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Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,365 ratings  ·  236 reviews
Claude Monet is perhaps the world's most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Seeing them in museums around the world, viewers are transported by the power of Monet's brush into a peaceful world of harmonious nature. Monet himself intended them to provide “an asylum of peaceful meditation.” ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA
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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: artists
”It is difficult to separate discussions of an artist’s ‘late work’ from romantic associations of blind seers offering up unutterable visions from beyond the threshold, or of old men raging against the dying of the light. But it is undeniable that as his eye filmed over and his vision slowly dimmed, Monet, ‘who caught and sang the sun in flight,’ focused ever more intently on the fleeting rays of light that he had always chased and cherished.”

 photo 9571ee58-f6c1-4133-b82d-9e8607247956_zpsv2p3bmug.png
Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

Claude Monet,
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
King writes about the last years of the life on Claude Monet (1840-1926). I know very little about Monet and his paintings. All my education has been in the area of science. Now that I am older and retired, I am attempting to expand my knowledge.

As a World War One history buff, I was most interested in the part about World War One in France. I learned a different viewpoint of the effects of the War. I found how various artists helped during the war from paintings of battles to the discovery of c
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
May I first suggest that you carefully read the book description at Good Reads? It is accurate.

What made the book click for me? The emotional strain of Monet’s last twelve years felt palpable as I read this book. I completely empathized with his emotional turmoil. His loss of vision coupled with his own high expectations must have been excruciatingly difficult to bear. That he became irascible and impossible to deal with feels completely understandable. The author makes the last years of Monet’s

Oh blimey, this should have sent me into raptures, and it really would have, if I hadn't, lifelongingly? (heh!) acquainted myself, through pure love, to Monet.

The saddest part is that no identifiable and visible part that let the side down - it was just dead throughout, which of course, Monet, and his lilied gift, could never, ever be.

Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
this was a book regarding a topic that while I'm very interested in i haven't read so much about it in ever. That being said I have always enjoyed Monet's work specially "water lillies" . This book is not about art or the techniques used by Monet ..rather its about the artist himself and his last years of artistic work...that happens to correlate to his greatest most prolific years of artistic output..In this book you get a glimpse of the artistic scene in France at the end of the 19th century a ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, historical
4.5This book has much more story than Monet. It centers around him, his work, his family his struggles, but it cover so much more. The first world war is prominent from the early whispers of war to the horrible realities of it. Monet, his famous artist friends, journalists, politicians and the community around him he so loved withered, many died. I learned many interesting details about the war in France from a new perspective, it was fascinating and heartbreaking.
Monet was a off centered man. H
Christine Zibas
"Monet's paintings captured nature's mix of the ephemeral and the eternal, its magnitude and its minutiae, its glittering appearance and its dizzingly fathomless depths."

It's easy to love Monet's paintings, and this book even lays out theories that his style thrust upon its viewers a "soothing effect on both the eye and brain, [with] Monet himself as le peintre du bonheur (the painter of happiness)."

Yet, it was not always the case with his critics, and near the book's end, Author Ross King deta
Proof positive that you don't have to be a nice person to be a great artist.

Oh, those temperamental artists! shouts the inner voice. In this case, Ross King renders a laudable biography of a slice of Monet's life, overflowing with the jagged edge of the artist's darker side. King convinces me, whether intentionally so or not, that I would not have liked Monet the Man: a self-indulgent, petulant, fractious old crank who swanned around like some troll-like prima donna. The flip side is, I would ha
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, history, arts
Just as the title suggests, Mad Enchantment is about Claude Monet's passion for water lilies and his increasingly difficult personality towards the end of his life as his health deteriorated and his mind likewise suffered depression as he believed he could no longer see colors and thus, could no longer paint. Ross King's writing is as excellent as usual. I want to stress that his books are not formal analysis of paintings, but stories of artists and their creations, so someone curious in learnin ...more
Literary Chic
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I once heard that if you knock a book off the shelf, you must read it. At my last library visit, I knocked Mad Enchantment off the new non fiction shelf. Between my superstition and the very interesting cover (only half a book jacket) I gave it a chance. It turned out to be a very serendipitous choice as the book is amazing.

