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The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

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With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, bestselling author Ross King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and the rivalry between Meissonier and Manet. While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popula With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, bestselling author Ross King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and the rivalry between Meissonier and Manet. While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.


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With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, bestselling author Ross King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and the rivalry between Meissonier and Manet. While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popula With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, bestselling author Ross King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and the rivalry between Meissonier and Manet. While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.

30 review for The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

  1. 5 out of 5

    AC

    This review MAY contain a spoiler -- I'm not sure..., it's hard for me to tell…. (It has taken me quite a while to write this review -- I wasn't sure why…. I thought maybe I was just being busy, or just being lazy…; but I think the reason is deeper than that.... Anyway, this is what I originally wrote, and didn't post, when I finished the book:) This was the perfect book for me. I knew just enough to profit from this informed and intelligent review of the roots of Impressionism and this fascinatin This review MAY contain a spoiler -- I'm not sure..., it's hard for me to tell…. (It has taken me quite a while to write this review -- I wasn't sure why…. I thought maybe I was just being busy, or just being lazy…; but I think the reason is deeper than that.... Anyway, this is what I originally wrote, and didn't post, when I finished the book:) This was the perfect book for me. I knew just enough to profit from this informed and intelligent review of the roots of Impressionism and this fascinating history of the Second Empire… the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, the Commune (and its aftermath), but not enough to be troubled by the limitations inherent in what is (I assume) merely a book for the general reader. I've learned an enormous amount about the history of 19th century French painting, however -- and recommend the book highly. It's a great read. There are some nuances and complexities, however.... I had expected this to be a book written in celebration of Manet -- though, in truth, King does not (as I read it, at least) have all that high an opinion of Manet as an artist. In fact, throughout much of the book, it is Ernest Messonier -- who starts out simply as a foil for Manet -- who appears to be the hero. But by the end…, the catastrophe of Messonier's "Friedland", the painting so perfect in every minute detail -- the painting which took 10 years to paint -- was yet a total failure…, PRECISELY because with his preoccupation with the parts..., he couldn't capture the sense of motion in the whole. In point of fact..., King's book is in many ways less about the birth of the new, of the 'modern', of Impressionism, than it is "an elegy for a lost empire and a testimonial to [the] fugitive and meretricious grandeur" of the Second Empire…. (But this is what I think I should have written instead....) This is not a book about Impressionism, but about the Second Empire and about the death of French Academic art and, indeed, of an entire way of life… The period of Louis Napoleon is key to an understanding the roots and structure of 'modernity'. Napoleon III was the first modern authoritarian -- he ruled by cooption and Spectacle, rather than by force… In that sense, Marx was absolutely right to focus on him (The 18th Brumaire)…, and to see in him the initial note and prelude to what later we would call fascist authoritarianism… (or, at least, one aspect of fascism)…. http://www.amazon.com/Spectacular-Pol... (not a book I have read, or am recommending -- but the title is significant…) http://www.amazon.com/Napoleon-III-A-... It is often said (correctly) that in 1914, no one could have imagined what the world would look like four years hence…. It's just as true that no one in 1867 - after nearly 20 years of Louis Napoleon and his Regeanesque prosperity and Haussmannization… that no one could have imagined what would happen to Paris within a mere 4 years…. Monet's Garden of the Princess (1867) Messonier's Ruins of the Tuileries (1871): Indeed, Sedan (and its aftermath) was perhaps the first truly "modern" catastrophe… afterwards…, nothing has quite been the same..., has it? One might say that the Second Empire, meretricious though it was, was the final dance of that aging debutante known as l'ancien regime… Well… that's not quite right either -- so I give up. At any rate, this book got me thinking, that's for sure.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism is a good book, but I would not recommend it to everyone. It is dense. It is chockfull of details, and in parts excessively so, the information at times verging on gossip. A quarter of the way through, I was about to dump it for this very reason. A discussion of Empress Charlotte’s panties and the mistresses of Second Empire dignitaries annoyed me. In the discussion of paintings, I questioned the similarities drawn The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism is a good book, but I would not recommend it to everyone. It is dense. It is chockfull of details, and in parts excessively so, the information at times verging on gossip. A quarter of the way through, I was about to dump it for this very reason. A discussion of Empress Charlotte’s panties and the mistresses of Second Empire dignitaries annoyed me. In the discussion of paintings, I questioned the similarities drawn between the poses of figures in Manet’s Le Bain / Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Rafael’s The Judgment of Paris. I’m stubborn, and so I continued. On completion, I was glad I hadn’t given up. There is a lot of miscellanea concerning history and art that is interesting. This book is as much about history as it is about art. It is about the birth of impressionism in an historical context more than the art form itself. Techniques and methods employed are only brushed upon. We meet Manet, Courbet, Pissarro, Degas, Siseley, Whistler, Cezanne, Monet and more. We are told of their paintings and their frustration when their works failed to be accepted by the annual and then biennial Salons de Paris, the official art exhibitions of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. We meet Comte de Nieuwerkerke, who for much of the time between 1863 and 1874 set the rules for these shows. It is this decade the book focuses upon. We are given a year by year account detailing who sat on the juries, how the juries were chosen, which paining were accepted to the respective exhibitions, even down to where on the walls the paintings were hung. In desperation, the artists refused demanded alternative exhibitions. Impressionism grew from a revolt against earlier aesthetic criteria and the restrictive regulations of the Salons de Paris. Initially, without recognition at these exhibitions an artist was doomed to obscurity, and the artists had families to support! The Salons de Paris did not occur in a vacuum, and thus historical events need be related too. During the period 1863 to1874 we see the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, the failed Commune, the fall of Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire. To understand how impressionism came to be, one must understand French history. If you are not interested in history, don’t read this book. The book has two titles. One is as given above. The other is The Judgement of Paris: Manet, Meissonier and An Artistic Revolution. While the book covers many, many artists of the decade, the author focuses primarily on Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) and Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815- 1891), two polar opposites. Meissonier was a French classicist painter known for his depictions of Napoleon, military battles and his early “bonhomme” portraits, popular and easier to sell. His paintings exhibit fine detail and assiduous craftsmanship. In his lifetime he was immensely successful. Manet was the polar opposite, fame arriving only posthumously. Yet he is the artist we today praise while Meissonier is scarcely known! Manet is seen as the father of impressionism, one of the first 19th century artists to paint contemporary life and a pivotal figure in the transition from realism to impressionism. Details about world fairs, diverse art forms (for example lithography and frescoes), the industrial revolution, the expansion of railways as well as information about contemporary authors such as Henry James, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire and Emil Zola are all here within the covers of this book. The book is full of all sorts of interesting minutia. I really did learn a lot, and for this reason I am very glad I read the book. For me, it was more a history book than a book about impressionism. The chapters on the Siege of Paris, the Commune and “Bloody Week” particularly drew my interest. Learning about Meissonier and how he constructed a railroad on his property so he could observe the muscles of horses running was fascinating. In fact, Meissonier captivated me more than what I learned about Manet! Actor Tristan Layton‘s reading of the audiobook was too rapid. A narrator must take into consideration a book’s content. This book is too dense to be read quickly. Layton is not French, and you here this in his pronunciation. French names of both people and cities are indistinct. Names are often repeated in the text, so in the end you do recognize who or what city is being referred too. Given the density of the text, the narration is an added challenge one can do without! I have given the narration two stars, which is to say it was OK but could have been better.

