Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
The Private Lives of the Impressionists
Heidenkind’s Art History Challenge ends this week, and I am finishing up the last two books that I selected for the challenge. This morning I finished Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of the Impressionists, which I have been trying to read for several months. It’s not that Roe’s book is boring or bothersome – but it wasn’t compelling enough for me to read in a single sitting. Ironically, I wonder if the book wasn’t amazingly compelling because I’m an art historian. I wasn’t waiting on edge, wondering what was going to happen to the Impressionists, because more-or-less I already knew.
The book is dedicated to the personal and professional lives of several Impressionist artists: Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Morisot, and Cassatt. Roe’s writing style is very informed, but also lively and engaging. I thought that she gave fairly equal treatment to all of the artists mentioned, with the exception of Alfred Sisley, who didn’t receive a lot of discussion (which I would expect, since he’s not very well-known).
One of my favorite things that I learned from the book was that Degas traveled to New Orleans. He delayed his return to Paris for three months so that he could paint this picture of a cotton office: