Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society

Robert Herbert, Author
Robert Herbert, Author Yale University Press $90 (312p) ISBN 978-0-300-04262-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
After Baron Haussmann remodeled Paris in the 1850s and '60s, the city's clear perspectivesbroad streets and vast squares, cafes and theatersbecame the raw material for paintings by Manet, Degas, Renoir, Morisot, Monet and Caillebotte. This provocative rewarding study starts with that architectural premise, then goes on to consider individual Impressionists in the context of the social forces that shaped their art. Renoir, a working-class boy who climbed out of poverty by aspiring to a life of ease, conjured up a fleshy Arcadia that reflected city-dwellers' longing for social harmony; his sin, according to Yale art-history professor Herbert, was self-delusion. Degas infused painting with caricature, unmasking upper-class hypocrisy. Picture after picture is given a fresh, often unexpected reading, and the 320 plates (two-thirds in color) are deftly interwoven with the sprightly narrative. The study is a visual and intellectual feast. BOMC alternate. (October)
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