  3. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    I believe many of us fall into the category: “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” For those who want to know more about Impressionism, the style of painting that created a revolution in the world of art, this book offers a view of the decade that led up to that shift. If you love the art of the Impressionists, you are not going to be satisfied with what King chooses to include in this book and how his publisher, Walker Books, chooses to print them. Yet, to be fair, this is not t I believe many of us fall into the category: “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” For those who want to know more about Impressionism, the style of painting that created a revolution in the world of art, this book offers a view of the decade that led up to that shift. If you love the art of the Impressionists, you are not going to be satisfied with what King chooses to include in this book and how his publisher, Walker Books, chooses to print them. Yet, to be fair, this is not the primary intention of the author. King is ambitiously straddling two horses with this book. While he is training his focus on the emergence of Impressionism, he is also casting a wide net to provide the context of the art world in the 1860s and the larger elements of culture, politics and personalities. To do otherwise would have given us a very dull book, in the nature of: These were the artists judged worthy of the Salon of 1863 and these were the artists rejected: These were the artists judged worthy of the Salon of 1866 and these were the artists rejected; these were the artists judged worthy of the Salon of 1868 and these were the artists rejected; and so forth. The primary device King employs is to compare and contrast Ernest Meissonier, France’s most famous and successful painter, with Édouard Manet, who had trouble getting a good review of his art even from friends. In the decade between Manet’s first appearance on the scene and the first massive show devoted to Impressionist art, many changes took place. King documents the waning of control by the Emperor’s Académie des Beaux-Arts and the gradual freeing of restraints that took place. The popularity of Meissonier’s infinitesimally detailed and stylized historical paintings gave way to a subject matter that tended to embrace reality from natural landscapes to gritty urban scenes. We are taken from Édouard Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe), in 1863 through Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant); the painting that gave its name to the style. We learn that Manet, almost compulsively, flouted convention. While Monet was derided for a style that struck most critics as “mere sketching.” King’s efforts to provide some context for the emergence of this new style should be considered generally successful. However, you have to be delighted with mid-Nineteenth Century trivia. If you are willing to know the name of every artist’s, journalist’s, general’s and royal’s mistress; if you are curious about which year there was a cholera, smallpox, or other plague; if you live for who loved or hated whom during this period; then you will certainly enjoy the wrapping of this less than tidy package.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dvora