Monet's story of the Water Lilies is a fascinating one. It was one of his last works and was done during World War I. With as great of a history as it was, my absolute favori
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
The story of Claude Monet's later years and the famous paintings he produced at home in Giverny, abridged in five parts by Katrin Williams:

In the 1890's the painter and his large family move to the famous town, and over the years the gardens at his house become lush, exotic
and famous for pictures of water lilies and weeping willows - part of 'le grand decoration'. But how did it all start?

Reader Allan Corduner

Producer Duncan Minshull.
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, abandoned
As much as we imagine Monet and his tranquil home, Giverny, as a spot secluded in place and time, it wasn't. Monet was subject to the forces around him, while working on some of his most famous art, the Water Lilies series.

Mad Enchantment is a deeply researched, well-written biography of Claude Monet. It starts in the Belle Époque, a time of peace just before World War I. Author Ross King introduces us to Monet, as well as his family and companions. We learn about his benefactors, his friends,
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
As far back as 1891, Octave Mirbeau wrote that Monet did not “limit himself to translating nature” and that his paintings revealed “the states of unconsciousness of the planet, and the suprasensible forms of our thoughts.” A year later, Camille Mauclair enthused that Monet's paintings were “made from a dream and a magical breath...leaving for the eyes only a mad enchantment that convulses vision, reveals an unsuspected nature, lifts it up unto the symbol by way of this unreal and vertiginous
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wanda by: Bettie
Shelves: audiobooks, 2016, bbc
2 DEC 2016 - a recommendation through Bettie. Thank you. Such beautiful paintings!

10 DEC 2016 -

Episode 1 of 5 - Mad Enchantment - The story of Claude Monet's later years and the famous paintings he produced at home in Giverny, abridged in five parts by Katrin Williams: In the 1890's the painter and his large family move to the famous town, and over the years the gardens at his house become lush, exotic and famous for pictures of water lilies and weeping willows - part of 'le grand decoration'.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Such a powerful story about two best friends at the end of their lives: the impressionist painter Claude Monet and the journalist and politician Georges Clemenceau. They are 70 years old at the beginning of this book and still capable of creating their masterpieces in the next decade: Monet by painting Water Lilies and Clemenceau by becoming prime minister and by decisive contributing to French victory in the First World War. This is easily one of the best books about art that I have ever read.
Giselle Bradley
I tried starting this book 5 times before I was able to get past the first 10 pages. That was a sign. I did read this in it's entirety but I was bored 97% of the time. It was a mixture of the writing and the narrator (I listened on audio surprise, surprise!) This just didn't work for me. Long tangents and off-shoots made it difficult to follow what was happening. I would often forget what the original point was by the time he got back to it. ...more
Steven Z.
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
The work of artists who enter their declining years is not usually positive fodder for biographers, but Claude Monet’s later years is one of the exceptions as depicted in Ross King’s book, MAD ENCHANTMENT: CLAUDE MONET AND THE PAINTING OF THE WATER LILIES. King who has written a number of interesting books dealing with art history, including, BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME, MICHELANGELO AND THE POPE’S CEILING, and LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER begins his narrative by pointing out that once Monet reached his ...more
Jim Razinha
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I once had the opportunity to purchase an original Monet, and by "opportunity", I mean 20 some years ago my wife and I went into a gallery that had one for $14,000. An amount we did not have back then.

I got an advance look at this from NetGalley. This had the potential to be quite dry, but Mr. King did a very good job with the narrative. Incredibly researched and sourced, the later/last years of Monet and his challenges/triumphs with his lilies are laid out in beautiful detail. I have no refere
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
As a girl I scoured the public library for art books. My love of the Impressionists, especially Monet, came early. I requested Ross King's new book on Claude Monet as soon as I saw it on NetGalley.

Although I was very familiar with Monet's paintings, especially those in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I knew very little about his life.

King focuses on Monet's later years as he struggled to realize his Grande Decoration during WWI while dealing with failing eyesight. The trails of the artistic lif
Judy Lesley
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I received an e-ARC of this book through NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA.

