Mad Enchantment : Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
by Ross King


Overview -

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

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.  Read more...


 
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Overview

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

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.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781632860125
  • ISBN-10: 1632860120
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Page Count: 416
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Artists, Architects, Photographers
Books > Art > History - General

 
BookPage Reviews

Monet's last works

If you imagined Claude Monet at work on his late masterpieces, the Water Lilies, you might picture him seated in his garden in Giverny, France, placidly dabbing blues and purples onto canvas, capturing watery impressions with ease. The portrait that Ross King offers in Mad Enchantment is far more complicated. In 1914, Monet was 73 and the world’s highest-paid artist. He’d already spent several years painting views of his pond, but now he envisioned a grouping of massive canvases that would evoke a “watery aquarium.” It took him the rest of his life.

King, the author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and The Judgment of Paris, has done his research—the book contains 40 pages of endnotes—but he spins a readable narrative. Mad Enchantment tells the story of Monet’s efforts to bring his vision to reality, even as the Great War and all its privations interrupted. King details Monet’s struggles, how he approached technical concerns such as displaying the enormous canvases in an oval gallery, and how he coped as his “prodigious” eyes began to fail. And contrary to popular belief (and Monet’s claims), he didn’t just dash off his paintings en plein air—he reworked them at length in his studio, often adding layers of paint.

This is also the story of Monet’s enduring friendship with Georges Clemenceau, who led France in the Great War. It was Clemenceau who persuaded Monet to donate his unfinished Water Lilies to France and to complete them (and to stop being a pain in the behind about it, as Clemenceau termed it). King uses the lens of this friendship to show Monet’s often-cantankerous personality (“frightful old hedgehog,” Clemenceau called him) as well as his abiding love for his family and friends.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews