Reading a very interesting book by Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism.
About 70 pages in, the book concentrates primarily (so far) on Edouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier, the future and the recent past for art in France, cerca 1863. The pivot point being that year’s Salon and its Salon des Refuses, which Napoleon III helps insure. It’s detailed, without getting bogged down, and general enough to cover the ground necessary to carry us toward the first Impressionist showing in 1874.
King puts things in context by discussing the Second Empire, the bureaucracy that led to shutting out so many great artists from the main salon, and why. A clash of cultures, a clash between the old guard and the new, between those who believe artists should portray heroic scenes from a classical past, and those who want to democratize the process, paint the present, paint the now, warts and all. There is discussion of technique as well, showing the difference between the old and young, those who smooth away their brush strokes and those who revel in them, proudly displaying the movement of their hand across the canvas.
Enjoying the book thoroughly.