By Michele Romero
Updated February 08, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

The Judgement of Paris

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French Impressionism is so oversaturated in pop culture — reproductions of Claude Monet’s works festoon the T-shirts, mugs, and calendars of mall walkers worldwide — that it’s surprising to learn the painter of pretty flowers is a minor character in Ross King’s meticulously researched history of this epic art movement, The Judgment of Paris. Instead, he focuses on the engrossing story of two vital but opposing forebears: Ernest Meissonier, the most famous painter of the mid-19th century, celebrated for his exacting devotion to a pictorial reportage style of mostly Napoleonic war scenes, and Édouard Manet, constantly derided for his impulsively vigorous brushwork and lascivious subject matter. Manet lost many a battle in his time (he challenged one critic to a duel), but painted his way out of a stagnant academic style and won the war for art’s future.

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The Judgement of Paris

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