Denis's Reviews > The Private Lives of the Impressionists

The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe
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Sep 08, 09


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, and gives us fascinating portraits of men and women that lived sometimes difficult lives, and yet ended up being amazingly influential. Her book is extremely informative and wonderfully documented, but it's never overwhelming. As we wander through the lives of a bunch of temperamental yet endearing artists such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne ou Cassat, we also wander through Paris - but Paris as it is undergoing extraordinary changes: quite an amazing visit! Roe's writing is lively and bright, and at the end her book is as much about specific individuals as it is about the evolution of painting, life in France from the Second Empire to the Republic, or Parisian society. There are a few minor mistakes, and one wishes she had spend more pages talking about the painter Sisley (who is definitely, and unjustly, in the shadows of his colleagues here) or the collector/dealer/mentor/financier Durand-Ruel, without whom the Impressionists would have not been able to subsist and work. But this being said, Roe's book is an illuminating (yet accessible) piece of work that makes you feel like you're sharing the times and lives of some great masters: it's quite enchanting.
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