Mad Enchantment by Ross King
Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

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The book is short on analysis and fails to definitively explain the role played by Monet’s illness in the development of his late style. Nonetheless, “Mad Enchantment” offers a moving portrait of the artist as an old man, and usefully shatters the myth of him as a lone genius sequestered in his garden, communing with the birds.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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 Ross King

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Ross King is the highly praised author of Brunelleschi's Dome (the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year in 2000), Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (on the New York Times extended bestseller list), The Judgment of Paris, Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, and two novels, Ex Libris and Domino. He lives outside Oxford in England.
 
Published September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury USA. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Mad Enchantment
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Deborah Solomon on Dec 02 2016

The book is short on analysis and fails to definitively explain the role played by Monet’s illness in the development of his late style. Nonetheless, “Mad Enchantment” offers a moving portrait of the artist as an old man, and usefully shatters the myth of him as a lone genius sequestered in his garden, communing with the birds.

Read Full Review of Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet... | See more reviews from NY Times

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by ELFRIEDA ABBE on Sep 09 2016

In his splendid “Mad Enchantment: Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies,” Ross King brings to life the moving story of the aging artist’s last and most ambitious project...

Read Full Review of Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet... | See more reviews from Star Tribune