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Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
     

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

5.0 1
by Ross King
 

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From bestselling author Ross King, a brilliant portrait of legendary artist Claude Monet and the story of his most memorable achievement, the water lilies.

Claude Monet is perhaps the world's most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Seeing them in museums around the world,

Overview

From bestselling author Ross King, a brilliant portrait of legendary artist Claude Monet and the story of his most memorable achievement, the water lilies.

Claude Monet is perhaps the world's most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Seeing them in museums around the world, viewers are transported by the power of Monet's brush into a peaceful world of harmonious nature. Monet himself intended them to provide “an asylum of peaceful meditation.” Yet, as Ross King reveals in his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases belie the intense frustration Monet experienced at the difficulties of capturing the fugitive effects of light, water, and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life.

Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then 73 and one of the world's wealthiest, most celebrated painters, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision--what Paul Cezanne called "the most prodigious eye in the history of painting"--was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Linking great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around it, Ross King presents the most intimate and revealing portrait of an iconic figure in world culture--from his lavish lifestyle and tempestuous personality to his close friendship with the fiery war leader Georges Clemenceau, who regarded the Water Lilies as one of the highest expressions of the human spirit.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Deborah Solomon
…an engaging and authoritative portrait…The Monet who emerges from King's pages is a sympathetic and vivid character—less the wizened patriarch of French Impressionism than a crotchety septuagenarian afflicted with toothaches…King…has made it a practice-bordering-on-formula to take on just one work of art at a time. This lends his books a welcome focus. His prose is admirably clear…Mad Enchantment offers a moving portrait of the artist as an old man, and usefully shatters the myth of him as a lone genius sequestered in his garden, communing with the birds.
From the Publisher

"Ross King’s Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies is an engaging and authoritative portrait of the aged artist and his travails. . . the Monet who emerges from King's pages is a sympathetic and vivid character. . . A moving portrait of the artist as an old man." - Deborah Solomon, New York Times Book Review

"King, author of books on Michelangelo, Leonardo and Machiavelli, offers a well-researched and in-depth account, based on Monet's letters and the reminiscences and writings of his many friends and admirers. . . . Readers will come away with an enhanced understanding of Monet's art, about which King is insightful and articulate. And when King animates the colorful politics of Monet's France, the book sparkles." - Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

"[A] sensitive, deeply researched and altogether delightful biography." - Newsday

"A vivid account of Claude Monet (1840-1926) facing his greatest artistic challenge in the last years of his life. . . . King elegantly reveals the soul of a great artist, the last impressionist standing at the end of one of history's most remarkable art movements." - starred review, Kirkus

"Biographer Ross King once again puts a human face on the historical narrative of an artistic triumph . . . . [Monet] described himself as 'at war with nature and time,' and 'Mad Enchantment' captures that war with page-turning intensity." - Christian Science Monitor

“If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, than anyone who is not drawn into Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King is truly visually impaired . . . Mad Enchantment is a book to be read and enjoyed; it is a learning experience for those both learned and inexperienced in the world of art. Ross King does an exemplary job of bringing Claude Monet back to life. This one belongs on the bookshelf within easy reach.” - New York Journal of Books

“Mr. King's portrait of Monet--as driven, largely generous, sometimes petulant, never quite cruel--is finely balanced. . . Mr. King’s first-rate 'The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism' (2006) centered on youth and aesthetic revolt. 'Mad Enchantment,' by contrast, celebrates the twilit culmination of the Impressionist movement. Taken together, they are satisfying and informative bookends.” - Wall Street Journal

"King, an exhaustive researcher and a pleasing writer, has produced a perceptive chronicle of war and friendship, shifting tastes and lasting art -- and of the painted reflections of a pond that became a mirror." - Christopher Sullivan, The Associated Press

"King is ever the brilliant docent murmuring the right, telling details and critical backstories in our ear as we move through space and time. He ultimately brings the man and his work into perfect focus while increasing his audience's interest in both all the more. VERDICT This work is essential." - starred review, Library Journal

"Best-selling King (Leonardo and the Last Supper, 2012) consummately meshes biography with art history as he turns the creation of one resounding masterpiece into a portal onto the artist's life. . . . Never before has the full drama and significance of Monet’s magnificent Water Lilies been conveyed with such knowledge and perception, empathy and wonder." - starred review, Booklist

"King's marvelous storytelling draws us back to these sublime, timeless paintings, so remote from -- and yet, paradoxically, so necessary a part of -- our own unquiet times." - Dallas Morning News

