THE NEW PAINTING: Impressionism 1874-1886 by Charles S. Moffett
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THE NEW PAINTING: Impressionism 1874-1886

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Quite possibly, the most important art book published in this decade; certainly one of the most impressive. Scholarly but never pedantic; thorough without becoming finical; superbly written and organized; illustrated with 346 plates, 204 in full color, Moffett's work mines a vein of art history many might feel has been exhausted for years. Against all seeming odds, however, Moffett and his collaborators have, by re-examining long-held ""truths"" in the light of contemporary articles and reviews, come up with a fresh interpretation of the Impressionist Phenomenon. Their findings are, at once, provocative and convincing. The book quickly establishes its seriousness by reprinting in their entirety the landmark articles by Stephane MallarmÉ and Louis Emile Edmond Duranty, both published in 1876 at the time of the second Impressionist Exhibition. These articles first suggested Impressionism was a logical forward step in the development of French art and not merely an aberration. These historic documents are followed by Stephen P. Eisenman's and Richard Shift's analyses of the beginnings and goals of the movement. What follows is the marrow of the book--detailed essays describing the eight exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. The research here is painstaking. Newspaper accounts, critical reviews, satirical sketches, the correspondence of the artists themselves have been scoured for insights into the organization, promotion and hanging of the shows, as well as the critics' and the public's response to them. Of special interest are color plates of many of the works shown in each exhibition, accompanied by contemporary critical comments on the individual paintings and sculptures. What emerges from this mass of material is a view of the Impressionist movement less idealized, less ""black and white,"" and hence more believable than that previously accepted. Economic, political and personal factors shaped the actions and interactions of the constantly fluctuating group. Rivalries and self-interests determined many of the developments of those crucial years. Completing this massive study, the reader is convinced the definitive story of Impressionism has at last been told.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Washington Press