The Judgment of Paris

The Judgment of Paris

The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

Book - 2006
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The fascinating new book by the author of Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling : a saga of artistic rivalry and cultural upheaval in the decade leading to the birth of Impressionism.

If there were two men who were absolutely central to artistic life in France in the second half of the nineteenth century, they were Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier. While the former has been labelled the "Father of Impressionism" and is today a household name, the latter has sunk into obscurity. It is difficult now to believe that in 1864, when this story begins, it was Meissonier who was considered the greatest French artist alive and who received astronomical sums for his work, while Manet was derided for his messy paintings of ordinary people and had great difficulty getting any of his work accepted at the all-important annual Paris Salon.

Manet and Meissonier were the Mozart and Salieri of their day, one a dangerous challenge to the establishment, the other beloved by rulers and the public alike for his painstakingly meticulous oil paintings of historical subjects. Out of the fascinating story of their parallel careers, Ross King creates a lens through which to view the political tensions that dogged Louis-Napoleon during the Second Empire, his ignominious downfall, and the bloody Paris Commune of 1871. At the same time, King paints a wonderfully detailed and vivid portrait of life in an era of radical social change: on the streets of Paris, at the new seaside resorts of Boulogne and Trouville, and at the race courses and picnic spots where the new bourgeoisie relaxed. When Manet painted Dejeuner sur l'herbe or Olympia, he shocked not only with his casual brushstrokes (described by some as applied by a 'floor mop') but with his subject matter: top-hatted white-collar workers (and their mistresses) were not considered suitable subjects for 'Art'. Ross King shows how, benign as they might seem today, these paintings changed the course of history. The struggle between Meissonier and Manet to see their paintings achieve pride of place at the Salon was not just about artistic competitiveness, it was about how to see the world.

Full of fantastic tidbits of information (such as the use of carrier pigeons and hot-air balloons during the siege of Paris), and a colourful cast of characters that includes Baudelaire, Courbet, and Zola, with walk-on parts for Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Cezanne, The Judgment of Paris casts new light on the birth of Impressionism and takes us to the heart of a time in which the modern French identity was being forged.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Anchor Canada, 2006
Edition: Anchor Canada ed. --
ISBN: 9780385661034
Branch Call Number: 759.409034 Kin 3558
Characteristics: xiii, 448 p. :,ill. (some col.)
Alternative Title: Judgement of Paris


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Marlowe Jan 08, 2016

Ross King wonderfully contrasts the rise of Impressionism with the fall of the Academician. With the Salon as the battleground, we meet Monet and Manet, Cezzane and Courbet as art world slowly changes. With beautiful images and lively scenes, this is a fantastic read for art history lovers.

Vincent T Lombardo Oct 01, 2015

This book is essentially a dual biography of Meissonier, the "traditional" French artist, best known for his history paintings, and the path-breaking Manet, who influenced the Impressionists. King is a great writer and he obviously did a prodigious amount of research in writing this book. However, I think he tried to do too much and should have focussed just on Meissonier and Manet, instead of including so much French history and giving us so many short sketches of politicians and other artists. I also think that a rudimentary knowledge of French is necessary to fully appreciate this book, since King sprinkles French throughout the book but defines nothing. I read and enjoyed the first 100 pages, but then got bored and distracted and skimmed the rest. I enjoyed "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" much more.

Mar 09, 2015

Well written and insightful book about the emergence of Impressionism in context of European history. Going beyond regular art history, this book gives the conditions and mise–en–scène of the times tying the politics, wars and personalities that brought revolutionary changes in the art world that matched revolutionary times in Western history.

Nov 11, 2014

this is a book to love if you're into art and the Impressionists. Gives the history of the movement and the people - especially the art politics as well as the history that shapes the times.

arjunbiswas7 Mar 19, 2013

This book was returned last week

Jan 12, 2011

If you like art, history and travel then Ross King has it all wrapped up in one volume. This book transports you to France in the late 19th century and to the art and artists that gave rise to impressionism. Fascinating, compeling. I suggest you also take out an art book on the period with lots of plates so you can see the paintings about which he writes!

debwalker Dec 10, 2010

"The Paris art world went from celebrating large historical canvases in shades of brown and gray to those featuring riots of color in the decade that King covers so well. Sample factoid: Manet couldn't give away his paintings (any one of which will now cost you in excess of $45 million)."
Top Ten Books of 2010: John McFarland, reviewer

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