    I very much enjoyed this history of the beginnings of Impressionism in France. It was well written, fairly well illustrated (there is always the internet for looking up more of the paintings mentioned, but I hate getting up from my reading to do that), and the subject matter and people involved were fascinating to me. Thanks AC and the Artist Lovers group on GR for drawing my attention to this book, which I doubt I ever would have heard of otherwise. I wanted to add that after reading this, I am I very much enjoyed this history of the beginnings of Impressionism in France. It was well written, fairly well illustrated (there is always the internet for looking up more of the paintings mentioned, but I hate getting up from my reading to do that), and the subject matter and people involved were fascinating to me. Thanks AC and the Artist Lovers group on GR for drawing my attention to this book, which I doubt I ever would have heard of otherwise. I wanted to add that after reading this, I am watching (for the second time) my DVD of the BBC drama series The Impressionists starring Richard Armitage. I enjoyed the series the first time, but it's even more enjoyable now that I am more familiar with the people and the events. It's fun seeing it all brought to life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    Stirring and dramatic. The book tells the story of a sea-change in art by concentrating on two painters, Manet and Messonier. If you've never heard of Meissonier, don't worry--few have. He was the most successful French painter in the second half of the 19th century, but his reputation collapsed almost instantly after his death. But choosing these two artists to focus on doesn't take away from the other artists whose stories intersect in the Paris of the 1960s. Courbet is an especially appealing Stirring and dramatic. The book tells the story of a sea-change in art by concentrating on two painters, Manet and Messonier. If you've never heard of Meissonier, don't worry--few have. He was the most successful French painter in the second half of the 19th century, but his reputation collapsed almost instantly after his death. But choosing these two artists to focus on doesn't take away from the other artists whose stories intersect in the Paris of the 1960s. Courbet is an especially appealing character, as are Gerome and Cabanel, as are the members of the new generation--Whistler, Degas, Monet, Morisot, etc. (Even some elderly old masters make appearances--Ingres and Delacroix.) But perhaps the best part of the book is its explication of the importance and complex politics of the Salon, the biannual then annual art competition held in Paris where the best of the best was chosen first by a jury then by public opinion. The establishment of the Salon des Refuses by the emperor, Louis Napoleon himself, is but one surprise in the book. Of course, economics and international politics play a part--culminating in the Franco-Prussian war (which ends the 2nd empire) and the crushing of the Paris Commune. This book had a novelistic momentum. The birth of modernism turns out to be a very complex human story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This is an excellent exploration of the political, social and artistic background that led to the birth of Impressionism. It is a very detailed, in-depth look at the artists Manet and Meissonier, their work and how that work both exemplified and defied the artistic trends and political environment of 19th century Paris - the crucial time period that both shaped and changed the art world. This is not a book for the casual art observer, but an in-depth exploration for those seriously interested in This is an excellent exploration of the political, social and artistic background that led to the birth of Impressionism. It is a very detailed, in-depth look at the artists Manet and Meissonier, their work and how that work both exemplified and defied the artistic trends and political environment of 19th century Paris - the crucial time period that both shaped and changed the art world. This is not a book for the casual art observer, but an in-depth exploration for those seriously interested in the Impressionists and/or the evolution of art during the 19th century as well as serious fans of Manet and Meissonier. Meissonier who, prior to this book, was rather unfamiliar to me exemplifies the ultimate, classically-trained French artist of his time. The author contrasts Meissonier with Eduard Manet who was was a key player in challenging the VERY strict dictates of the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris. The Academie was the ultimate authority in mid 19th Century Paris as to who did or did NOT get presented during the annual exhibition each year. This book gives an excellent, in-depth exploration of the numerous influences and happenings that resulted in the birth of Impressionism. It helps significantly to either be familiar with or have access (at least via internet) to copies of the paintings discussed here while King explores their significance and import. The beauty of reading a book like this today is the almost instant access the internet can provide to these works while reading the book. Its a bit like having your own personal docent step you through the foundational works of Impressionism, being able to see how one influenced the other. I used this as research for a recent study tour I was leading to Paris featuring both the Louvre and the Orsay museums and I found the material here both well presented, fascinating and an excellent preparation for my trip. I've always loved the Impressionists and studied them for years, but this helped to fill in some of the blanks surrounding both their work and its revolutionary effect on the entire world of art.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    Ross King, author of the pop-histories "Brunelleschi's Dome" and "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling," writes another great story that combines artistic and political intrigue. This is a tale of the 1860s in France, when Edouard Manet and the not-yet-named Impressionists challenged the artistic establishment while Napolean III's "Second Empire" teetered on the brink of disaster. Most interesting is King's ability to tease out the relations between the political and artistic world, which were ad Ross King, author of the pop-histories "Brunelleschi's Dome" and "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling," writes another great story that combines artistic and political intrigue. This is a tale of the 1860s in France, when Edouard Manet and the not-yet-named Impressionists challenged the artistic establishment while Napolean III's "Second Empire" teetered on the brink of disaster. Most interesting is King's ability to tease out the relations between the political and artistic world, which were admittedly closer in Second Empire France than in just about any period in history. A section of Napoleon's Ministry of State known as the Ministry of the Imperial House and Fine Arts, based at the Louvre, controlled artistic exhibitions in Paris, most importantly the annual Salon, where artists displayed and sold their work. In the 1860s the arch-conservative Minister of Fine Arts, Comte de Nieuwerkerke, set the annual regulations which determined who was elected to the Salon's jury, and therefore what type of paintings were exhibited (and where they got exhibited: Manet's revolutionary Olympia was moved from eye-level to high above visitors heads at the 1865 Salon. One critic said "you scarcely knew whether you were looking at a parcel of nude flesh or a bundle of laundry."). The Comte's strict, conservative regulations for the 1863 Salon led to such an outcry that Napoleon, in order to gain artistic support, sponsored a "Salon de Refuses" where the rejects could be judged by the people as a whole. The 1866 Salon was known for its "Jury of Assassins," after one artist committed suicide when his art was refused entry. In order to gain more liberal support along with his liberalization of the censorship laws, Napolean in 1868 opened the "Salon of Newcomers," where previously rejected artists like Pisarro, Renoir, and Degas exhibited. King shows that art functioned as an important art of the state in this period. King also shows that this political concern about art was not idle or elitist. The Salon attracted as many as a million visitors in some years, sometimes up to 50,000 a day when it was free on Sundays, and they were truly visitors of all classes (he compares this to the most popular exhibition of 2003, Leonardo: Master Draftsman, at the Met, which drew 400,000 attendees, or around 6,800 visitors a day, not even a fraction of the attendance at the old Paris Salons). Painting and sculpture were real popular and political entertainments. He also relates some great anecdotes, such as the confusion among Manet's friends when Monet began to exhibit at the Salon (they complimented the angry Manet on his new landscapes: generations of art students, you have company). He also shows that it was the Americans who first showed the full appreciation for the Impressionists (Louisine Havemeyer, wife of the sugar-magnate, spent more than anyone else buying up Monet, Pissarro, and Cezanne works in the 1890s). Of course there are a few problems. King spends too much time comparing Manet and the now forgotten painter Meissonier, who was called the greatest artist of his age but who today is so ignored that he even had his statute removed from the Louvre by a recent French Minister of Culture. Although it is interesting to know about this oft-ignored representative of the "conservative" establishment, it's hard to get excited about the details of his family life. Also, the endless annual salons tend to blur into one another at some points in the story, a little more discretion here would have been nice. But overall this book gave me a real appreciation for the world that birthed modern art, and its importance in its time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I came across The Judgement of Paris via GoodReads where the Art Lovers group were reading it, and it’s a most interesting book. It’s the story of the birth of the Impressionist movement and the initial hostile reception by conservative forces in Paris, but the book also traverses the tumultuous period of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune so it’s interesting as a work of general history too. To represent the opposing forces, King focuses on Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) and Edouard Manet (1 I came across The Judgement of Paris via GoodReads where the Art Lovers group were reading it, and it’s a most interesting book. It’s the story of the birth of the Impressionist movement and the initial hostile reception by conservative forces in Paris, but the book also traverses the tumultuous period of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune so it’s interesting as a work of general history too. To represent the opposing forces, King focuses on Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) and Edouard Manet (1832-1883. At a time when the old Paris Salons attracted literally millions of visitors from all walks of life, Meissonier was immensely popular and fabulously wealthy because his works sold for a small fortune. He had a huge estate (which he endlessly renovated) and he was able to spend years trying to perfect his paintings because he didn’t have to worry about the wolf at his door. Manet wasn’t starving in a garret, but it was just as well he had an inheritance and a supportive mother because he could not generate an income from his art and didn’t become popular until after his death. Posterity, however, has reversed these positions… To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2011/11/05/th...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    Very interesting study of the French art scene in the 1860s and 1870s, and also a requiem for the Second Empire. The stars of the show, however, are two artists at opposite poles from each other: Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier. Meissonier, for those who haven't heard of him (which would include me when I started this book), was one of the most famous artists in France in the mid-19th century, and the best-paid. Manet, on the other hand, was the art scene's pariah/joke.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Stumpp

