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Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society

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“Long-awaited, this full-scale revision of Impressionism immediately supersedes all other studies in the field.  Herbert rejuvenates even the most famous paintings by seeing them in a dense and flexible context touching on everything from the hierarchy of theater boxes to the role of beer-hall waitresses.  His mind and eye are as supple as his lucid prose, and his command “Long-awaited, this full-scale revision of Impressionism immediately supersedes all other studies in the field.  Herbert rejuvenates even the most famous paintings by seeing them in a dense and flexible context touching on everything from the hierarchy of theater boxes to the role of beer-hall waitresses.  His mind and eye are as supple as his lucid prose, and his command of sociological data is staggering.  In this classic of art history, both art and history are triumphantly reborn.”—Robert Rosenblum, New York University This remarkable book will transform the way we look at Impressionist art.  The culmination of twenty years of research by a preeminent scholar in the field, it fundamentally revises the conventional view of the Impressionist movement and shows for the first time how it was fully integrated into the social and cultural life of the times. Robert L. Herbert explores the themes of leisure and entertainment that dominated the great years of Impressionist painting between 1865 and 1885.  Cafes, opera houses, dance halls, theaters, racetracks, and vacations by the sea were the central subjects of the majority of these paintings, and Herbert relates these pursuits to the transformation of Paris under the Second Empire. Sumptuously illustrated with many of the most beautiful Impressionist images, both familiar and unfamiliar, this book presents provocative new interpretations of a wide range of famous masterpieces.  Artists are seen to be active participants in, as well as objective witnesses to, contemporary life, and there are many profound insights into the social and cultural upheaval of the times. “A social history of Impressionist art that is truly about the art, informed by a penetrating analysis of the ways in which its pictorial structure and qualities communicate its social content.  Herbert brings that society to life, but above all he makes some of the most familiar and frequently discussed works in the history of art come wonderfully and vividly to life again.”—Theodore Reff, Columbia University Robert L. Herbert is Robert Lehman Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on nineteenth-century French art.


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“Long-awaited, this full-scale revision of Impressionism immediately supersedes all other studies in the field.  Herbert rejuvenates even the most famous paintings by seeing them in a dense and flexible context touching on everything from the hierarchy of theater boxes to the role of beer-hall waitresses.  His mind and eye are as supple as his lucid prose, and his command “Long-awaited, this full-scale revision of Impressionism immediately supersedes all other studies in the field.  Herbert rejuvenates even the most famous paintings by seeing them in a dense and flexible context touching on everything from the hierarchy of theater boxes to the role of beer-hall waitresses.  His mind and eye are as supple as his lucid prose, and his command of sociological data is staggering.  In this classic of art history, both art and history are triumphantly reborn.”—Robert Rosenblum, New York University This remarkable book will transform the way we look at Impressionist art.  The culmination of twenty years of research by a preeminent scholar in the field, it fundamentally revises the conventional view of the Impressionist movement and shows for the first time how it was fully integrated into the social and cultural life of the times. Robert L. Herbert explores the themes of leisure and entertainment that dominated the great years of Impressionist painting between 1865 and 1885.  Cafes, opera houses, dance halls, theaters, racetracks, and vacations by the sea were the central subjects of the majority of these paintings, and Herbert relates these pursuits to the transformation of Paris under the Second Empire. Sumptuously illustrated with many of the most beautiful Impressionist images, both familiar and unfamiliar, this book presents provocative new interpretations of a wide range of famous masterpieces.  Artists are seen to be active participants in, as well as objective witnesses to, contemporary life, and there are many profound insights into the social and cultural upheaval of the times. “A social history of Impressionist art that is truly about the art, informed by a penetrating analysis of the ways in which its pictorial structure and qualities communicate its social content.  Herbert brings that society to life, but above all he makes some of the most familiar and frequently discussed works in the history of art come wonderfully and vividly to life again.”—Theodore Reff, Columbia University Robert L. Herbert is Robert Lehman Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on nineteenth-century French art.

