With Violets


Berthe Morisot was a successful painter, the only woman who exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, yet she had to battle against her mother’s (and society’s) expectation that it was marriage that would ensure her happiness. Morisot values painting more than matrimony, and it is through her artistic efforts that she meets the more famous Édouard Manet. Robards imagines a love affair between Morisot and Manet, whose marriage to the lumpen Suzanne defies conventional understanding. In her historical note, the author mentions that there was an intense friendship between them, and some romantic elements exist in her existing letters to him. Manet also painted Morisot more than he painted anyone else. In this telling, their relationship is a rocky one, with first one, then the other, pulling back from a growing intimacy. They realized that society would blacken their names and those of their families should their affair become known.

Robards writes evocatively, particularly about painting, people, and relationships. She drew me into Morisot’s world effortlessly: Degas and Puvis de Chavannes, the Salon and the fledgling Société Anonyme des Artistes. It was only when describing the Siege of Paris and the Commune that the book fell rather flat. Momentous and violent events were recounted, but the characters seemed oddly detached. They exclaim that times are terrible, but there is no immediacy or vividness to the events. However, this is a small concern when measured against the pleasures given by the rest of the novel.

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(US) $26.95
(UK) £17.99

(US) 1410402223




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