    King's exploration of the birth of Impressionism, which he considers the greatest revolution in art since the Italian Renaissance, interweaves the stories of two French artists: Ernest Meissanier, the most famous artist of his time who is now derided, dismissed, and virtually forgotten by art historians, and Edouard Manet, considered the father of Impressionism and one of the most influential artists in history who was scorned and insulted for most of his professional career. This dichotomy repr King's exploration of the birth of Impressionism, which he considers the greatest revolution in art since the Italian Renaissance, interweaves the stories of two French artists: Ernest Meissanier, the most famous artist of his time who is now derided, dismissed, and virtually forgotten by art historians, and Edouard Manet, considered the father of Impressionism and one of the most influential artists in history who was scorned and insulted for most of his professional career. This dichotomy represents the central conceit of the book. History will tell the tale, King implies, the fickle tasts of a generation have no bearing on what will ultimately prove to be immortal. Posterity chooses its heroes, the Academies do not get to perscribe them. That's fine. For me, however, there is just one glaring problem: when considered alongside one another there is not a question in my mind about who is the superior artist: Meissonier. I believe King's premise ought also to be attached to our current tastes in art. Posterity, in the truest sense, has not yet had its full say. What the twentieth century deamed to be great art (Manet) will most likely be rebelled against in the 21st century, and Meissonier may, in the end, have the final say. One art historian quoted by King said something to the effect that he is disgusted by the thought that Meissonier, a pompous self-indulgeant technician supposedly without a true artistic notion, who made a career and a lot of money by creating empty decorations for the homes of rich bourgoisie's, while obviously supperior artists, such as Manet, toiled in absolute obscurity, barely able to scratch together enough francs to buy paints and brushes. This is the prevailing sentiment among art historians, and one would imagine, among contemporary artists. These idiots don't seem to understand that Manet's work today decorates the homes of the rich bourgoisie, that ultimately political sentiment has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with art, and that, yes, history will tell the tale. When viewed next to Meissonier's paintings, Manet's best work seems cartoonish, immature, untalented, and entirely forgettable, with the only exceptions being Le dejaneur sur l'herbe and The Assassination of Maximillian. By contrast, Meissonier's best work is breathtaking, even in reproductions, and his less great paintings are at least interesting. But back to the book. Ross King is a great writer, a compelling storyteller, and, for the most part, a fair historian. The only exception to this is his never clearly justified loathing for Victor Hugo. The Judgment of Paris is a very good read and likely to spark many interesting conversations about the nature of art, artistic immortality, taste, transformation, revolution, and evolution.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    1. I listened to half on my way home from Ohio, and now I'm going to actually READ the second half. I like to see events coincide: the Civil War and the birth of Impressionism and the downfall is it? of Napoleon III of France. I like to learn about art history this way, with new facts tossed in as part of the larger story: : Impasto is paint layered thickly. Chiaroscuro is paint getting gradually lighter, with a dark background, to show volume. Painting for Paris of mid-nineteenth century was li 1. I listened to half on my way home from Ohio, and now I'm going to actually READ the second half. I like to see events coincide: the Civil War and the birth of Impressionism and the downfall is it? of Napoleon III of France. I like to learn about art history this way, with new facts tossed in as part of the larger story: : Impasto is paint layered thickly. Chiaroscuro is paint getting gradually lighter, with a dark background, to show volume. Painting for Paris of mid-nineteenth century was like the high-tech world today: exciting! scandalous! picky! The French liked their paintings smooth, detailed, and classically grand. Impressionists tried a new way, with thick paint and not so much care for foreground and background. Everything shifts. Sex happens on the canvas. Crowds are aghast, uppity. Meissonier the classicist is idolized and rich, Manet is poor, but not now, now that he is dead. 2. I've decided to keep on listening. Narrator Tristan Layton pronounces those Parisian place names with aplomb, where I stumble, like they are cobblestones in my mind. As I drove between home and Publix yesterday, Layton told me about the Franco-Prussian War, in which the Parisians were starved, humiliated, and driven to eating cats. Finally I understand why my Parisian great-great-grandfather disowned his beautiful daughter (my great-grandmother, the mother of Caroline Lily Frey) when she married a German. 3. Now it's over, and I understand this: It took 10 decisive years and more before that for the Impressionists to be respected. Paris was in political flux at the time. The word Impressionism comes from someone who said it's like painting an impression of a horse, something you'd see from the window of a passing train.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Miller

