Stephanie Cowell Interview
April 20, 2010
the author of Claude and Camille
It was a pleasure to have Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille, visit the blog on April 20, 2010. Her novel is about French Impressionist artist Claude Monet and his muse and later wife Camille Doncieux. Their love had to contend with severe financial struggles as Claude fought to gain recognition for his art from critics and the public.
What do you think made the public dislike Impressionist art so much at first?
The public was much more involved with art then in those days before radio or television. The old Academic School of Art they knew was like a photograph; every blade of grass was painted precisely and the pictures were often of kings, gods and religious scenes. Everything was very still; it did not move. And even though Monet's early works were hardly as loosely painted as his great water lily paintings, the public did not understand. They felt the paintings were unfinished; they weren't interested in quick brush strokes capturing light on everything. Then finally a few began to understand and buy but it took a long time.
Did Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet really take work painting murals on cafe walls?
Renoir definitely painted them; the story is told in Jean Renoir's charming memoir Renoir my Father. The murals were all lost. Renoir did all sorts of odd jobs from painting china to window blinds in his young days. As for Claude Monet, we have no record of him working at anything but art, though he made quick sketches of people to buy the odd cheap meal or attempt to pay the rent. Claude was always a bit of a prince. Even when he hadn't a franc, he wore lace cuffs!
Camille lived in poverty with a child to raise and a partner who refused well-paying jobs so he could keep painting. If you were Camille, would you have stayed with him?
That is a difficult question for any young woman which I know well. I was married to a free-lance photographer and had two young kids and for some years never knew what we could pay. Most of my friends have always been in the arts and most them struggle with instability. To love art as much as the impressionists loved it meant that art came first. The man WAS his art. Would I have stayed if I were Camille? Well, she was in love with Claude's gifts and very much in love with Claude: he was gorgeous and charming. In that situation, I would have been running out the door with the baby when I read the eviction notice and then coming back sobbing to reconcile as she does in the book.
Review of Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
See listing for Claude and Camille at Powell's Books
See listing for Claude and Camille at Amazon.com
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