Mad Enchantment by Ross King

There was another surprise waiting for us under the door at One Book Two headquarters today! The Phantom reviewed Mad Enchantment, a focused look at Claude Monet and his series of Water Lilies paintings.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mad EnchantmentTitle: Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
Author: Ross King
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Genre: Art History
Source: From the publisher at BEA 16

Publisher’s DescriptionClaude Monet is perhaps the world’s most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Seeing them in museums around the world, viewers are transported by the power of Monet’s brush into a peaceful world of harmonious nature. Monet himself intended them to provide “an asylum of peaceful meditation.†? Yet, as Ross King reveals in his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases belie the intense frustration Monet experienced at the difficulties of capturing the fugitive effects of light, water, and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life.

Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then 73 and one of the world’s wealthiest, most celebrated painters, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision–what Paul Cezanne called “the most prodigious eye in the history of painting”–was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Linking great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around it, Ross King presents the most intimate and revealing portrait of an iconic figure in world culture–from his lavish lifestyle and tempestuous personality to his close friendship with the fiery war leader Georges Clemenceau, who regarded the Water Lilies as one of the highest expressions of the human spirit.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

The_Phantom_100The Phantom says…

Very detailed story about the end of Monet’s long life in Giverney, his gardens and lily pond. Also about the friendships with other painters, particularly Clemenceau.

It seems too much and too dry for any but the most ardent Monet fan. I found it boring, but I think Monet fans will find every bit of this book fascinating. It is a big book about a very small part of Monet’s life.

However, the painting, Water Lilies, is the most important and well-known painting of his art. The author doesn’t go into much about the technique. He talks a lot about the size of the canvas, but not about the technique, so I don’t think I would even look at this painting differently. I did learn that Monet ruined at least as many canvases as he kept while creating the final masterpiece. He took a knife to them, put his foot through them, or burned them. The final painting is 800 feet long on 20 canvases and is displayed across 2 rooms which was custom built to display the painting.

badge3v4If you are an art history major with an emphasis on Monet, this is the book for you. The author, Ross King, also wrote Brunelleschi’s Dome which I would recommend over Mad Enchantment for other readers because it moved faster and had more characters involved, along with scientific/engineering problems that needed to be solved, which made for a more interesting read.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


About Agent Annie

I am a former Independent bookstore owner that created a 30 books in 30 minutes presentation for book clubs, libraries and avid reader groups. I specialize in short reviews that focus on plot, theme and discussion topics. I primarily read mystery/thriller, who-done-its and sci-fi/fantasy. I love stories in any format and will listen to an audio book as quickly as I would read a paper or digital version. I prefer books that make you think, don't have a predictable ending and tend to have some aspect that is outside the current norm. I tend to enjoy series once I am hooked on the main characters and the world and am very loyal. Some of the books I've enjoyed in the past are: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne & Todd McCaffrey and The Sherlockian Graham Moore. I will also read ANYTHING by Stephen King. As a matter of fact, I wrote a graduate level paper on the leadership styles in The Stand. I will accept review requests.

Posted on September 2, 2016, in Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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