Monet: The Restless Vision

Monet: The Restless Vision
Published : 12 Oct 2023 - Allen Lane
A magnificent new biography of the founder of Impressionism

In the course of a long and exceptionally creative life, Claude Monet revolutionized painting and made some of the most iconic images in western art. Misunderstood and mocked at the beginning of his career, he risked everything to pursue his original vision. Although close to starvation when he invented impressionism on the banks of the Seine in the 1860s-70s, in the following decades he emerged as the powerful leader of the new painting in Paris at one of its most exciting cultural moments. His symphonic series Haystacks, Poplars, and Rouen Cathedral brought wealth and renown. Then he withdrew to paint only the pond in his garden. The late Water Lilies, ignored during his lifetime, are now celebrated as pioneers of twentieth century modernism.

Behind this great and famous artist is a volatile, voracious, nervous yet reckless man, largely unknown. Jackie Wullschläger's enthralling biography, based on thousands of never-before translated letters and unpublished sources, is the first account of Monet's turbulent private life and how it determined his expressive, sensuous, sensational painting. He was as obsessional in his love affairs as in his love of nature, and changed his art decisively three times when the woman at the centre of his life changed. Enduring devastating bereavements, he pushed the frontier of painting inward, to evoke memory and the passing of time. His work also responded intensely to outside cataclysms - the Dreyfus Affair, the First World War. Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was his closest friend. Rich intellectual currents connected him to writers from Zola to Proust; affection and rivalry to Renoir, Pissarro and Manet.

Monet said he was driven 'wild with the need to put down what I experience'. This rich and moving biography immerses us in that passionate experience, transforming our understanding of the man, his paintings and the fullness of his achievement.

Reviews

Jackie Wullschläger's magisterial and utterly engrossing biography of Monet is a tour de force. Many of us know the painter but this beautifully written and meticulously researched book brings alive Monet as a man, and fundamentally changes our understanding and appreciation of his life and work. A triumph.

Nicholas Cullinan, Director of National Portrait Gallery

The Claude Monet that emerges from these pages is volatile, reckless and nervy. A serious biography, based on thousands of previously untranslated letters and sources, of the lily-loving founder of impressionism.

The Times

Monet is in luck, and so are we. The man who emerges from Jackie Wullschläger's pages is vulnerable, relentless, complex, believable. He has found a biographer who cares deeply for painting, and who tells his life-story always wondering, as we must, how Monet's pursuit of brightness became the grave, even tragic, thing it is. Only a critic of Wullschläger's gifts could make us look at Impression: Sunrise again and see the uncertain northern light in it. Her book is an utterly absorbing read.

T. J. Clark

Jackie Wullschläger brings Monet to life with thrilling immediacy as he moves via a series of terrifying leaps into the unknown from nineteenth-century naturalism into Impressionism and ends up, after a long and astonishing career, bringing painting to the brink of twentieth-century abstraction. This is a captivating biography of great emotional warmth, delicacy and pictorial intelligence - and so gripping I found it difficult to put down.

Hilary Spurling

An intoxicating read...This is a book to be savoured like an orange candied in honey.

Laura Freeman, The Times

(A) rich and detailed new biography.

The Mail on Sunday

Wullschläger writes as magnificently about the paintings as one would hope and expect. Years of looking, together with masses of original research, have yielded a richly detailed book that will be invaluable for Monet scholars for years to come.

Sue Prideaux, Literary Times

This is not simply good history or good biography. Wullschläger never loses sight of the fact that it is the paintings that matter, and it is her deep engagement with Monet's art that makes this book such a pleasure to read.

The Spectator

This bold and inspiring biography describes a man who has no agenda other than being himself.

Neil McCormick, The Daily Telegraph

A book for art lovers… transporting

Laura Freeman, The Times Art Book of the Year

Strikingly different

Waldemar Januszczak, A Daily Telegraph Art Book of 2023

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