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Ines Janet Engelmann

Forfatter af Impressionism: 50 Paintings You Should Know

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Omfatter også følgende navne: Ines Engelmann, Ines J. Engelmann

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I’m not a connoisseur by any means, but this was one of the most enjoyable books on art that I’ve read. The other I suppose was this collection:

In this case, the “pairing” was not poetry, but descriptions of each painting, though not in a heavy-handed or overly intellectual way. Each page opens to the painting on the right and the year it was created; on the left the text cites some points of interest which vary between the artwork itself, its subjects, or personal stories about the artists and their families. It starts with Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” in 1863 and progresses through Corinth’s “After the Bath” in 1906. There are then further brief notes on the artists in the back, which among other things, allowed seeing a photo of Berthe Morisot and then comparing it to her image in Manet’s “The Balcony”.

There is a clear reference in Monet’s “Impressionism, Sunrise” (1872) to works of J.M.W. Turner from decades before, and perhaps “The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken” (1839) or one of his other works should have been #1 here to be a bit provocative, but no matter. The selection of paintings is outstanding, many of which are probably instantly recognizable and others of which are less so, but I won’t focus on my favorites here, and instead pass along the interest anecdotes and side commentary which elevated the book for me.

One learns of the artists’ struggles: Morisot fighting the belief that “real” art was a profession for men only, and Cassatt’s father going so far as to say he’d rather have her dead than attempt it. Liebermann fighting anti-German sentiment, as the French (including their artists) still had the sting of the Franco-Prussian war in their minds. Monet fleeing creditors in the days before “making it”, abandoning his pregnant wife Camille, and slashing nearly 200 paintings at one point. Sisley and Pissarro’s poverty, and Cezanne’s paintings being cut up into smaller pieces of artwork to increase sales.

Renoir’s interest in breasts, and quipping “A breast is round and warm. If God had not created the breasts of woman, I would probably never have become a painter!” This alongside “A Young Girl with Daisies” (1889), where I note, uh, that’s not all she has. Ahem. Sorry. His painting of his lovers, for example, Marguerite in “Nude in the Sunlight” (1876), and the 17-year-old Suzanne Valadon who slept with and modeled for several painters, Renoir included, appearing in “Dance in the City” (1883). That’s a popular painting which reflects the joy of togetherness (in a complimentary way to “Dance in the Country” from 1882); it’s ironic to me that Valadon was pregnant at the time and probably didn’t know who the father was.

These guys were far from perfect. Toulouse-Latrec was addicted to alcohol and led a dissolute lifestyle, spent days at a time in expensive brothels, and died at 37 of a protracted case of syphilis. There is certainly nothing attractive about the used-up, wasted, exhausted and dejected look of the women in “The Sofa” (1894-96), but what a perfect accompaniment to that information. Gaugin left his career as a stockbroker and abandoned his family to paint following the 1882 stock exchange crash. Van Gogh wanted to set up a salon for artists in the south of France, yet was extraordinarily awkward and lonely, and said “I do not have to see so many painters who, as human beings, I despise.” It’s sad that towards the end he wanted to reconcile with Gaugin, but the two would never see each other again following their famous argument, and that his delusions would cause his neighbors to force him to be re-institutionalized multiple times.

The artist at the vanguard of the movement, Manet, comes across as an interesting character, in his challenging, confrontational, unapologetic style, in his reading and friendship with the gritty realist Zola (resulting in “Nana”, 1877), and in his fondness for going to the horse races with Degas.

Monet does as well. I wasn’t aware that he had gotten the director of the Saint-Lazare train station to delay trains, close platforms, and deliberately have the locomotives fill the air with as much smoke as he wanted to get the right effect for his 1877 painting. He also damned up a branch of the Seine, overriding the concerns of his neighbors, to create the pond at Giverny featured in “Bridge over a Pool of Water Lilies” (1899) and so many other of his works. Whereas Degas deliberately tried not to recreate what he saw in front of him (“a painting is, first and foremost, the product of an artistic fantasy”), Monet carried dozens of canvases with him and literally switched between them while painting as light and shadows changed in the attempt to come as close as possible to recreating the impressions of a scene over a spectrum of conditions. In the case of the Houses of Parliament, he took this to an extreme, surrounding himself with 80 (80!) canvases and frantically switching between them. It was interesting to see Monet’s focus on the depiction of light evolve over the years.

My only teeny tiny complaint was that the paintings that were occasionally inset (not the main 50), as well as those included in the introduction, were too small. This made contrasting, for example, Renoir and Monet’s pictures of La Grenouillere in 1869 a little difficult. On the other hand, it was interesting to read on that page that the meaning, “frog pond”, actually referred to “loose” young women who slept around, and who frequented that area.

And how great it was to read of Manet whispering to Monet about Renoir, while the two (Renoir and Monet) were side-by-side and painting Monet’s wife and son: “The young man has no talent! … You’re his friend, tell him he should stop painting!”; although caveated as perhaps Monet’s invention or a joke of Manet’s, wouldn’t the garden in Argenteuil at that moment in 1874 have been a great place to be? And the book transports you there, at least a little bit, as all great art does. Enjoy with a glass of wine and let your mind freely interpret the paintings before moving from one to the next.
… (mere)
3 stem
gbill | Jun 1, 2013 |


½ 4.5

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