded most of them in life. Tragedy, celebration, anger, relationships that flourish and fade, death, and intense sadness add emotional richness to the heart of the novel - the struggle of genius vs paint and canvas.
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Is Cezanne´s life portraited in this book? 1 2 Mar 23, 2013 01:36PM  
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Émile François Zola was an influential French novelist, the most important example of the literary school of naturalism, and a major figure in the political liberalization of France.

More than half of Zola's novels were part of a set of 20 books collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. Unlike Balzac who in the midst of his literary career resynthesized his work into La Comédie Humaine, Zola from
More about Émile Zola...
Germinal (Les Rougon-Macquart, #13) Nana (Les Rougon-Macquart, #9) Thérèse Raquin L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) (Les Rougon-Macquart, #7) La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart, #17)

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“From the moment I start a new novel, life’s just one endless torture. The first few chapters may go fairly well and I may feel there’s still a chance to prove my worth, but that feeling soon disappears and every day I feel less and less satisfied. I begin to say the book’s no good, far inferior to my earlier ones, until I’ve wrung torture out of every page, every sentence, every word, and the very commas begin to look excruciatingly ugly. Then, when it’s finished, what a relief! Not the blissful delight of the gentleman who goes into ecstasies over his own production, but the resentful relief of a porter dropping a burden that’s nearly broken his back . . . Then it starts all over again, and it’ll go on starting all over again till it grinds the life out of me, and I shall end my days furious with myself for lacking talent, for not leaving behind a more finished work, a bigger pile of books, and lie on my death-bed filled with awful doubts about the task I’ve done, wondering whether it was as it ought to have been, whether I ought not to have done this or that, expressing my last dying breath the wish that I might do it all over again!” 44 likes
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