    The decade that led to the rise of impressionism was a turbulent one, both in the art world and the world in general. Ross describes this decade through the lives 2 artists, Ernest Meissonier and Édouard Manet. Meissonier was considered France's most successful artist at the time. He painted popular subjects, and his style appealed to the traditional school. Manet was a young upstart, who scorned the traditional school of style and his subjects were often considered low and vulgar. We see these The decade that led to the rise of impressionism was a turbulent one, both in the art world and the world in general. Ross describes this decade through the lives 2 artists, Ernest Meissonier and Édouard Manet. Meissonier was considered France's most successful artist at the time. He painted popular subjects, and his style appealed to the traditional school. Manet was a young upstart, who scorned the traditional school of style and his subjects were often considered low and vulgar. We see these two contrasting careers through the famous Paris Salon, the very political annual show where artist made their names known. Along with Meissonier and Manet we see many familiar names, including Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissaro, Whistler, and many others. We also see how the political events, including the fall of Louis Napoleon, plays out in the art world. I consider myself to be fairly literate when it comes to art, especially in impressionism. Monet is my favorite artist, and I have a deep appreciation of most of the other impressionists. This is a very good book, but it is also incredibly dense. There is so much information!! It may have been better to start with one of Ross's shorter books. You will definitely want to read this with Google, so you can look up all the paintings. A timeline of French revolutions and Napoleons could also be helpful. Very interesting, but this is a read that will take time. 3.5 stars, rounded up.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Florence Millo

    This excellent book brings to life Paris and the artists of Paris during the decade 1863-1874. Although many of the Impressionist artists such as Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, and Morisot are woven into the story, it is particularly focused on Edouard Manet and Ernest Messonier. Wait, you say, who is Messonier? Well you may ask. For while he was alive, Messonier was the wealthiest and most prominent painter of the time. He won three grand prizes from the Salon during his life, he was wealthy beyond This excellent book brings to life Paris and the artists of Paris during the decade 1863-1874. Although many of the Impressionist artists such as Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, and Morisot are woven into the story, it is particularly focused on Edouard Manet and Ernest Messonier. Wait, you say, who is Messonier? Well you may ask. For while he was alive, Messonier was the wealthiest and most prominent painter of the time. He won three grand prizes from the Salon during his life, he was wealthy beyond the dreams of most artists of the time. Yet today, very few have even heard of him, much less seen his work. On the other hand, we have Edouard Manet, who seldom had money to live on and who was belittled and ridiculed through most of his life. Today works by Manet are valued in the tens of millions of dollars and he is regarded as one of the premier artists of all time. The story of their lives and the story of art in France during this period includes the Franco-Prussian War, the fall and death of Louis-Napoleon, and the Communards in Paris. A tumultuous period which gave us the Impressionists. Another excellent book by the author of Brunelleschi's Dome, which if you haven't read makes you 2 books behind--start reading!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marty Coleman

    The book focuses on two painters from the 19th century in Paris, Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonnier, one a classicist on top of the art world and the other an up-and-comer who has no standing. King follows the careers of both artists, showing how their rise and fall throughout their careers and after their deaths. The focus may be on these two but the larger picture embraces the entirety of art at that time in French history (1860s-1880s). For me one of the most interesting parts was the deta The book focuses on two painters from the 19th century in Paris, Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonnier, one a classicist on top of the art world and the other an up-and-comer who has no standing. King follows the careers of both artists, showing how their rise and fall throughout their careers and after their deaths. The focus may be on these two but the larger picture embraces the entirety of art at that time in French history (1860s-1880s). For me one of the most interesting parts was the detailed explanation of how the salon system worked; who got chosen, who juried, who organized, who were the hidden powers behind the decisions. One thing that surprised me about the rise of the impressionists is how we see them now versus how they were seen then. I don't mean their rejection and disregard from the establishment back then, we all know about that to some degree. What I mean is how lacking in cohesion they had as a group. We see them as a monolithic block now, foreordained to be together. But back then they most decidedly would ever have said that. For example, Manet never once exhibited with the Impressionists in any group show that they had under that name (or any other name). Yet he was known as the king of the Impressionists by all. Also, Manet could not stand Monet, thinking him an upstart who had purposely used a name similar to his own to try to get attention. Only later in life did the two of them become great friends. Cezanne meanwhile was not welcomed by many of the other young painters, being to radical even for them. It's these little details that make the book entertaining and enlightening. I listened to this as an audio book and I do recommend it. The narrator is british and his accent is perfect for the topic at hand. Unfortunately I was given an abridged edition so there were obvious gaps in the narrative. The choice of what to keep in and what to take out was not always smooth or smart for the telling of the story. If you are going to listen to it, make sure to get the unabridged edition.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I have had this book in my to read stack for a while and finally picked it up and read it! I really like this kind of book, but the last half reads too much like a history book. The book follows the events of 1863-the 1870's Paris and the Salon and the events of the time with Napoleon III and then into the Franco-Prussian war in the early 1870's, and how the events affected the artist’s lives. Mostly I find it interesting how Manet plugged along without any success like the other young Parisian I have had this book in my to read stack for a while and finally picked it up and read it! I really like this kind of book, but the last half reads too much like a history book. The book follows the events of 1863-the 1870's Paris and the Salon and the events of the time with Napoleon III and then into the Franco-Prussian war in the early 1870's, and how the events affected the artist’s lives. Mostly I find it interesting how Manet plugged along without any success like the other young Parisian artists who were trying to get their "modern" style of art recognized by the Salon. I love these Impressionists and it's interesting to me how much they struggled...like most artists. Also I really didn’t know much about Meissonier and it is kind of funny how he really isn’t considered the master painter he was thought to be in 1860's Europe. The last half goes into the commune siege of Paris and the Franco-Prussian war which is kind of interesting.....kind of. Not as engaging a read as Brunelleschis Dome or the Popes Ceiling but worth the while if you are interested in the history of Impressionist artists

