Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
Claude Monet's water lily paintings are among the most iconic and beloved works of art of the past century. Yet these entrancing images were created at a time of terrible private turmoil and sadness for the artist. The dramatic history behind these paintings is little known; Ross King's Mad Enchantment tells the full story for the first time and, in the process, presents a compelling and original portrait of one of our most popular and cherished artists. By the outbreak of war in 1914, Monet, then in his mid-seventies, was one of the world's most famous and successful painters, with a large house in the country, a fleet of automobiles and a colossal reputation. However, he had virtually given up painting following the death of his wife Alice in 1911 and the onset of blindness a year later. Nonetheless, it was during this period of sorrow, ill health and creative uncertainty that - as the guns roared on the Western Front - he began the most demanding and innovative paintings he had ever attempted. Encouraged by close friends such as Georges Clemenceau, France's dauntless prime minister, Monet would work on these magnificent paintings throughout the war years and then for the rest of his life. So obsessed with his monumental task that the village barber was summoned to clip his hair as he worked beside his pond, he covered hundreds of yards of canvas with shimmering layers of pigment. As his ambitions expanded with his paintings, he began planning what he intended to be his legacy to the world: the `Musee Claude Monet' in the Orangerie in Paris. Drawing on letters and memoirs and focusing on this remarkable period in the artist's life, Mad Enchantment gives an intimate portrayal of Claude Monet in all his tumultuous complexity, and firmly places his water lily paintings among the greatest achievements in the history of art.
From bestselling author and art historian Ross King, the full history of how Claude Monet created the beloved Water Lilies at the gardens of Giverny, and the fascinating story of the last decade of his life.
An altogether enchanting tale. -- Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, on Brunelleschi's Dome [King] consummately meshes biography with art history as he turns the creation of one resounding masterpiece into a portal on the artist's life ... Writing with a historical novelist's attunement to the interplay of peace, temperament, and society, King brings readers to Giverny ... King sumptuously describes the pleasures of Giverny ... Never before has the full drama and significance of Monet's magnificent Water Lilies been conveyed with such knowledge and perception, empathy and wonder' * Booklist * Writing with a historical novelist's attunement to the interplay of place, temperament, and society, King brings readers to Giverny [and] sumptuously describes [its] pleasures ... Never before has the full drama and significance of Monet's magnificent Water Lilies been conveyed with such knowledge and perception, empathy and wonder * Booklist * [King] turns his mind, heart, and eyes to Claude Monet ... King is ever the brilliant docent murmuring the right, telling details and critical backstories in our ear as we move through space and time. He ultimately brings the man and his work into perfect focus while increasing his audience's interest in both all the more ... This work is essential. * Library Journal * Vivid ... 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 * Kirkus * King is a skilled guide to Monet's bastardy. This book, like his earlier ones, is as much about the artist's times as his work * The Times * The closing decades of an artist's life do not generally make the biographer's heart beat faster, but Claude Monet is one of a handful of painters who bucks the pattern of an irrelevant old age. ... A fine, fluent book ... A careful unpicking of cherished art-historical narratives -- Katheryn Hughes * Guardian * Ross King has a track record when it comes to turning such art stories into gripping narratives ... His method is expansive, including personal, political, social and cultural context in a way that would horrify some art purists. Never mind, it works. This latest, perfectly engrossing book is, at one level, simply the story of how the late lilies - hundreds of yards of them on a series of gigantic canvases - came to be painted. At another level, however, it is the story of art and its meanings amid the carnage of the twentieth century * Sunday Times * A homage to how the genius of Monet's extraordinary eye came finally to be realised ... King has a skill for turning over unlikely narrative stones -- Lucy Lethbridge * Literary Review * Ross King's Monet might not be an easy man to like, but King is also very good with the wider picture, and the fascination of this lively and entertaining book lies as much in its portrait of first-world-war France as it does in its depiction of Giverny ... But it is in the period detail and character portraits that Mad Enchantment really comes to life -- Honor Clerk * Spectator * Lyrical and dynamic * Catholic Herald * Ross King lyrically explores the personal paradise that Monet constructed at Giverny ... King's title sounds overexcited, but he justifies it -- Books of the Year * Observer * `Engrossing history ... This scholarly story of Monet's greatest project is told with tremendous humour and is filled with fascinating insights' * History Today *