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The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers Hardcover – Jan 1985

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf (Jan. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394495802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394495804
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 17.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,188,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"The Painting of Modern Life is a very good and very beautiful book. It deserves the closest critical attention.... It is a book that will stir up passion and controversy."--David Harvey, Journal of Historical Geography

"That he restores a social and historical context to the work he discusses--from Manet's Musique aux Tuileries to Seurat's Grande Jatte--is not what is most original about Clark's book, elegant and telling as his delineation generally is.... What really lifts the book into a category of its own is the manner in which the assimilation of contextual detail and the observation of pictorial detail are worked together into an argument."--Charles Harrison, Art Monthly

"Mr. Clark ... writes with considerable verve; his interpretations of individual paintings are often illuminating, and he is soaked in the social history of the period with which he deals."--John Gross, The New York Times

"Like everything that T. J. Clark writes, [this] book bubbles with new ideas and old ideas freshly turned; it is intriguing, suggestive and well written."--Eugen Weber, The Times Literary Supplement

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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This book is about Impressionist painting and Paris. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Morgan on 24 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback
Tim Clark, a Marxist, has hewed closely to a temperate, cultured version of the theory - no 'vulgar Marxist he - that makes for stimulating, if sometimes exasperating reading; definitely not for him the sonorous 'poetic' style of Walter Pater, critic-as-creator, nor the reader's pleasure as in Hughes . Like the more dogmatic Terry Eagleton in literature, he has the ability to write clear, unadorned prose yet chooses not to: he is either perverse or has good reasons for doing so. In fact his writing enacts the struggle in his chosen painters, including here the great Manet, one of the earliest to 'foreground' technique less to elide the distinction between form and content than to explore the enigmas of representation, perhaps as the picture plane is toyed with ('flattening') as well as the way Manet implicates the viewer in the painting, whether as the recipient of Olympia's direct look or in the paradox of the mirrored figure at the bar in 'Folies Bergeres'. Clark is thus the opposite of the late Bob Hughes, who is always clear, stylish and engaging. For Clark, painting, Manet's here of course, is a way into the nature of the society in which it develops, thus the agency of work lessens as the material conditions are placed to the fore. No doubt Clark, taking his cue from Baudelaire, (who coined the phrase from which this title's name derives is), is not easy but he is one of those writers who demands to be read and modern life is in a way its painting, or as much as it is anything. N.B. Have a look at Clark's interviews with Clement Greenberg filmed for the Open University in the 1970's, they show what a terrific, clear questioner the man can be and he brings the best out of the American eminence.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Artsreadings on 20 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Like it or not, TJ Clark's The Painting of Modern Life nowadays stands as a classic when it comes to look at late 19th-century French painting and think about art in terms of modernity, in relation with the avant-garde, bourgeois culture and values, and the urban environment.

TJ Clark's analysis is heavily connotated with Marxist theory and ways of thinking, which directs demonstrations and arguments in stimulating ways - if nonetheless slightly predictable ones.

In any case, if you are interested in Manet, and the representation of modernity, this is one book which cannot be ignored and will have to be read, if only for the sake of the literature review.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nt Deregowski on 16 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
The author has done considerable reseasch into Parisian life and culture of the 1870s and this is extremely interesting.

He elides this with a Marxist critique of various Impressionist painters. He looks extremely closely at several paintings and this can be interesting.

However Clark does not air his conclusions with much clarity. His ramblings can make very tiring reading.

