The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe - review by Henrietta Garnett

Henrietta Garnett

A Palette of Painters

The Private Lives of the Impressionists


Chatto & Windus 368pp £18.99

Sue Roe has written an enjoyable and well-informed account of the private lives of the French Impressionists. She threads their lives together with dexterity and skill: Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir, Bazille, Berthe Morisot and Degas. They were a group of young, idealistic art students who rebelled against the hidebound restrictions of the mid-nineteenth-century Salon des Beaux-Arts. They outraged the public, who viewed their paintings as childlike daubs of unedifying scenes of everyday life: washing hanging out to dry; a dish of apples; steam trains at Saint-Lazare.

This book is primarily the story of how the group met and worked closely together, supporting and encouraging each other, occasionally quarrelling. Roe shows how, by dint of perseverance, they triumphed over the tyranny of the Salon and established themselves as the great painters they indisputably were. It is also,

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