Book Club

29 Nov

We read “The private Lives of the Impressionists” by Sue Roe for book club this month.

This is another rather long book, and I found that a lot of it read kind of like a textbook. Some of it was a bit of a struggle to just casually read. There are lots of names and dates and locations and geography, as well as a few photos (I would have liked to have more photos of the various painters artwork).

Impression, sunrise: Claude Monet

Impression, sunrise: Claude Monet

Yet there are some really great stories and insights into the Impressionist painters. The book worked very hard to be chronological and introduce the various people as they came into the picture. We meet lots of people before the ‘group’ ever starts to form. It was a long time before there actually was a ‘group’ of Impressionist painters. For a long time they were just various painters doing their own thing, and slowly they met up with each other and started to influence each other and be more organized. The Impressionist label didn’t come for many years after they started.

The Railway: Edouard Manet

The Railway: Edouard Manet

I wish I was familiar with the Paris area. I imagine the book would offer up some different insights to someone who knew the landscape and the city and surrounding areas. I also wish I knew some French. There were a lot of French phrases and words in the book that I had no idea what they meant. It would have been helpful to have the English words in parenthesis to help with understanding. Yet I was able to follow along fairly well.

Ballet Rehearsal: Edgar Degas

Ballet Rehearsal: Edgar Degas

The book club discussed some of the various things we noticed about the artists and their lives from reading this book.  One thing that really stood out for us was how they just kept painting and making art throughout their lives. No matter what. They were literally ‘starving artists’ and rarely had any money.  They chose to paint in a new and unproven way, despite the lack of support.  They persevered with the type of art they wanted to create no matter how badly they were criticized and ridiculed and tormented. And they were! It shocked me how horribly they were treated by the general public and the press because they were choosing to paint in a new manner. I understand people not liking it or not really getting it or appreciating it, but the public and the press were extremely rude and mean and insulting to them. It wasn’t until they had their first show in America (many many years later) that they had an audience that was willing to actually contemplate the works without a vicious attack on the artists. Perhaps it can be likened to the beginnings of Rock and Roll music in my lifetime. It wasn’t understood or appreciated and was ridiculed and criticized. Yet the Rock and Rollers kept making their music and moving forward and it eventually was accepted.  I guess change always happens, but a lot of people drag their feet kicking and screaming. It’s the visionaries who make change happen and don’t listen to the naysayers.

La Loge: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

La Loge: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Another interesting thing was how so many people – family and friends and investors – were willing to give them money and pay their bills so they could keep painting (despite not really understanding what they were doing). The artists begged and borrowed money from anyone and everyone in order to survive. They often had to move because they needed cheaper rent or needed to be in a particular locale in order to paint it. They struggled and their families struggled, and yet they continued to make art. Many friends bought art from them for a mere pittance in order to give them funds and support their art (some of those supporters amassed quite the collection).

The Garden at Pontoise: Camille Pissarro

The Garden at Pontoise: Camille Pissarro

I found it quite interesting that Manet (or is it Monet – they are so confusing) was often considered to be the ‘father’ of the Impressionists and the most influential of them, yet he tried very hard to distance himself from the group. He craved the accolades that came with exhibiting through the official Salon and did not want to damage his chances of being accepted by also exhibiting with the group. He never exhibited with the Impressionists at their numerous group shows, and refused to be part of their group or give comments, whenever there was press releases, etc. And yet he is one of the more famous Impressionists.

The Boy in the Red Vest: Paul Cezanne

The Boy in the Red Vest: Paul Cezanne

There were lots of interesting tidbits about the other people involved with the painters. Parents and siblings of course. But also wives and mistresses, children (both legitimate and illegitimate), models, and patrons. There were medical issues, depression, wars, and changes in political powers. The book spanned over 25 years in these artists lives. Think about your own life the past 25 years – how much has changed and how many people have been in and out of your life. The author does her best to find out information about these artists, despite living in a time when there wasn’t daily facebook updates. 🙂

Chasing Butterflies: Berthe Morisot

Chasing Butterflies: Berthe Morisot

The amount of work these artists produced was astounding. Some of them producing 100’s of paintings per year (many works of art were destroyed or lost during the war). Along with sketches and diagrams and notes about art. Many of them experimenting with different mediums, trying watercolor or chalk or sculpture or block printing. They were artists and interested in lots of ideas about art. They shared their ideas with each other and continued to produce art despite the continued rejection and ridicule by the masses, and despite rarely selling anything. They believed in their own creative journey.

The Boating Party: Mary Cassatt

The Boating Party: Mary Cassatt

I admire their perseverance in making their art, although I did sometimes wonder why they didn’t just go get a part-time job somewhere and make their art on the weekends (because they never had any money). But maybe that is just my rational side showing up.

View of the Village: Frederic Bazille

View of the Village: Frederic Bazille

All in all, I enjoyed learning more about this group of Impressionist painters that I have always admired. It was nice to learn that they were just ordinary people with ordinary lives, but with an extraordinary gift of  capturing the fleeting everyday moments surrounding them in a beautiful painterly way.

 

Sailing Boats at Argenteuil: Gustave gaillebotte

Sailing Boats at Argenteuil: Gustave gaillebotte

 

These were artists with passion for what they were doing. They did what was necessary in order to make art every day. They fought among themselves and there were disagreements about the direction of the ‘group’, yet they also supported each other and encouraged each other. It was nice to know they were just like the rest of us.

Lane near a Small Town: Alfred Sisley

Lane near a Small Town: Alfred Sisley

 

All in all, the book was interesting and I learned a lot about some of the Impressionist painters. If you read the book,  please share your thoughts about it below. Let’s have a discussion!

I have added some photos of paintings done by the main group of artists that were part of the Impressionists group. There were other painters that perhaps only came along for a year or so, and many painters who came along after the group was well established and became part of it, but these are the main artists that are part of the book.

 

Edit: Oops I forgot to tell you next month’s book. We will be reading “Education of a Wandering Man” by Louis L’Amour. 🙂

~Deb

Let Your Inner Artist Out to Play

Blue Twig Studio – 5039 N Academy Blvd – Colorado Springs, CO 80918

719-266-1866

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Book Club”

  1. joyofartstudio November 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on Joy's Creative Space and commented:
    I thought Deb had some amazing insight into the Impressionists one of my passions as an artist as well would have loved to live at that time of exciting changes in art.

    Like

    • Deb Prewitt November 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      There are always interesting and wonderful changes in the world, we just don’t always see them when we are in the midst of them. The Impressionists were definitely cutting edge during their time.

      Like

  2. lynnk50 December 10, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    I enjoyed your comments and the thoughts of the group. I thoroughly enjoyed the book – I couldn’t put it down once I got through the first couple of chapters. I liked the reading about the everyday details of their lives. They just had to paint – it was like “breathing” for them. I was also amazed at how everyone else supported them. I posted my review at http://www.lynnitaknoch.blogspot.com/2014/11/nov-book-club-private-lives-of.html.

    Like

    • Deb Prewitt December 11, 2014 at 7:52 am #

      I agree it took a few chapters to get going, but it was quite fascinating. Glad you enjoyed it too.

      Like

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