Impressionism: Reflections and Perceptions

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Rather than isolating individual Impressionists and their paintings, the acclaimed art historian Meyer Schapiro has woven together the story of their complicated associations and their interactive aesthetics to present an Impressionism concerned with subject matter and experimentation with light.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Transcribed and reworked from 1961 lectures at Indiana University, these chapters show the late Columbia University art historian Schapiro (1904-1996) in genial, but still Olympian form. Rarely in the post-war (or at least post-Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art) era has a writer revealed such a breadth of interest in art and literary erudition as well. Schapiro, otherwise noted for his studies on medieval, renaissance and modern art, does not shy away from difficult topics like "Impressionism and Science" or "Impressionism and History." Other chapters examine painterly subjects like "The Railroad," "The City," "Performers," "Portraiture" and "Photography." In rolling phrases recalling the clarity of an earlier era of English prose, Schapiro makes some surprising observations, such as quoting the poet Cavafy to prove the "persistence of Impressionist attitudes in the twentieth century." Schapiro also invokes Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski and makes an interesting case that Henry James was a more authentically impressionistic writer than was Proust. Finally, the author of Modern Art, shows an understanding of today's average fan of French impressionist paintings who doesn't care much for the detailed study of art, but "enjoys nature, spectacle, holiday pleasures, and recreation." Too often what passes today for "popular" art history is more truly a forum for overheated self-aggrandizement by writers who bear a disheartening resemblance to failed pro wrestlers. Schapiro's refined focus on the art, not on himself, and his lucid prose style are a genteel, much-welcome blast from the mandarin past. (Oct.)
Schapiro (art history, Columbia U.) illuminates Impressionism through a broad spectrum of disciplines, including history, science, economics, politics, linguistics, philosophy, and literature. Schapiro, who died in 1996 at the age of 92, held professorships at Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia during his career. He looks at the way impressionists dealt with the city, the railroad, portraiture, performers, nature and the environment, and perspective. The book is filled with color reproductions of the works discussed. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
The charisma that charged Schapiro's (Words, Scripts, and Pictures, 1996, etc.) legendary lectures on art history unfortunately doesn't translate to these expanded but cardboard- textured essays about Impressionism. A scholar's scholar, Schapiro (190496) applied himself to all possible angles and gradations of the subject of Impressionism, including different elements of subject matter (the city, nature, portraiture), different disciplines (science, history, literature), as well as the overall historical matrix that spawned the new artistic vision. "Impression" had already been a buzzword in the French press and culture in the 19th century; Impressionniste was coined by a writer who extrapolated the adjective from Impression Sunrise, one of Monet's paintings. Although science was still at odds with Impressionism's ideas about perception, which favored sensations over objects, the moment had arrived for subjectivity to saturate representation, supplanting the "then-current official taste for history, myth, and imagined worlds." A number of painters shared the ideas and formal aspirations of Impressionism, but Schapiro elevates Monet above the rest for his innovation, impressionability, and versatility, and devotes a lengthy chapter to him. While Schapiro is thorough (the book can't be blamed for overlooking anything), he's rarely exciting—only a little verve might have served to better illuminate what was, after all, a pivotal moment in art history and the foundation of Modernism.

Tentative in tone and slow in transition, these essays are, sadly, pale remnants of a great mind and an illustrious scholar.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807614204
  • Publisher: Braziller, George Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 8.83 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Table of Contents

Prefatory Note 7
Introduction: The Seer, the Seeing, and the Seen 9
I The Concept of Impressionism 21
II The Aesthetic and Method of Impressionism 43
III Nature and the Environment 79
IV The Railroad 96
V The City 108
VI The Performers 123
VII The Crowd, the Stroller, and Perspective as Social Form 144
VIII Portraiture and Photography 153
IX The Exemplary Impressionist: Claude Monet 179
X Impressionism and Science 206
XI Impressionism in History 230
XII Impressionism and Literature 268
Conclusion: The Reaction to Impressionism 299
Notes 325
List of Names 345
List of Illustrations 348
Index 353
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