The artists who led The Impressionist Period are, for the most part, my favorite artists. I've not tried to chose a "favorite" because different paintings by different artists give me pleasure in varying ways. Claude Monet has always been special and his water lilies in particular give me great pleasure in simply standing before a painting and losing myself in the picture.

I've not read any works by Ross King and I have to adm
Todd Wright
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
By far the worst of King's books. I cannot understand why King spent so much time writing about WWI, this is far from his strong suit. The parts concerning Monet and other artists was interesting but burdened by the rest of the book. ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Frankly, I picked it up because it had been nominated for a major Canadian literary award, and I knew something about Monet because my art teacher husband has walls of art books. As well, who hasn't seen reproductions (or, if you're privileged enough, the real thing) of his work, had a coffee mug or tee shirt, etc.

To my surprise, I was utterly absorbed by the book. While it dwells almost exclusively on the last 15 years of Monet's life and the creatio
Barry Hammond
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several returns and hours spent staring at the "luminous abyss" of Monet's Water Lillies series in a special exhibition in a darkened room at The Museum of Modern Art while I was still in my twenties was a good prelude to reading Ross King's book on the creation of these masterworks. Now, that I'm of an age that I can appreciate that Monet was in his late 70's when he painted these massive canvases during the dark days of the first World War (and with failing eyesight) makes the feat even more a ...more
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thanks to an extensive collection of letters, we have a great deal of detail about Monet's later life and his obsession with creating a series of massive and immersive paintings based on the water lilies in his garden pond at Giverny. My sense is that this was an early attempt at creating an experience similar to viewing an immersive modern movie. He was a close associate of Clemenceau (who loved to visit Monet in Giverny) and donated the paintings to France following WWI. Impressionism was wani ...more
Marjorie Elwood
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
This straddles uneasily the line between research novel and popular history - it's overly detailed for the latter and feels as though the author tried to cram too much information into the book. There are some moving passages: a description of Armistice Day in Paris, and the passing of Monet. ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
You know how most serious biographies have a thin scrim of illustrations in the middle, rather like a smear of filling between to slices of bread? Acceptable, but boring. Far better is the model followed here by Ross King, who peppers his text with appropriate images all through - and saves the color pictures for the jam in the middle. Poppy-seed cake with a raspberry layer: delicious. That said, I found the story of Monet's late paintings slow going. Not exactly watching-paint-dry slow, but rea ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this work about the artist Claude Monet and the painting of his beloved water lilies. It had so much of what I enjoy in a book - art, history, and biography. I learned so much about the significant relationships in Monet's life including Clemenceau, one of the prime ministers of France during "La Grande Guerre." I enjoyed knowing more about Claude Monet's temperament and personality as well. I have been privileged to visit Giverny twice in my life and yet feel the pull to go ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've always been enchanted with Monet's Water Lilies. It took me quite a while to finish this book. It's intriguing, but not engrossing. I picked it up and put it down a number of times and read several books in-between. It seems to me to be a discertatian by a student of Monet. However by the last several chapters, I was indeed engrossed. I learned a great deal, both about the man, the Impressionist movement, as well as the history of the time. Giverny is on my #BucketList!! ...more
It would probably be more accurate to say that King's book is about the context surrounding Monet's famous water lilies than it is a close examination of the series itself. "Mad Enchantment" was not what I expected based on the description, but I was so much happier when I delved into it and let the book unravel by itself. King paints a very detailed portrait of the time period and of the artist himself, to the point where I occasionally wanted to strangle Monet myself. King presents him as a ma ...more
Keith Taylor
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There were lots of things to like about this book, not least of which -- it is an easy read! And it fills in lots of information on the Waterlilies!

Interesting side note: these paintings were ignored for quite a while when they were first given. They were enclosed in a dark basement-like place. That's the way I first saw them when I visited them regularly in the 70s. They were closed for renovation when I went looking in 2002, and now are apparently opened up for air.

It is a great story, though
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Ross King (born July 16, 1962) is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He began his career by writing two works of historical fiction in the 1990s, later turning to non-fiction, and has since written several critically acclaimed and best-selling historical works.


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