Fact Versus Fiction: Stories about the Lives of the Impressionists
In France in the late 1870’s, a style of artwork produced controversy amongst the art establishment already set in Paris. Rather than paint traditional religious, or historical subjects, a young group of painters set out to paint the world that was around them. Their work was characterized by quick brush strokes, vivid colors and an emphasis on the play of natural light. Artists such as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, and Edouard Manet would meet in groups to share their ideas and influences and create their own art expeditions. These artists became known as the Impressionists.
The Impressionist Movement provided inspiration to several authors wanting to write a story with an engaging setting, fascinating characters and beautiful artwork. While these titles are works of fiction, they may motivate you to learn the truth about the lives of the Impressionist artists and their works of art.
Impressionists portrayed in Fiction:
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. A novelization of Renoir’s painting by the same name that depicts a gathering of Renoir’s friends enjoying time together on a café terrace in Paris. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models, the novel sheds light on the culture, self-indulgence, and art of the era.
Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner. A young farm girl joins the prestigious Paris Opera ballet with hopes of securing her financial future. Her plans are derailed when she falls in love with the artist Edgar Degas, whose paintings of the offstage lives of the ballerinas scandalized society and revolutionized the art world.
Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell. A story of the painter Claude Monet and his wife Camille, told from the point of view of an older Monet reflecting on his past. The book gives an account of Monet’s struggle to become a renowned painter, and the personal trials in love that he encountered along the way.
With Violets by Elizabeth Robards. Devoted to her art, Berthe Morisot is determined to be recognized as an important painter. But as a woman, she finds herself overlooked in favor of her male counterparts. Fellow artist Édouard Manet becomes Berthe's mentor and lover, despite already being married. Coming from a respectable family, an affair with a man like Manet can only spell heartbreak and ruin. Morisot must decide on what terms she will confront her life and romantic interests.
Cezanne's Quarry by Barbara Pope. Could Paul Cezanne commit murder? That is the question magistrate Bernard Martin must answer after a woman with ties to the famous painter is found dead in a quarry.
Non-Fictional Portraits of the Impressionists and their Art
The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Though they were often ridiculed or ignored by their contemporaries, today astonishing sums are paid for the works of these artists, whose paintings are celebrated for their ability to capture the moment, not only in the fleeting lights of a landscape but in scenes of daily life. Their dazzling pictures are familiar—but how well does the world know the Impressionists as people? "The Private Lives of the Impressionists" tells their story.
Impressionst Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt by Jeffrey Meyers. "Impressionist Quartet" draws us into the inner lives of a core group of mid-19th-century artists- Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Berthe Morisot. Portraying them as individuals and as fellow conspirators in a new way of seeing and representing the world, Jeffrey Meyers brings to life this influential group of painters.
The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism by Ross King. While the Civil War raged in America, another very different revolution was beginning to take shape in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. A tale of many artists, it revolves around the lives of Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Manet. King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and a revolutionary movement had the power to electrify and divide a nation.
The Treasures of the Impressionists by Jon Kear. Follow the path of the Impressionists from the early encounters between such luminaries as Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and Bazille as they converged on Paris to study at the academies, to their first exhibitions, to the later landscapes and portraits. This beautifully illustrated book places the art in its historical context, analyzes the techniques, focuses on the major painters, explains how their work influenced later generations, and even reveals the artists’ loves and personal battles.
Online Resources about Impressionist Artists
National Gallery of Art: French Painting of the Nineteenth Century. A presentation of paintings, essays, exhibitions, histories, audio narrations, and bibliographies about the French Impressionist Movement.
Find this article at