Sunday, September 4, 2011


I finished reading The Judgment of Paris by Ross King, a book that was recommended by a docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  Although it was a bit dry for me and heavy on the French history, I enjoyed reading about the start of the Impressionists - a title given as a slam against them because they didn't paint anything but impressions of nature (how dare they??).  I liked reading about the Salons and the schools in favor at the time and how hard it was for many of the Impressionists to make their mark and be accepted (some never were).

Discovering another book on the Impressionists (highly discounted at Borders), I had to take it home.

By Sue Roe, it's called The Private Lives of the Impressionists.  (Cover painting is by Berthe Morisot, one of just 2 women included in the Impressionists genre.) 

I am enjoying it and finding it more personal than The Judgement of Paris.  It delves more into the lives of the painters and their families of origin - most, it seemed, were supported by their families even if they didn't get into a good art school.  Some came from very wealthy families - no wonder they could do nothing but rent studios, go to class and try to get into shows with no other work to support them.

Many of the Impressionists who did not get into art school (or didn't want to get into a formal art school) ended up training from one of two artists who had formal training.  The studios were open and there were so many artists there, one learned as much from other students as he did from the teacher.  The Impressionists even began taking day trips out into the countryside as a group to paint the landscapes.

Why do I like this book?  Because it is personal.  I feel more like I'm getting to know the artists.  Did you know that Degas didn't trust women, didn't like women and thought a wife was a hindrance to an artistic life?  It may have had something to do with this mother dying at age 33 when he was just 13 - or the fact that she was a tempestuous, adulterous type that set the stage for his beliefs about women.  And then...we see his ballerina paintings and don't see any dislike of the feminine there, but instead see a delicate touch that conveys caring, interest, and perhaps longing? 

Although I'm only in chapter 3 of the book, I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the struggles and successes of the Impressionist painters.  


Carol Blackburn said...

Hey Rhonda, thanks for sharing that info. about Degas; very enlightening. Hope things are good in your neck of the woods.

Christiane Kingsley said...

The book sounds great, Rhonda. I love the impressionists and except for Monet I know little about their personal life. I will check with my public library to see if I can reserve this book. Thank you as always!

Carrie'sCreations said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I think I would enjoy the more personal aspects. I will definitely check this one out:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rhonda. Love your blog, especially your pears (hint), also love the impressionists however, at the moment I'm into a surrealist (hint,hint)

Guess who?

RH Carpenter said...

Carol, it's a good book, interesting without being too heavy - you can read a little at a time and go back and still remember what's going on!

Christiane, I am always interested in the personalities of the artists and what their struggles were - how quickly did they attain success, what age were they, etc.

Carrie, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Hey, Edwina! Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment :)

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Glad you are enjoying your Impressionist books. Over here the BBC TV stations have of late produced wonderful plays on the impressionists bringing those famous names to life. Love your work on the pears and the fresh layered washes - gorgeous choice of colours.

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Joan. Maybe I can get some of those plays on the BBCAmerica station - I'll check :)

Celeste Bergin said...

thanks for the review of this book..I will look for it. I LOVED a DVD set called "The Impressionists" produced by BBC. Highly recommend! Lots of libraries have it. Super entertaining and it holds faithful to what is known through documents. They depicted Degas just as you've written kind of an odd ball for sure. What a story they all make!