IMPRESSIONIST QUARTET: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt

Jeffrey Meyers, Author
Jeffrey Meyers, Author . Harcourt $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-15-101076-9
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-15-603240-7
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The author of biographies of Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham, Meyers highlights here the intertwined lives of four Impressionist painters. Commencing with Edouard Manet (1832–1883), Meyers chronicles the artist's angst-ridden life as a bohemian and social rebel whose paintings were repeatedly rejected by the French art establishment. Berthe Morisot (1841–1895) is chiefly investigated in relation to Manet, with whom Meyers suggests she was romantically involved; she ultimately married Manet's brother (Manet was already married). Meyers's discussions of Morisot's paintings are engaging and unpretentious, as are his interpretations of all of the artists' works. The author pays more attention to Edgar Degas (1834–1917) than he does to American-born expat Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), whom he characterizes as a prickly, self-effacing woman with "a formidable array of off-putting qualities" who painted overly hygienic children. While Degas valued Cassatt as an artist and friend, Meyers says, he found her physically unappealing. As a glimpse into the context and dramas surrounding some of the world's most famous paintings, Meyers's book is lively and subjective, but not always entirely convincing. (May)

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