The Judgment of Paris
The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism
By Ross King
(Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802714664, 464pp.)
Publication Date: January 10, 2006
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While the Civil War raged in America, another very different revolution was beginning to take shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been, at its inception, quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas, would at times resemble a battlefield; and, as Ross King reveals, Impressionism would reorder both history and culture as it resonated around the world.
The Judgment of Paris chronicles the dramatic decade between two famous exhibitions--the scandalous Salon des Refuses in 1863 and the first Impressionist showing in 1874--set against the rise and dramatic fall of Napoleon III and the Second Empire after the Franco-Prussian War. A tale of many artists, it revolves around the lives of two, described as "the two poles of art"--Ernest Meissonier, the most famous and successful painter of the 19th century, hailed for his precision and devotion to history; and Edouard Manet, reviled in his time, who nonetheless heralded the most radical change in the history of art since the Renaissance. Out of the fascinating story of their parallel lives, illuminated by their legendary supporters and critics--Zola, Delacroix, Courbet, Baudelaire, Whistler, Monet, Hugo, Degas, and many more--Ross King shows that their contest was not just about Art, it was about competing visions of a rapidly changing world.
With a novelist's skill and the insight of an historian, King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and a revolutionary movement had the power to electrify and divide a nation.
Born and raised in Canada, Ross King has lived in England since 1992. In 2002--03, two books of his were published in the United States, Domino, about the world of masquerades and opera in 18th century London and the New York Times bestselling Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling.
Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003 in the category of critisicm, in Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling King tells the story of the four years--1508-1512.--Michelangelo spent painting the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine chapel. In this extraordinary book, he presents a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life of the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early 16th century Rome.
King's highly acclaimed Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, was an instant hit in the U.S., landing on the New York Times, Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists and becoming a handselling favorite among booksellers. Brunelleschi's Dome was chosen "The 2000 Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year" and a Book Sense 76 top ten selection.
Anyone familiar with Ross King's writing knows that he has an astonishing knowledge of European cultural history. He originally planned a career in academia, earning his Ph.D. in English Literature and moving to England to assume a research position at the University of London.
King lives near Oxford, England, in the historic town of Woodstock, the site of Blenheim Palace. He is a devoted cyclist and hikes regularly in both the Pyrenees and the Canadian Rockies.