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The Private Lives of the Impressionists

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3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,822 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
The Private Lives of the Impressionists
Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Though they were often ridiculed or ignored by their contemporaries, today astonishing sums are paid for the works of these artists, whose paintings are celebrated for their ability to capture the moment, not only in the fleeting lights of a lands
...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Harper (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jose
Aug 11, 2010 Jose rated it liked it
I had to remove two stars from the book based on the writing style and lack of structure. This is a shame because the book couldn't deal with a more interesting subject in my mind and it feels well researched - even if somewhat rushed. The book also lacks sufficient illustrations. When the text mentions so many paintings, one would expect to be able to refer to them instead of having to search for them in Google. So what is missing? Well, there is really nothing too private about the impression ...more
Denis
Sep 08, 2009 Denis rated it really liked it
One doesn't have to be especially knowledgeable about art history to thoroughly enjoy this delightful book. But anyone who has ever been enthralled by the shimmering beauty of the impressionist paintings will love it. Sue Roe not only takes us on a wondrous journey through the France of the second half of the XIXth century, she also manages to introduce us to some of the most famous painters of all times in a very intimate manner. She lights them in ways that help us understand their work better ...more
Sonja
Jul 20, 2013 Sonja rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed reading about the interconnected lives of this group of artists. It is well researched with an extensive bibliography. I'm disappointed Roe ended the story before Monet painted his famous water lilies and we really didn't get much of Renoir's last years. I have mixed feelings about all of the extra- marital affairs, but it seems very much ingrained in the French culture.
I loved Susan Vreeland's novel, Luncheon of the Boating Party and after seeing the DeYoung exhibit Impressionists on
...more
Insertnamehere
It's dense, verbose, and dull. It skips around a lot, some of the French is unnecessary... (IMO: pretentious) I could go on, but I don't like being a whiner. I stuck through to the end, but I never managed to get into it. If you want easy reading, then this isn't for you. I'd only recommend this book for people who either have a great interest in the impressionist movement or already know a lot about the subject and the painters themselves. I will give Sue Roe props for one thing though: It is v ...more
Claire
Sep 08, 2012 Claire rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This richly sketched and sympathetically written biography was unsurprisingly a delight to read. Roe’s clean, elegant writing was a perfect vehicle, telling the artists’ stories with a winning blend of wit and pathos. In some places it is almost novelistic, sprinkled liberally with primary sources ranging from quotes to newspaper articles to eye-witness descriptions. The novel’s chronological organization is another of its finest points. By simultaneously telling every Impressionist’s story, Roe ...more
lavinia
Jan 05, 2013 lavinia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-culture, history
I have stumbled upon this book completely by accident a week ago and it proved to be the most pleasant surprise I had in many many months!

