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Paris in Ruins

Paris in Ruins: Love, War and the Birth of Impressionism

Sebastian Smee

Impressionism—its dramatic depiction of light, its lovely evocation of the transience of everything—remains wildly popular. Crowds flock to exhibitions by its greatest artists—Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro. But as Sebastian Smee shows in Paris in Ruins, a book of great narrative sweep and vivid detail, Impressionism was a complex reaction to an age of violence, civil war, and political intrigue.

From the summer of 1870 to the spring of 1871, famously dubbed the ‘Terrible Year’, Paris and its people were cut off, starved, and forced to surrender by Germans—before rebel republicans established a breakaway government or Commune. After street fighting and the burning of central Paris, the republicans were crushed by the French army.

In Paris in Ruins Smee tells this story through the eyes of these key artists, with a special focus on the intimate, enigmatic relationship between Manet—the father of Impressionism—and Morisot, the group’s only female member in its early years. An indelible portrait of the city, Paris in Ruins captures the shifting passions and politics of the art world, and reveals how the chaos of that year had an incalculable effect on the development of modern art.

Sebastian Smee
About the Author

Born in 1972 in Adelaide, Sebastian Smee is now a Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic at the Washington Post. He has written widely about art, and is the author of The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art. He lives in Boston.

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Text publication date:
10 September 2024
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Praise for Sebastian Smee
andParis in Ruins

‘Astonishing. Heartstopping. A true story confined by two brutal years, and the walls of a great city under siege, which exults in love, courage, beauty, mischief and the mystery of human intimacy.’

‘Its psychological insights into male friendship, ambition, ego and vulnerability make it a book as rich as a multi-layered cake.’

Other editions ofParis in Ruins
  • Paris in Ruins
    ISBN: 9781923059054
    10 September 2024
    Buy ebook
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