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elise

    More of a survey of events, rather than an examination of how the societal conditions affected the success (or lack thereof) of the two artists and styles. It moved slowly and I would have enjoyed reading more analysis of the broader implications of the art, but interesting subject matter nonetheless.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sally Sugarman

    This is a fine social history about the development of French Impressionism. Two of the major figures in this account are the artists Manet and Meissonier. Meissonier was the most highly acclaimed artist in Paris and most of the world. He was precise, taking care to be accurate. He loved painting horses and watched them carefully to see how they moved. Manet, on the other, hand painted freely, with loose brush strokes. . Meissonier was lauded by the art critics while Manet was ridiculed consiste This is a fine social history about the development of French Impressionism. Two of the major figures in this account are the artists Manet and Meissonier. Meissonier was the most highly acclaimed artist in Paris and most of the world. He was precise, taking care to be accurate. He loved painting horses and watched them carefully to see how they moved. Manet, on the other, hand painted freely, with loose brush strokes. . Meissonier was lauded by the art critics while Manet was ridiculed consistently. King provides a sense of the art scene in 19th century Paris with is juried exhibits and its politics that involved the arts as well as the reign of Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III). During the Franco/Prussian war which was devastating for France, the two painters briefly encountered each other as Meissonier was Manet’s commander. Manet, although scorned by the critics, was followed by many of the young painters such as Monet, Renoir and others. There s a beautiful scene describe when the three painters, Monet, Manet and Renoir are visiting together and painting out doors at Monet’s home. This shift to painting out in the fresh air and painting the scenes of contemporary Paris life was a new development, encouraged by Baudelaire and others. The subjects of the paintings moved from painting scenes of classic Greek and Roman life or heroic battles to recording life at the races and at the seashore and on the streets of Paris. The canvases of the new artists introduced new pigments and freer brush strokes. The critics and the art elite were shocked by this change and scornful of it, but refused at the official exhibits the young artists set up their own exhibits. We see how change happens in this account of the change in how artists painted and how the public received the new works. Although some people think Meissonier was the villain, it is hard to see him as that. He was different as Manet was different. Manet found it hard to accept Cezanne’s work. Art keeps changing as society changes. Technology changes society and photography with is precision may have been a factor in the painters depicting reality not accurately as it was, but about the feelings it evoked in the artist. Taking just one period of art history and looking at in detail makes one want to look freshly at these paintings that are the subject of this book, but at how art responds to the changes in the society, while also changing the society by the images it presents to people. After the impressionists came the Cubists. Since photography would eventually capture that everyday life which the Impressionists offered, that led to the focus on abstract art. Instead of rejecting the past or the new, the viewer should enjoy the pleasure of both, Michelangelo, Raphael, Meissonier, Manet, Picasso, Pollack, Johns. What is special about painting, as about theatre, is that it is not mass produced. When you are looking at a canvas, you are connecting directly to the artist’s work. It is reassuring that at the Metropolitan Museum of Art , Meissonier’s Friedland is in the hall leading to the room with Manet’s work. This book makes one want to read more about art history and its social and political context, but also to visit the nearest museum.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    This book chronicles the art and military scene of Paris 1860-1870 and a few years beyond. The French government "salon" decided which painters were celebrated and which artists were refused. The celebrated artists worked to memorialize history and battles, especially those of Napoleon. Leading these artists of history was Ernest Meissonier living in two mansions, while the rising artists (those not concerned with minute detail) were barely able to afford paint or brushes. In many ways this is t This book chronicles the art and military scene of Paris 1860-1870 and a few years beyond. The French government "salon" decided which painters were celebrated and which artists were refused. The celebrated artists worked to memorialize history and battles, especially those of Napoleon. Leading these artists of history was Ernest Meissonier living in two mansions, while the rising artists (those not concerned with minute detail) were barely able to afford paint or brushes. In many ways this is the story of Manet v. Meissonier, but it is also the story of how the Franco Prussian war destroyed Paris and its government. Finally it is a word of caution to all interested in art: much of celebrated art today will be ignored in two generations. Meissonier was purged from the art history books, yet was the most celebrated artist during his 40 years of painting. This book is also about the impressionists and their parallel lives during this decade, showing how they grew in popularity once American collectors started buying their work. A very intricate, interesting look at art history. I have new respect for Ross King. I gave it four stars instead of five for its slightly didactic viewpoint and style.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andie

    It's hard to believe that Impressionism, the almost universally loved school of art would ever have been regarded as dangerous and controversial. However, in the 1860's that's precisely how it was regarded by the powers that be in France. This entertaining group tells the story of the movement through two opposing artists of the time: Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet, the former an accepted and officially revered traditionalist and the latter a revolutionary at the vanguard of a new wave of a It's hard to believe that Impressionism, the almost universally loved school of art would ever have been regarded as dangerous and controversial. However, in the 1860's that's precisely how it was regarded by the powers that be in France. This entertaining group tells the story of the movement through two opposing artists of the time: Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet, the former an accepted and officially revered traditionalist and the latter a revolutionary at the vanguard of a new wave of art. It also weaves the history of the time through the story, the rise of the Second Empire, Baron Haussmann's rebuilding of Paris, the Franco-Prussian War, the bloody Commune, and finally La Belle Epoch. A great read for those who love art, history and/or France

