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

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

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    READ WITH CLARITY AND VIGOR - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    Novelist and art historian Ross King has won a loyal following with his intriguing bestsellers Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling. His scholarly accounts paired with the wit and wisdom of a born storyteller have captivated all. This author continues to educate and entertain with 'The Judgment of Paris.' Now, King takes us to Paris in the middle of the 19th century, the time between two important exhibitions - the Salon De Refuses in 1863 and the first showing of Impressionist paintings in 1874. To chronicle this tumultuous period in the world of art, King wisely tells the story through the eyes of two men, rivals for approval - Ernest Meissonier, a famous painter who had already achieved success, and Edouard Manet, a leader of the avant-garde. Yes, the two artists were poles apart in their artistic approach, but there was more to their dislike of one another. During the Franco-Prussian War, Manet was a staff officer and Meissonier his superior. Meissonier, mean spirited and very full of himself, treated Manet coldly, never acknowledging the fact that he was a fellow painter. Of course, in Meissonier's eyes he had no colleagues after all he was the most famous painter of his time, and recipient of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. Meissonier's work was predictable, full of detail in his historical scenes, yet his paintings were in great demand. Manet, on the other hand, enjoyed no such popularity. His work was denigrated by the Salon, citing moral and artistic grounds - nudity was not acceptable unless it was portrayed in the distant past, certainly not in a painting showing a nude woman and men in dress of that time. Manet did not suffer criticism with equanimity in fact, he challenged one of his detractors to a duel. This was a landmark time in the history of art, and King recalls it with vibrancy, recalling the manners and mores of that day. Voice performer Tristan Layton reads both the abridged and unabridged versions with clarity and vigor as artists and writers of that day are also called into play. Very highly recommended. - Gail Cooke

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