Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies (Hardcover)
Ross King, author of the very wonderful Brunelleschi’s Dome, takes on Monet, and the fascinating story behind the creation, in the last decade of his life, of the enormous water lily paintings that reside in the Orangerie in Paris. King brings Monet to life in his old age, living quietly in his paradise at Giverny. Given to bouts of discouragement and rage (he slashed or burned many canvases), his vision obscured by cataracts, Monet worked obsessively until his death at 86. King focuses on life in the French countryside during WWI and on Monet’s relationship with his closest friend, Georges Clemenceau, war hero and Prime Minister of France, who kept Monet buoyed up with frequent lunches, drinking, smoking, and amusing correspondence. Clemenceau was instrumental in Monet’s donation of the water lily panels to the people of France, although their friendship nearly ended when year after year Monet would not, or could not, let go of the paintings. Highly recommended for art and WWI buffs.— From Lisa
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.
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.