There are not many words that can describe it, but more emotions and feelings, the story of the impressionists is told so lively, you get to feel their souls and thoughts so well. I've never heard of Sue Roe before, but her narrative qualities make this book a pure treasure for all history and art lovers. It's so much more than a history book, but nevertheless
...more
Shayla
Jun 29, 2014 Shayla rated it liked it
Roe provides interesting anecdotes about this famous group of painters and keeps the reader well engaged. However, she chose to move strictly in a chronological manner which necessitated the text jumping - often paragraph by paragraph - to a different artist. This made the text, at times, hard to follow. On a feminist note, Roe also disappointingly falls into a common habit assumed by art historians. When referring to male artists, it is customary to use the last name, but when female artists ar ...more
Kathleen
Oct 27, 2014 Kathleen rated it liked it
Sue Roe views the Impressionists as you might observe a flock of birds -- individuals, yet often interdependent as they struggled to redefine art. Roe''s binoculars don't let us get too close; we end up taking notes on quirks that differentiate these remarkable souls. I'm the nosy type and am glad to know the artists' problems, families, and inclinations as a reflection of their time and place, But it was kind of boring, a trudge through time behind a flock of artists who together altered our vi ...more
Paul
Feb 10, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title says it all - a comprehensive history of the painters collectively known as the Impressionists from 1860 to 1886. A time of struggle for recognition, facing fearsome ridicule and incomprehension at times, set against a backdrop of the modernisation of Paris under Baron Haussmann and the Franco-Prussian War. A minor quibble that I would have liked a little more information on what the Impressionists did that was so innovative but that's for another book. Time to book a trip to the Musee ...more
Merry
Mar 10, 2011 Merry rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-paris
Reads like a history book. The lives of the Impressionist are not as well known as their famous works of art. Learning about how they lived, their struggles, their inspiration, I found very interesting.
Stephanie
Jul 29, 2008 Stephanie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historians and art history buffs
Shelves: history
This book really fleshed out the basics I had learn in all of my art history classes of both high school and college. I didn't know the extent of how entangled the lives of all the impressionist artists was. Nor, just how drama filled many of them were.
Alfonso
One of the best books that I have read. Sue Roe does a great job in giving crucial facts about the lives of the key members of the Impressionists group.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Aug 10, 2015 Tudor Ciocarlie rated it it was amazing
The most touching book I've read in 2015.
Ryan
Feb 04, 2017 Ryan rated it liked it
I could not be more Interested in the work of these influential artists. The shear will to continue to paint through immense criticism - failed exhibition after failed exhibition - is amazing. However, I agree with Jose's review that the writing style gets in the way here. The prose is too flowery and meandering. If this were written more direct and had many (many) more illustrations, maps, and photographs - it would be more successful. Some interesting pieces to the lives of these great artists ...more
Kenneth Aubrey
Feb 02, 2017 Kenneth Aubrey rated it really liked it
This book has been sitting on my book case for a couple of years, being picked up after an impressionist exhibition at the De Young museum. It is interesting to read the hardship, the struggle of the impressionist painters; as well as the group dynamic of a collective of revolutionaries. The book is very well researched. At times, the materials might be a little dry given that the book is about the mundane daily lives of regular families albeit of some very talented artists.
Abby
Jun 23, 2016 Abby rated it really liked it
A peek into the people behind some of my favorite paintings. I'll appreciate the art so much more having read this who developed friendships by Sue Roe. I'm always amazed to learn how celebrated artists struggled early in life, if not for their whole lives. I thought the time frame covered by the book, from 1868-1888, was appropriate. It includes the formative years of the painters, leading up to their success in America. I only wish Monet had constructed his lily pond sooner, so that could be i ...more
Howard Franklin
Jun 22, 2015 Howard Franklin rated it it was amazing
This work is a true treasure, like the paintings of impressionist painters who are its subject. And like the artists she chronicles, Sue Roe begins with a large blank canvas, then with a novelistic style masterfully fills it in with her subjects and their individual stories until the reader is presented with a full and satisfying group portrait.

First up is Paul Durand-Ruel, the art dealer who from 1860 to 1886 supported and nourished the impressionists economically and with steadfast encourageme
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carl  theaker
Nov 27, 2013 carl theaker rated it really liked it
Recommended to carl by: Jackie Theaker
Shelves: history, artsy


Most people don't mind viewing a bit of artwork now and
then, but suggest the idea of reading 'art history' and
most folks would rather get shot in the leg.

'Priviate Lives' however reads like an enjoyable novel,
in fact it was so readable I had to check to ensure it
really was a non-fiction work.

The story follows the various characters who eventually
are known as 'The Impressionists', intially a derisive
term, from their scruffy, unknown beginnings in a rundown
Paris seemingly flooded with want-t
...more
Cheryl
Mar 19, 2011 Cheryl added it
This made me really dislike Monet and really like Renoir and Pissarro, which is nice since I knew next to nothing about either of them until reading this book (other than their art). You can definitely tell the author has a bias, even though ostensibly, she is just reporting the facts. But, it is all in how you use your research and put the pieces together to tell a story. As such, it's pretty evident that she is attempting to show that Monet was not the leader of the Impressionist group as we a ...more
Makingamark
Nov 07, 2008 Makingamark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in the Impressionists
This book covers a critical period for a number of the different painters who became known as the Impressionists. It's incredibly dense (I'm going to re-read it!) and covers a huge amount of detailed information in a way which speaks of comprehensive and meticulous research.

