Robert L. Herbert, after a long career at Yale, is now Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Mount Holyoke. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and has been named Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. Among his books are Impressionism: Art, Leisure and Parisian Society, Nature’s Workshop: Renoir’s Writings on the Decorative Arts, and Seurat: Drawings and Paintings. His most recent book is Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte.

Godfather of the Modern?

Paul Cézanne: Madame Cézanne in Blue, 1888-1890
Paul Cézanne’s art is a vein of gold that’s been constantly mined but never exhausted. Since the early twentieth century, successive generations of artists have extracted nuggets and reflections from it. Cézanne was not well known until the late 1890s when he was “discovered” by young artists who were rebelling …

Cunning Claude Monet

In May this year, art-minded travelers could have seen four Monet exhibitions on successive days, going from the Wildenstein gallery in New York to the Cleveland Museum of Art, to London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and then to Tokyo’s new National Art Center. That four shows of Monet’s work could …

Unparallel Lives

Ross King’s new book is the third in which he writes on moments in art history. His first two, Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture (2000), and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (2003), were well-regarded best sellers. He is not an art historian (he has a Ph.D. in …

Art Under Siege

At the outset of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant sent William I of Prussia a message which the French, on seeing a copy, interpreted as expressing a position of benevolent neutrality. In December, after the ignominious collapse of the French armies, Victor Hugo bitterly accused …

An Anarchist’s Art

On March 21, 1890, the Petite Presse in Paris gave an account of the visit by the president of France, Sadi Carnot, to the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. “President Carnot had himself introduced to Messieurs Seurat and Signac, two young impressionists, who made themselves available to …

Spirits on Canvas

The turbulent two months that Gauguin and van Gogh spent together in Arles in 1888 have been described in movies and popular novels as well as by art historians. They were, in many accounts, peintres maudits, quintessential Romantic artists who were mocked and misunderstood by conventional society in their own …

Goodbye to All That

We would look in vain in the museum world, where most of us are exposed to art history, for the presence of T.J. Clark, one of the most distinctive and influential writers about the art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although a very independent scholar who has argued with …

Monet Our Contemporary

This past summer the Frick Collection announced it had borrowed a Monet to accompany its own picture by the artist, Vétheuil, Winter (1879). That the two canvases could be treated as a special exhibition in this citadel of old masters is a token of the vast claim that Monet now …

Renoir the Radical

There are no thorns among Renoir’s roses and, for many, that is the problem. His figures have none of Degas’s troubling psychology, none of Manet’s puzzling abbreviations of traditional three-dimensional modeling, none of Cézanne’s crumpled geometry, none of Monet’s emotive brushwork, and hardly any of Pissarro’s appeal to rural nostalgia.

Degas & Women

At first glance, Degas’s representation of prostitutes and women bathing might seem poor candidates for the admiration of art historians and critics who are women. Women, moreover, will take little pleasure in his aphorisms, for example: “Art is a vice; one does not marry it legitimately, one rapes it.”[^1] Yet …

Impressionists on Stage

Floating on the sea of memory is an anecdote about a young artist—I think it was Géricault—whose teacher told him that his paintings resembled nature the way a violin case resembles a violin. So, too, an exhibition of paintings and its catalog are related in much the same way as …

Art and ‘Accuracy’

A random sampling of the picture titles and prose in Mr. Weisberg’s book takes us back to another world. Among the pictures he includes: The Catechism Lesson, All Saints’ Day, Innocent Wedding, In Front of the Relics, Forlorn, Winter Work, The Last Furrow, A Hopeless Dawn, Peasants Lunching in a …

Monet’s Turf

Monet by Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge could be called a “cocktail table book,” but it is far superior to most books of that kind, and for this reason deserves attention. It is also the latest in a flurry of publications devoted to the famous Impressionist and prompts an examination …