"Ross King has a knack for explaining complicated processes in a manner that is not only lucid but downright intriguing . . . Fascinating." - Los Angeles Times on BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME

"An altogether enchanting tale." - Dava Sobel, author of LONGITUDE and GALILEO'S DAUGHTER, on BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME

"[A] dramatic, vivid, and brainy mix of biography and art history." - starred review, Booklist on LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER

"A fascinating and in-depth story of one of the world's most famous works of art that will appeal to general readers as well as academics. Highly recommended." - starred review, Library Journal on LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER

"Riveting . . . Such material could have been tedious in less nimble literary hands. But so thorough is King's grasp of the Second Empire's cultural politics, so ironic his wit and choice of detail, that his text remains a page-turner throughout." - Los Angeles Times on THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS

"Scrupulously researched, written with wit and panache, Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling is a sublime peek into a remarkable era." - Miami Herald on MICHELANGELO AND THE POPE'S CEILING

Library Journal
★ 06/15/2016
Readers will rejoice at this critical and social "biography" of Monet's stunningly ambitious final signature painting cycle, Water Lilies, a deeply immersive companion to the author's memorable The Judgement of Paris. Here King (Brunelleschi's Dome) turns his mind, heart, and eyes to Claude Monet (1840–1926), his prolific oeuvre, his celebrated home, and his carefully curated gardens at Giverny in northern France. Beginning the story on the eve of World War I, King takes readers through the 1920s. He shows us an aging, ailing, yet determined artist, one of the last surviving impressionists in a time that celebrated the "wild beasts," aka les fauves, and monitored the seismic stirrings of the war, cubism, and abstraction. Monet desperately needed to make his final creative statement and longed to enjoy the enduring prestige of a museum (L'Orangerie) devoted to his purpose-made art. Portraying such iconic characters as Monet's friend/champion George Clemenceau, King is ever the brilliant docent murmuring the right, telling details and critical backstories in our ear as we move through space and time. He ultimately brings the man and his work into perfect focus while increasing his audience's interest in both all the more. VERDICT This work is essential. Expect strong demand.—Barbara Genco, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-06-22
A vivid account of Claude Monet (1840-1926) facing his greatest artistic challenge in the last years of his life.As King (Leonardo and the Last Supper, 2012, etc.) poignantly shows, neither failing eyesight, frail health, nor a raging war on his doorstep could stop the beloved painter. In the spring of 1914, with France on the cusp of World War I, Monet had fallen into depression after the deaths of his wife and, later, his son, but it was seemingly unthinkable that he would put away his brushes. Fortunately, his friend Georges Clemenceau, a politician and newspaper owner, convinced him to work again. In his 70s, Monet, esteemed for his paintings of haystacks, the Rouen Cathedral, and poplars, all "evocations of an essential Frenchness," began to work on his last and most ambitious project, a series of water lily paintings that continued to obsess him until his death at 86. The collection included "forty-five to fifty panels making up fourteen separate stories" (the total length was more than 200 meters), and many are now exhibited in museums worldwide. It was the apotheosis of "Monet's decades-long obsession," and he sometimes worked "on multiple canvases simultaneously," rotating them to capture a particular quality in the moment. Indeed, the novelist Proust described Monet as a painter of time. King effectively puts readers at the painter's side as he rails against the impossible task he set for himself, suffering the "tortures" of painting and slashing canvases. As in his superb The Judgment of Paris (2006), about the rise of impressionism, the author sets this fascinating portrayal of the larger-than-life artist—known equally for his "obstreperous temperament" and warm hospitality, for his love of gardening, family life, fast cars, and gourmet food—against a backdrop of the raging war, politics, history, and changing tastes in art. King elegantly reveals the soul of a great artist, the last impressionist standing at the end of one of history's most remarkable art movements.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781632860125
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
09/06/2016
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
11,373
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Ross King is the author of Brunelleschi's Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, The Judgment of Paris, Leonardo and the Last Supper, and Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, along with two novels, Ex Libris and Domino. He has twice won Canada's Governor General's Award, and his work has been nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award, the Charles Taylor Prize, and the National Award for Arts Writing. He has lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, the Aspen Institute, and the Frick Collection, and in Florence, Milan, Paris, and Giverny. Born in Canada, he now lives near Oxford with his wife, Melanie.

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Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LinNC 8 months ago
I have always loved Monet's work, and suspected he was a complicated person...had no idea how complicated though! If you enjoy his artwork and want to learn more him - particularly the evolution of the water lilies paintings - I recommend this book! It's beautifully written.