The Private Lives of the Impressionists
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The Private Lives of the Impressionists

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  730 ratings  ·  83 reviews
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 landscape but in scenes of daily life. Their...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Harper (first published 2006)
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Jose
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
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 Bedford
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
Claire
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
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
Stephanie
Aug 05, 2008 Stephanie rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Shayla
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
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.
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
Hotavio
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
Makingamark
Nov 07, 2008 Makingamark rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Nicholas
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
carl  theaker
Dec 17, 2013 carl theaker rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to carl by: Jackie Theaker
Shelves: artsy, history


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
Apr 04, 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
Maura
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
Erin
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
Zuzana
Dvě hvězdičky za to, že jsem se dozvěděla hodně o životě impresionistů - všech dohromady, ne každého zvlášť. Informační hodnotu to má, literární téměř vůbec a kvůli tomu se to dost táhlo a dočetla jsem to opravdu jen proto, abych to dočetla. Ale pokud máte rádi impresionisty a znáte je víceméně jen ze školy, není na škodu si to přečíst.
Julie Smith
As an artist, I quite enjoyed this book. However, I think anyone who appreciates art would find it enjoyable. I knew a great deal about the lives of these painters, yet I still learned a great deal more.
Rebecca Jaroszewski
This vivid account of the Impressionists' lives kindled an even greater love for these artists, especially Manet. Not only did it captivate the stories well, but it kept me intrigued.
Stacy
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
Lori
Really good book on the history of the impressionist movement in France detailing the lives of the major artists and how they interacted with each other. It focuses on the beginning of the movement as they struggled for recognition against the Salon judges. The book gives an understand of the stories behind the paintings and the reasons why the artists chose the topics that they did. It definitely increased my appreciation of the dedication and hard work that goes into making a masterpiece. The...more
Karen Chavet
We know their art but not their private lives. I really enjoyed this and had no idea how intertwined their lives were. Very interesting.
Madeline
Maybe it's the mono or maybe it's just because I'm fairly new to the art world but I found it extremely hard to keep all the artists in this book straight. I had to constantly keep referring back to when they were introduced to remember each back story. Then again, maybe it was the writing style. After seeing the Impressionism and Fashion exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago a few weekends ago I wanted to learn more about my favorite artists and that is exactly what I got from this book. I ha...more
Jodi
Nov 30, 2008 Jodi rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Amy
I have long been a fan/admirer of the Impressionists' art. I picked up this book to get a glimpse of what their lives were actually like. I wasn't disappointed. Roe's research and depiction of their private lives is amazing. It was wonderful to see how they banded together and tried to look out for each other, even in the midst of the crushing poverty most of them lived under, not to mention the ridicule they faced from critics and the public (hard to believe, considering what their paintings go...more
Maren Grossman
This was a nice read about the lives of the impressionists as they struggled to achieve success and recognition. It was fun and interesting. The only complaint I really have is that the book stops just about at the point where they do achieve success and recognition. Having also read "Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet," I was aware of how much is lost by only focusing on the time when the impressionists were struggling so badly. I recommend reading both to get a sense of the ki...more
Lyz
Oct 31, 2007 Lyz rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who already know about the Impressionists but can't get enough
Informative and interesting... but mainly because I teach the Impressionists to my high school students. Reading more about the Impressionists as people gave me some juicy stuff to share with my kids! I'm not sure I would've enjoyed this book as a just "pick it up and read for fun" kinda read.

I will say it was cool to read about things that happened in the streets of Paris as it was evolving as a city (and the impact those changes had on the art world). Having taken a recent trip to France, it m...more
Joe Adelizzi
A few years back we visited Universal Studios. My wife hated it, avoiding several of the attractions because she she felt knowing how things were done would diminish the magic of the movies. I enjoyed this book, but I suppose I'd offer a caveat along the lines of my wife's Universal Studios reasoning. Knowing so many of the personal details of the artists can diminish the magic of their art. There is the possibility now that as I look on a Monet, even though I know he is pointing me towards the...more
Rayb24
If you like the period in the mid to late 1800's where the Impressionists turned art on its head, then this book is for you. It puts them firmly in there period and shows the changes that if you like changed society in every way and by the same token they then become a leading edge of there time. Everything changed in society during this period not just art.

The only drawback about this book is the writer cover's the times, and who did what and when, but doesn't get close enough to make them Hum...more
Au Yong Chee Tuck
There are probably many books that deal with the Impressionists paintings or the individual Impressionist painter, usually Cezzane or Renoir.
But there are only a handful of books that provide an over view of the circle of artists or music composers.

This book is a rare find and should be useful for readers who want a closer look at the Impressionist circle. For instance, the writer provided a moving account of the final days of Sisley, perhaps the least known and least successful of the Impressi...more
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