What makes this book different for me is the articulation of the various relationships between the different painters. So often books about the Impressionists tend to list them as individuals and comment on their works in th
...more
Maura
May 07, 2010 Maura rated it liked it
Having read a couple of books that dealt with various Impressionist painters in a semi-fictionalized form (Luncheon of the Boating Party, for example), I think I enjoyed this book all the more for the "real" stories of the painters and their works. Working more or less chronologically, the book shows how a group of like-minded men and women met, became friends (or not), influenced each other's work, helped out in hard times, and contributed (or not) to the success of the whole movement. Sue Roe ...more
Nicholas
May 18, 2009 Nicholas rated it liked it
This book gives a very well researched account of the Impressionists between 1860 and the mid 1880s when the group began to disband. It touched on both professional aspects of their struggle to make ends meet (having to move to cheaper rents, struggling to find dealers and buyers, acceptance by the salon and the general public) and in their private lives (illegimate children, secert marrages and affairs).

I read this while I was in Paris visiting many museums where many discussed works hang, whic
...more
Hotavio
Feb 10, 2009 Hotavio rated it liked it
An in-depth look into the lives of the band of artists now well-known as the "Impressionists". The book particularly follows Sisley, Pissaro, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Morisot, Degas, Caillebotte, Cezanne, and Cassatt.
The title of the book might sound a misnomer to some as the reticent author doesn't divulge in what would seem to be scandalous today (i.e. Manet's death of syphilis, Monet's wife-swapping, Degas' observational nude sketches of prepubescent ballerinas). Rather the scandal is the expir
...more
Carla Guzman
Feb 10, 2016 Carla Guzman rated it really liked it
Purchased from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I started getting interested in the lives of the Impressionists, and this book has a full telling of the lives of each and every one of them. The only thing is that it’s basically a textbook so I am reading. so. slowly. But it’s written so well, and the descriptions are quite colorful too. You get a complete view of what was happening around them at the time and how the artists relate to each other, their views and their work.

I think this book
...more
Lavinia Petrache
Jan 05, 2013 Lavinia Petrache rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, art-culture
I have stumbled upon this book completely by accident a week ago and it proved to be the most pleasant surprise I had in many many months!

There are not many words that can describe it, but more emotions and feelings, the story of the impressionists is told so lively, you get to feel their souls and thoughts so well. I've never heard of Sue Roe before, but her narrative qualities make this book a pure treasure for all history and art lovers. It's so much more than a history book, but nevertheless
...more
Donna
Sep 02, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I'm reviewing the book now even though I haven't finished it. I have started reading it at least three times and can't get past the way the author throws all of the artists' lives together into one jumbled chronology. The writing can be stilted and the editing is poor in places. I like some of the artists more than others but I can't keep them clear enough in my mind to tell you which ones. Bazille died young; I remember that but not the artist who mourned him the most. The subject is fascinatin ...more
Erin
Sep 16, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
It was a great book. Being a biography of very prominent historical figures, it could have been very boring, but Sue Roe did an excellent job keeping the content interesting and driving. It read much like a historical soap opera, which clearly the lives of the impressionist painters were. I can't believe how many times each artist moves, made money, lost money, and how many of their bills went unpaid! Having more context for their paintings, what was going on in their lives at the time, makes th ...more
Jodi
Jun 25, 2008 Jodi rated it liked it
Recommends it for: art lovers who don't mind slogging through a dry read
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
This book should have been a little more interesting, The impressionists were a passionate crew and did a little wife swapping and extra-marital partying. Despite this - the book is pretty dry. The author also repeats herself quite a bit, sometime using the exact sentence in a subsequent paragraph, which I found annoying. Despite this - the subject matter is interesting, especially reading about the way the impressionists were treated by art critics and their contemporaries at the time they were ...more
Stacy
Jun 04, 2010 Stacy rated it really liked it
Sadly it has taken me almost three years to finally read this book. After reading it, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long since I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This takes a look at the lives of the Impressionists as they are forming as a group. It covers their struggles, small successes and the various ups and downs of their personal lives. A true sign of a good book for me is how I feel after it's finished - currently I'm missing spending time with these people. Informative and entertaining, ...more
Heather
May 25, 2014 Heather rated it liked it
The Private Lives of the Impressionists unfolds thoroughly researched personal stories about the formation and struggling years of the Impressionist group and their dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Descriptions about locations from plein-air sites that appear in their works to cafés where they met or residences in Montmartre where they lived made me want to save this book as a future reference for travel or use in the classroom. I give it three stars instead of four because as an overall read, I preferr ...more
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