From Brunelleschi’s Dome to Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling to The Judgment of Paris, Ross King’s award-winning books have interwoven history, art history, and biography, telling great stories in each category. With Mad Enchantment (Bloomsbury, $30)—the title taken from a French critic extolling the buoyancy of Claude Monet’s work—King chronicles the final years of that artist’s life. By 1910 , Monet (1840-1926) was wealthy and well-known, but, like Impressionism itself, he was “in danger of becoming an anachronism,” too old fashioned for the rising avant-garde and too merely pretty to be relevant amid Europe’s rising tensions. King, however, complicates both the easy surface appeal of the Giverny images and the role of art in uncertain times. If the Great War tested France’s resources, Monet’s seemingly endless labor on his Grand Décoration—the monumental series of water-lily paintings—was no less taxing. Measured in yards and feet, the series eventually included nearly 300 canvases; while they caught the play of light and passing currents, the works also reflect Monet’s personal tribulations—deaths of family members and fellow painters, his “loss” of colors, distance, and vision itself due to cataracts—and those of his country as the Germans invaded and whole villages were bombed off the map. Sustaining heavy cultural damage as well as staggering numbers of casualties, France needed its artists, and Monet was supported through his dark periods by his longtime friend, George Clemenceau, France’s prime minister from 1917 to 1920, even as Clemenceau sought moral support for his country from one of its greatest painters.
Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies - Ross King
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Published: Bloomsbury USA - September 6th, 2016
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Published: Bloomsbury USA - September 12th, 2017