30 review for Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society

  1. 4 out of 5

    AC

    This is, first of all, a very long book - much longer than the 306 pages would seem to indicate. First of all, the pages are enormous; they are printed in double columns; and packed with information and hints and insights - everything has been thought through carefully by the author; beautiful plates, thoroughly integrated with the text. This book was 25 years in the making -- apparently, many people had great hopes and expectations about this book during the years that Herbert was working on it. This is, first of all, a very long book - much longer than the 306 pages would seem to indicate. First of all, the pages are enormous; they are printed in double columns; and packed with information and hints and insights - everything has been thought through carefully by the author; beautiful plates, thoroughly integrated with the text. This book was 25 years in the making -- apparently, many people had great hopes and expectations about this book during the years that Herbert was working on it. They weren't disappointed, I' sure. Herbert sets out to prove that a true appreciation of Impressionism requires an understanding of the social and historical background -- which is all presented at a very granular level -- of resorts, cafés, gardens, streets, sporting, leisure, Haussmannization, etc. etc… -- along with a formal analysis of brushwork, compositional structure, and the like. There is no theory a-la-Clark -- but a rich analysis of the categories of embourgeoisement as introduced by contemporaries or near contemporaries, men like Georg Simmel, the Goncourts, and the like -- dealing with the ideas of "detachment", "alienation", the flâneur, the idealization of the freedom from labor that one finds from Puvis to Manet to Monet… All in all, a fantastic book -- one too rich for me to review properly at this late hour. So let me just say: "you won't be disappointed".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jil

    read this for my dissertation on the representation of alcohol in the French art of the late 19th and early 20th century

  3. 5 out of 5

    Callum

    Some very interesting parts, balanced out in almost equal parts with some excruciatingly mundane descriptions of the paintings themselves.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellis

    Read for my class: Paris and the Art of Urban Life. In case you didn't know this about me, the one genre of art that I just do not like is Impressionism. Therefore, giving me a book completely about it that I have to read because it will be heavily emphasized on the final is complete torture. But other than the fact that I generally find Impressionist work rather ugly and pointless, this book was pretty bad too. Herbert did, however, provide good historical backdrop to the Impressionist movement Read for my class: Paris and the Art of Urban Life. In case you didn't know this about me, the one genre of art that I just do not like is Impressionism. Therefore, giving me a book completely about it that I have to read because it will be heavily emphasized on the final is complete torture. But other than the fact that I generally find Impressionist work rather ugly and pointless, this book was pretty bad too. Herbert did, however, provide good historical backdrop to the Impressionist movement in Paris, I will give him that. His discussion of the art was ridiculous though. He spent what seemed like years on formal analysis. Formal analysis is important to any art historical book, but you needn't spend pages upon pages on it. Anyone can look at a painting. He also wouldn't criticize his beloved Impressionist work. I mean come on! I'm sure that Monet made a mis-step once in his career. Not according to Herbert. My interpretation of Herbert's thesis is that Impressionist art is the greatest art ever and it's all beautiful and magical and will cure cancer. Bah!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Quinn

    I read this as research for my novel, My Phantom: The Memoir of Christine Daaé. I needed to understand the artistic issues which roiled 19th century Paris. Ironically, this is the book really that taught me the most about Paris in the 1880s. The discussion of Impressionism was wonderful, but the depiction of the lifestyles of Paris was incomparable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    A. Very. Interesting. Book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deb Lavelle

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marc

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Maciel

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Nutma

  11. 5 out of 5

    Priya

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roger Parent

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terri

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cate Meredith

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten Christensen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will

  18. 4 out of 5

    27turtulli.Elia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susannah

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jovany Agathe

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vicki-Marie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eter Hachmann

  26. 4 out of 5

    Silencer

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Pauly

  28. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Cowan

  29. 4 out of 5

    hewmiri

  30. 4 out of 5

    Victor Lugonzo

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