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While the Civil War raged in America, another, very different revolution was beginning to take shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris. The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amid scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been, at its inception, quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas, would at times resemble a battlefield. With a novelist's skill and the insight of a historian, Ross King reveals how Impressionism would reorder both history and culture as it resonated around the world.
A tale of many artists, The Judgment of Paris revolves around the lives of two, described as "the two poles of art": Ernest Meissonier, the most famous and successful painter of the nineteenth century, hailed for his precision and devotion to history; and Edouard Manet, reviled in his time, who nonetheless heralded the most radical change in the history of art since the Renaissance. Out of the most fascinating story of their parallel lives, illuminated by their legendary supporters and critics, King recalls a seminal period when Paris was the artistic center of the world, and a revolutionary art movement had the power to electrify and divide a nation.