Having waded through it, moreover, I feel his conculsions are often highly specious (especially on Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergeres).
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0 of 18 people found the following review helpful By JoJo on 14 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
The book arrived within the advertised time frame, and is perfect condition except for one mark on the spine which I can completely live with.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
An Art History Book For Anyone Interested in History 11 Jun. 2001
By Jeffrey A. Cohen - Published on
Format: Paperback
I like to think of myself as a person who is curious about a wide range of things, especially in the realm of culture and the arts. Most art history books, however, put me right to sleep, with their endless catalogs of curatorial details about brushstrokes and paint textures and influences and provenance. These detailed analyses almost never situate the paintings in any sort of context and almost never explain WHY we should be interested in these details, other than to prove ourselves worthy connoiseurs to others in the know. Clark's book is a refreshing change from such mandarin drivel. Clark begins with a lengthy discussion of the social context of the paintings he is about to discuss and only then proceeds to extended analyses of particular paintings. Clark is interested in the larger ideas and trends of the period and, most important of all, actually USES the details of the paintings as evidence in the course of making an ARGUMENT about what the paintings mean (hint to other art historians: having an argument contributes significantly to the interest of a book or article). In addition, Clark's argument about the nature of the social changes occuring in France in the 1860's and 70's is compelling and thought-provoking (be forewarned: some Marxism is involved). I found myself actually learning things about the paintings Clark discusses, and looking at them over and over again, trying to find more in them, in much the same way as I would go back to a book or a poem after reading a good piece of literary criticism. I think this book will appeal to anyone who wants to learn more about either 19th-century French painting or 19th-century France. Clark is a stimulating and perceptive guide to this crucial period in the history of painting. Bravo!
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
As perfect as the paintings he discusses? 7 Mar. 2003
By nkb - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a student of nineteenth century French painting, I think this may in fact be the finest book ever written on Parisian painting in the time of Haussmanization. Clark manages to offer an intelligent Marxist-based claim about class and the emerging Parisian landscape in the 60's without losing sight of the paintings themselves. While most scholars feel the genius of this book lies in his wonderful discussion of "what couldn't be seen in Olympia", I find the first chapter "Environs of Paris" equally fascinating in its discussion of Manet's Exposition Universelle of 1867. A MUST read for any lover of Parisian history or Manet.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
ad infinitum 8 May 2012
By Dan Dan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clark often interrupts himself and unabashedly links sentences together with numerous colons, hyphens, and semicolons, thus making his ideas unclear at times.

He is very unorganized when developing ideas and likes to make and counter his argument in the same breath.

It becomes ironically evident after reading the preface, introduction, and first chapter that Clark is writing for his colleagues in academia and not for the masses.

Once you get use to his longwinded style the rest of the book is fantastic.
31 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Rutting In Nascent Pop Culture 10 Nov. 2004
By R. J MOSS - Published on
Format: Paperback
Seurat's,'La Grande Jatte' spelled the limits of petti-borgeoise modernity. For the previous 20 years, the Impressionists, led by the incomparably gifted, Manet, had attempted to make images describing this class, their appearance & behaviour. However,the Impressionists were bourgeoise & inevitably more aligned to their own class, and with the simultaneous rise of the dealer-critic system. Thus the steady sequence of shows, interviews & promotional literature issuing from managed,'creative' artists became the commonplace we experience in the arts today. The new class disappeared from Impressionist art when it was absorbed into the bourgeoise.Witness Monet's shrewd disavowal of the figure as he opted for his less offensive, touristy canon of landscapes. The detatchment of Manet's barmaid at the Follies, 1882,and the inanimate, even catatonic people in Degas's pictures of this period exemplify the new class. Clark argues that the emergence of this class was a product of the rebuilding of Paris by Baron von Haussmann. The old work centre of the city was guttered during the rejig, the trades & graves moved to new peripheries, and commercial entertainments, leisure & pleasure grew in their place to cater for this new white-collar mass public. The questionable role of prostitution is crucial to Clark's claims for this class and it is on this question that Manet is pre-eminent. This era announced the rise of capitalism and the spectacle society of which Clark is a major critical voice. Prodigious scholarship, marvellous insights, with fascinating, rarely reproduced 'secondary' art works to flesh out the theme; I can't think of a better way of teasing back the past to view the present. For more on art visit>
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
If you're into art history 26 Dec. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
T J Clark is the basis for art historian argument on Impressionism but he is not the most riveting of reads. His chapters are long and his points are a bit stretched, such as his point that only one critic understood Olympia by Manet, but if you want to study Impressionism as an art historian you need to read Clark, his arguments are the basis for the field and if you read any other article or book discussing Impressionism your more likely than not to hear his name again. Also, it takes a couple of times to read him to understand his point, so be prepared for a hard read.
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