ABOUT THIS BOOK
Martha Ward tracks the development and reception of neo-impressionism, revealing how the artists and critics of the French art world of the 1880s and 1890s created painting's first modern vanguard movement.
Paying particular attention to the participation of Camille Pissarro, the only older artist to join the otherwise youthful movement, Ward sets the neo-impressionists' individual achievements in the context of a generational struggle to redefine the purposes of painting. She describes the conditions of display, distribution, and interpretation that the neo-impressionists challenged, and explains how these artists sought to circulate their own work outside of the prevailing system. Paintings, Ward argues, often anticipate and respond to their own conditions of display and use, and in the case of the neo-impressionists, the artists' relations to market forces and exhibition spaces had a decisive impact on their art.
Ward details the changes in art dealing, and chronicles how these and new freedoms for the press made artistic vanguardism possible while at the same time affecting the content of painting. She also provides a nuanced account of the neo-impressionists' engagements with anarchism, and traces the gradual undermining of any strong correlation between artistic allegiance and political direction in the art world of the 1890s.
Throughout, there are sensitive discussions of such artists as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, as well as Pissarro. Yet the touchstone of the book is Pissarro's intricate relationship to the various factions of the Paris art world.