Disappointing art history, unrealized scandal.

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IMPRESSIONIST QUARTET

THE INTIMATE GENIUS OF MANET AND MORISOT, DEGAS AND CASSATT

The prolific biographer (Somerset Maugham, 2004, etc.) moves from his familiar journey among writers and actors to the dangerous realm of Impressionist painters.

Meyers’s rambling, four-subject biography promises to illuminate the intimacies of Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. Many have speculated that the two male artists enjoyed sexual as well as artistic relationships with their female disciples, and Meyers wants it to be true. He examines contemporary and modern secondary sources (the two couples’ letters were all burned), recording every connection. Regrettably, he conveys little understanding of precisely why these connections are important in his formulaic trek from anecdote to anecdote. The serial descriptions of paintings are similarly unenlightening. Several works receive new interpretations, but they’re seldom persuasive. Meyers’s reading of Manet’s portrait of his parents as insulting and castigating, for example, contradicts the subjects’ and the artist’s documented pleasure with it. The author oscillates between taking his research at face value and overinterpreting it. Meyer dismisses Morisot’s husband (Manet’s brother) as superficial, on the basis of a letter declaring that he misses his wife’s “lovely chatter and pretty plumage.” As examples of the Morisot family’s malicious snobbery, the author cites two letters written decades apart describing two separate people as fat. He accurately portrays Degas and Cassatt as mercurial, complex people who often changed their minds and temporarily feuded with friends, but Meyers reads these qualities as character flaws. For the most part, he seeks scandal in the personal relationships of the four without finding much of it. While there may have been something illicit between Manet and his sister-in-law, Meyers spends a lot of time outlining his evidence of a sexual connection between Degas and Cassatt, then anticlimactically concludes: not.

Disappointing art history, unrealized scandal.

Pub Date: May 16, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-101076-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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