Amy's Reviews > Bohemian Paris: Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse and the Birth of Modern Art

Bohemian Paris by Dan Franck
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's review
Jul 14, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: france-paris
Read in July, 2011

Picked this up after seeing “Midnight in Paris.” It covers the artists and poets in Montmartre and Montparnasse from roughly 1900-1920. Pranks and squabbles and genuine friendships. Vivid descriptions of Paris. Interesting stuff, but didn't really satisfy my curiosity about the time period.

Interesting to note whose names are still big, 100 years later. The author assumed all of the names were familiar, which I think was optimistic of him. A reader with a degree in art history or French literature might find this book not scholarly enough; a reader without that degree often feels lost.

Picasso gets a lot of air-time, all very unflattering. Modigliani gets some attention (not sure it's enough to qualify for the book's subtitle, though). Matisse barely appears. Gertrude Stein weaves in and out. Chagall turns up for a few pages, then disappears (same with the Dadaists, although that sort of makes sense). Kiki turns up at the end, along with the post-WWI Americans, but the book is wrapping up at this point. Guillaume Apollinaire gets the most attention in the book. If you like Apollinaire, you’ll learn almost every thought he had, about every mistress and every scrap of lint in his pockets. Max Jacobs was the most compelling character. I wanted to yell at Picasso and hug Jacobs.

The book’s organization was a mystery to me. Not always clear what each chapter was about. Were they written/translated by different people? I skimmed for fun/silly stories. Plenty of them,b/c these artists were wild, witty, and sometimes both. When the books slows down to capture a particular joke or meeting, it tells those stories well.

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