The Masterpiece

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Digireads.com, Jan 1, 2010 - Fiction
41 Reviews
The fourteenth novel in a twenty book series collectively entitled, "Les Rougon-Macquart, L'Œuvre" was first translated into English in 1886, the title having since been rendered "The Masterpiece". Set in France's Second Empire, the story of naturalist painter Claude Lantier is believed to be a highly fictionalized account of Zola's friendship with the painter Paul Cézanne. The fictional artist of Zola's Bohemian world, Lantier, strives to complete a great work that will reflect his own talent and genius as a revolutionary, but struggles greatly in living up to his artistic potential. The story was perhaps too personal for Cézanne, whose correspondence with Zola ended immediately after the novel's publication. Nevertheless, this story of the misunderstood artist, brilliant but scorned by the intolerant art-going public and their unwillingness to abandon traditional practices, epitomizes the attitudes of Bohemian Revolutionaries and the nineteenth century era of French Naturalism.

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Review: The Masterpiece (Les Rougon-Macquart, #14)

User Review  - Wessel van der Merwe - Goodreads

Clearly an attempt to describe the fate and difficulties of the impressionist painters in France. The struggle they experienced with the traditional Salon selections. He also touched on all the other ... Read full review

Review: The Masterpiece (Les Rougon-Macquart, #14)

User Review  - Goodreads

i decided to read this book because of my lifelong interest in art in general, and of the impressionists in particular. Zola was part of the in-crowd that included Monet, Cezanne, Renoir among others ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Zola was the spokesperson for the naturalist novel in France and the leader of a school that championed the infusion of literature with new scientific theories of human development drawn from Charles Darwin (see Vol. 5) and various social philosophers. The theoretical claims for such an approach, which are considered simplistic today, were outlined by Zola in his Le Roman Experimental (The Experimental Novel, 1880). He was the author of the series of 20 novels called The Rougon-Macquart, in which he attempted to trace scientifically the effects of heredity through five generations of the Rougon and Macquart families. Three of the outstanding volumes are L'Assommoir (1877), a study of alcoholism and the working class; Nana (1880), a story of a prostitute who is a femme fatale; and Germinal (1885), a study of a strike at a coal mine. All gave scope to Zola's gift for portraying crowds in turmoil. Today Zola's novels have been appreciated by critics for their epic scope and their visionary and mythical qualities. He continues to be immensely popular with French readers. His newspaper article "J'Accuse," written in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, launched Zola into the public limelight and made him the political conscience of his country.

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