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This one took me awhile to read since I enjoyed it one chapter at a time, but it felt just like sitting in an art history class in the fine arts building at UMKC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

    Three stars for thoroughness; The Judgment of Paris was interesting if only for subject-matter. King tended towards hyperbole which usually makes me cringe. The book was largely successful in guiding the historical narrative through two opposed artists but the argument weakened when King got sidetracked by other topics. I also didn't like the footnote/endnote mix but then again I'm über PICKY about citations/bibliographies/indices in art history books!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue Pit

    The Judgment of Paris , The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism as written by Ross King is a most informative and enlightening book regarding the transition of classical art to modern art. Art regarding noble moral lessons set in the far past or mythical settings were giving way to realistic art depicting not a glorified notion of the past but of the reality of the present. This book focuses on two artists primarily. Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. Ernest Meissonier was h The Judgment of Paris , The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism as written by Ross King is a most informative and enlightening book regarding the transition of classical art to modern art. Art regarding noble moral lessons set in the far past or mythical settings were giving way to realistic art depicting not a glorified notion of the past but of the reality of the present. This book focuses on two artists primarily. Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. Ernest Meissonier was highly exalted during his lifetime as a great artist who at first painted small images of Muskateers but who graduated to grander depictions regarding relatively recent momentous events that glorified France. He gave great effort to making the images accurate including details of galloping horses, actual clothing worn, trampled snow etc. in the paintings. Manet on the other hand gave a less detailed depiction of modern and sometimes shocking images of modern times and he struggled as a result generally as a result of his technique as well as his subject matter. His focus on people as opposed to the lighting and its effect upon the setting/image makes Manet not technically an impressionist but he is considered the godfather of impressionism who paved the way. While it was difficult to change the mind set in France as to what was considered good art, the new modern artists made efforts to expose their work via creating their own exhibitions since the traditional Salon denied them such exposure. Ultimately, global exposure notably in the United States, created a changed valuation and recognition of the new art. Posterity left Meissonier unremembered in sharp contrast to Manet and the like. This is quite an interesting read as to the path of this pivotal transition in art.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Raybon

    Ross King is the master of nonfiction historical accounts involving such well-known figures as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, painters Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and others whose works now fill museums and cities worldwide. Most known for his first bestseller, "Brunelleschi's Dome"--the story behind the great cathedral in Florence, Italy-- Ross King moves to France in "The Judgement of Paris." It's a fascinating account of the determined rise of impressionist painters (Manet, Monet and others Ross King is the master of nonfiction historical accounts involving such well-known figures as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, painters Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and others whose works now fill museums and cities worldwide. Most known for his first bestseller, "Brunelleschi's Dome"--the story behind the great cathedral in Florence, Italy-- Ross King moves to France in "The Judgement of Paris." It's a fascinating account of the determined rise of impressionist painters (Manet, Monet and others) during an era of political snobbery, war tyranny and a fierce loyalty to artistic classicism that left these now famous artists starving, literally and figuratively, for appreciation and acceptance. Daring to face down the status quo, impressionism's "newcomers" would help change the world in their ongoing battle to find artistic respect and renown. As author, King updates long held misinformation about the brave, new world of impressionism, shedding light also on a revolution of changing tastes and times. At the same time, he offers a close-up historical look at Paris, one of the world's most beautiful and admired cities. For history lovers, King's book is a fine read, indeed. Highly recommended for fans of history, architecture or art--or all three. First rate.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danine

    Another great book from Ross King and a great perspective from behind the scenes of Impressionism. The book is dense and intense chock full of details that don't make it into "Gardner's Art Through the Ages". I loved appearances by Gustav Dore, Baudelaire, and Rossetti. I had no idea Rossetti loathed Manet's work. It's well known that Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe did not make it into the Salon but I had no idea how many times Manet's works were rejected after his initial submission. Ross' quote from Another great book from Ross King and a great perspective from behind the scenes of Impressionism. The book is dense and intense chock full of details that don't make it into "Gardner's Art Through the Ages". I loved appearances by Gustav Dore, Baudelaire, and Rossetti. I had no idea Rossetti loathed Manet's work. It's well known that Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe did not make it into the Salon but I had no idea how many times Manet's works were rejected after his initial submission. Ross' quote from Manet that launched the novel was very appropriate: "In this bitch of a life, one can never be too well armed." The book covers the dates between 1863 and 1874. Ross executes an eloquent parallel account of what is happening to French art under the rule of Napoleon III and the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. Ross has the talent to provide and describe history in a very readable format. Both Ross and Irving Stone are my favorite biographers when it comes to telling about the lives of famous artists. While reading this I wondered how Bob Ross would have fared when presented to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Probably a big red "R" for Heureux peu arbres.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Namrirru

