Books by Susan E. Meyer

EDGAR DEGAS by Susan E. Meyer
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

If it weren't for the pictures, readers would leave this book thinking that Edgar Degas was the single most boring man who ever lived. He was born, lived in Paris, was unpleasant to be with, went to the theater, and died. Oh, he painted a little, too. In the first pages of her biography, Meyer (Mary Cassatt, 1990) tries to present the artist as a man of contradictions: an impressionist who didn't paint landscapes; an anti-Semite whose best friend was Jewish; an artist ``who had such an eye for detail'' and ``was afflicted with very poor eyesight.'' The reader, however, is not persuaded—perhaps because Meyer merely states and never proves. Her narrative is also liberally doused with quotes (unsourced) that seem handpicked to show that no bon mot was ever uttered in fin de siäcle France. Perhaps there really is nothing much to say about Degas—though that's hard to believe—but what about his art? Meyer provides no insight on this end, either. The pictures must tell their own story. (Index; illustrations) (Nonfiction. YA) Read full book review >

In the new "First Impressions" series (see Greenfeld above), a biography of the splendid American artist who joined the Impressionists in their first shows, made a memorable specialty of portraits of mothers with young children, and was (according to Meyer) the major influence causing Americans to acquire Impressionist paintings at the time they were being painted—thus ensuring their presence in American museums. Meyer's text is excellent, putting Cassatt's unusual life as an expatriate painter—who loyally cared for her parents while she made the difficult decision to break with the French Academy and follow her own muse—in the context of a society reluctant to take seriously either a female artist or the Impressionists' then-iconoclastic techniques. The illustrative support here is less satisfactory, however: especially for the early years, too many paintings are mentioned but not shown, and the color reproduction (admittedly, notoriously difficult for the Impressionists' vivid palette) is far from accurate, with the overuse of yellow making, for example, the dress in "The Caress" appear emerald where it should be sage. Still, a good introduction to a landmark painter with a particularly interesting story, and one whose works have real appeal for the intended audience. List of the 46 illustrations, documenting sources; no index. Read full book review >