Friday, June 24, 2011

Staff Picks - Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Young Claude Monet spies Camille Doncieux at a train station and so begins life long passionate love affair. Camille was to become his muse, his lover, his wife and the mother of his children. Though Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell centers on Monet and his art, Camille is the heart and soul of the story. Camille was born into a well-to-do family who did not approve of her choice of Monet, an impoverished painter. Monet defied his own family and cast aside financial security to pursue his passion. Monet and Camille built their lives on their own terms in a community of like-minded artists. As his paintings were an exploration of light and colour, Camille was herself a contrast of moods, at times bright and passionate and then dark and despairing.

Both Monet and the reader are left with the impression that they never truly knew Camille. The novel is framed by an elderly Monet who seeks to know the secrets she kept. Camille died young with her life incomplete. She tried to find her own passion through literature, drama and children but always fell short. We see her through Monet's eyes, never quite as a woman in her own right, but rather as his muse. Claude and Camille is a romantic, impressionistic portrait of a marriage that reflects the beauty and sadness in Monet's paintings.

If you have enjoyed novels by Tracy Chevalier and Susan Vreeland, this would be an excellent choice.

For a non-fictionalized look at Camille Doncieux try Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: the model wives of Cezanne, Monet and Rodin by Ruth Butler.

"In this remarkable book of discovery, art historian Ruth Butler coaxes three shadowy women out of obscurity and introduces them for the first time as individuals. Through unprecedented research, Butler has been able to create portraits of Hortense Fiquet, Camille Doncieux, and Rose Beuret—the models, and later the wives, respectively, of Cézanne, Monet, and Rodin, three of the most famous French artists of their generation.

The book tells the stories of three ordinary women who faced issues of a dramatically changing society as well as the challenges of life with a striving genius. Butler illuminates the ways in which these model-wives figured in their husbands’ achievements and provides new analyses of familiar works of art. Filled with captivating detail, the book recovers the lives of Hortense, Camille, and Rose, and recognizes with new insight how their unique relationships enriched the quality of their husbands’ artistic endeavors." publisher

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge Girl with a Pearl Earring Fan, thanks for telling me about Girl in Hyacinth Blue.