AUTHOR: SUSAN VREELAND
Author of a previous historical art novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland comes through with another compelling historical novel centered on artists and their work. At age 39, Pierre-Auguste Renoir pays the rent on his Montmartre garret by painting "overbred society women in their fussy parlors," but, goaded by negative criticism from Émile Zola, he dreams of doing a breakout work. The daughter of a resort innkeeper close to Paris suggests that he paint from the restaurant's terrace. The party of 13 subjects Renoir puts together (with difficulty) eventually spends several Sundays drinking and flirting under the spell of the painter's brush. Renoir, who declares, "I only want to paint women I love," falls desperately for his newest models, while trying to win his last subject back from her rich fiancé. But he and his friends only have two months to catch the light he wants and fend off charges that he and his fellow impressionists see the world "through rose-colored glasses." Vreeland achieves a detailed and surprising group portrait, individualized and immediate.
448 pages, Viking (May 3, 2007)