It’s time for “Writer Wednesday”, when I discuss another writer and his or her book.
Today’s subject is the Impressionists. Now, their paintings fill postcards, t-shirts, even umbrellas. When they first emerged in the 19th century, though, they were far from loved. Shunned by the establishment, they struggled for a place in the artistic world.
The rise of Impressionism is detailed in Ross King’s, Judgement of Paris. More than just a fascinating piece of non-fiction, King has crafted a narrative that treats the painters as characters with engaging stories that the readers care about. He also includes considerable background history and its effects on the painters of the time.
In his book, King introduced me to Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier, a painter who clung to realism with such exuberance that he built a train in his yard to travel alongside a galloping horse and catch its features most realistically. Clearly an artistic genius, the rise of Impressionism replaced men such as Meissonier. His skilfully crafted horses and portraits of Napoleon fell away, as Napoleonic France was replaced by a modern vision at the end of the century.
The title conveys an effective literal meaning. The Salon, with its artistic authority, ruled over the careers of painters. The judgement, housed in Paris, made or broke their careers. But, the Greek story of “the judgement of Paris”, the classical story that would have been best exposed by Classicists such as Meissonier, also seems to suggest a meaning for the title. In the contest of art, with its now ubiquitous popularity, Impressionism seems to be strongly holding the golden apple of who is fairest of them all.
My best to you all,