Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

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Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

About the Author:

Ross King is the author of Brunelleschi's Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, The Judgment of Paris, Leonardo and the Last Supper, and Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, along with two novels, Ex Libris and Domino. He has twice won Canada's Governor General's Award, and his work has been nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award, the Charles Taylor Prize, and the National Award for Arts Writing. He has lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, the Aspen Institute, and the Frick Collection, and in Florence, Milan, Paris, and Giverny. Born in Canada, he now lives near Oxford with his wife, Melanie.

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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
  • Hardcover
  • 416 pages
  • Bloomsbury USA, 2016
  • ISBN-10: 1632860120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1632860125
Editorial Reviews

"Ross King’s Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies is an engaging and authoritative portrait of the aged artist and his travails. . . the Monet who emerges from King's pages is a sympathetic and vivid character. . . A moving portrait of the artist as an old man." - Deborah Solomon, New York Times Book Review

 

"King, author of books on Michelangelo, Leonardo and Machiavelli, offers a well-researched and in-depth account, based on Monet's letters and the reminiscences and writings of his many friends and admirers. . . . Readers will come away with an enhanced understanding of Monet's art, about which King is insightful and articulate. And when King animates the colorful politics of Monet's France, the book sparkles." - Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

 

"[A] sensitive, deeply researched and altogether delightful biography." - Newsday

 

"A vivid account of Claude Monet (1840-1926) facing his greatest artistic challenge in the last years of his life. . . . King elegantly reveals the soul of a great artist, the last impressionist standing at the end of one of history's most remarkable art movements." - starred review, Kirkus

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