    Brunelleschi's Dome was full of intrigue and suspense and I was hoping for the same with this book. Alas. It's a little dry. There's not much passion in the writing and not much art analysis either. What analysis is there is safe and familiar. Not all familiar, but mostly. But there are many bits in the book's favor. Such as: You really get a feeling for the times in a way that you could almost see yourself living then. 140 years ago doesn't seem that far away... Facts you grow up with now make Brunelleschi's Dome was full of intrigue and suspense and I was hoping for the same with this book. Alas. It's a little dry. There's not much passion in the writing and not much art analysis either. What analysis is there is safe and familiar. Not all familiar, but mostly. But there are many bits in the book's favor. Such as: You really get a feeling for the times in a way that you could almost see yourself living then. 140 years ago doesn't seem that far away... Facts you grow up with now make sense. Salon des Refuses. Siege of Paris. The people who lived and had to cope with war and rejection. Even though the text is dry, you feel very empathetic to these people. Except Messonier who's a tightwad, Monet who's a young upstart with an obnoxious streak a mile wide, and Thiers who's the biggest жопа in history. Yes, it's a bit biased. But for Thiers, it's well-deserved. **** I've always wondered, if the Impressionists were outcasts, who were the successful people? This book has the answer. (Not counting Courbet) Messonier's paintings are very familiar, but the other artists' are forgettable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I don't know how others who don't care much for art let alone art history would appreciate this but I enjoyed it very much. It's given me a good lesson on the beginnings of impressionism and those artists that dared to challenge the strict traditions of the French art institute and to shock, even offend, the French public. King is apparently a bigger admirer of the Impressionists because I felt his writing of Ernest Messionier bias and unfair. If in his lifetime the man found his wealth and fame I don't know how others who don't care much for art let alone art history would appreciate this but I enjoyed it very much. It's given me a good lesson on the beginnings of impressionism and those artists that dared to challenge the strict traditions of the French art institute and to shock, even offend, the French public. King is apparently a bigger admirer of the Impressionists because I felt his writing of Ernest Messionier bias and unfair. If in his lifetime the man found his wealth and fame and had "no other on his level" then in my opinion it's pathetic that the Impressionists, in comparison, only earned fame posthumously and their admirers sought successfully to defame Messionier. Also, it is interesting to learn the "trash" magazines of the 1860s France (propagandists as Emile Zola) had similar influence as today's rags in that the columnists succeed in getting publicity for the least likely, the underdog or the public offender while ignoring the ones who truly deserve praise and recognition.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    This book is definitely geared more towards art lovers, especially those of the Impressionist movement. I LOVE art and art history, so, if you do too, I highly recommend this book! It basically takes two artists, Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier, and uses their artistic achievements to show how Impressionism came to be accepted in Paris, and therefore the world. Who is Meissonier, you may ask? He was the most popular artist of his time: basically a multi-millionaire who made all of his money This book is definitely geared more towards art lovers, especially those of the Impressionist movement. I LOVE art and art history, so, if you do too, I highly recommend this book! It basically takes two artists, Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier, and uses their artistic achievements to show how Impressionism came to be accepted in Paris, and therefore the world. Who is Meissonier, you may ask? He was the most popular artist of his time: basically a multi-millionaire who made all of his money off of his paintings. Collectors from all over the world would buy his art (mainly historical paintings). People were convinced (as was he) that he would be one of the great masters studied for generations. Now, the majority of his paintings collect dust in the corners of museums where no one goes. But Manet, who did not receive much positive recognition until the last part of his life, is famous. So it is an interesting comparison. Anyhow, very good read. I loved it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    T. Fowler

    This book about the birth of Impressionism carried me along nicely, despite its lack of great action or drama. It is the story of the evolution of the art of painting in Paris during the decade from 1863 to 1874, largely following the twin careers of Meissonier, who was the most famous painter of that time, and of Manet, who was struggling to be recognized over this same period. It is also set against the backdrop of French society, the collapse of the Second French Empire, the disaster of the F This book about the birth of Impressionism carried me along nicely, despite its lack of great action or drama. It is the story of the evolution of the art of painting in Paris during the decade from 1863 to 1874, largely following the twin careers of Meissonier, who was the most famous painter of that time, and of Manet, who was struggling to be recognized over this same period. It is also set against the backdrop of French society, the collapse of the Second French Empire, the disaster of the Franco-Prussian War, and the following revolution that ushered in the Third Republic. Ross King highlights certain famous painting made by the two artists during this period, and introduces other now famous Impressionists who related to Manet - like Monet, Cezanne, etc. - which helps the reader understand how painting styles changed. Overall, I found the narrative interesting and I learned a lot about a subject with which I was only vaguely familiar.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hotavio

    Here Ross King concerns himself with the French art world leading up to the dawn of Impressionism. The book reads as easily as a fictional narrative in that it follows the seemingly disparate careers of Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. The 2 artists could hardly be comparable. Yet, King's selection of the artists resembles two oppositional ages in a France that experiences one cataclysm after another. King adeptly introduces other equally intriguing personalities from all aspects of society, Here Ross King concerns himself with the French art world leading up to the dawn of Impressionism. The book reads as easily as a fictional narrative in that it follows the seemingly disparate careers of Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. The 2 artists could hardly be comparable. Yet, King's selection of the artists resembles two oppositional ages in a France that experiences one cataclysm after another. King adeptly introduces other equally intriguing personalities from all aspects of society, academic and bohemian art worlds, as well as other political and historical figures. The result gives the reader an understanding of the milieu without being unnecessarily dry or detailed. Thus far one of the better books that I have read on the subject.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Turner

    Admittedly this book was required reading for a art history course, and also embarrassingly enough it was the first piece of historical non-fiction I had, at the time, completed. I found the book to be highly fluid, and never have I read a piece of historical non-fiction so wonderfully engrossing, since. The tale of the two artist provides an insightful social commentary of 19c. France, and it was this interweaving of social and political history that had me more than ready to attend my first da Admittedly this book was required reading for a art history course, and also embarrassingly enough it was the first piece of historical non-fiction I had, at the time, completed. I found the book to be highly fluid, and never have I read a piece of historical non-fiction so wonderfully engrossing, since. The tale of the two artist provides an insightful social commentary of 19c. France, and it was this interweaving of social and political history that had me more than ready to attend my first day of class. And while my passion for my art history course soon dulled, my new found taste for historical nonfiction has not.

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