The latter half of the nineteenth century was marked by the largest assembly of artistic and literary talents since the Renaissance, and where the latter found its center in Italy, the artistic capital of the former was France, more specifically Paris, at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, the surrounding ateliers, and the cafes of the city and its environs.
Among those to arrive in the city in the mid-1850’s was Camille Pissarro, son of a successful businessman from St. Thomas in the Lesser Antilles. His return to his mother’s house after a two-year painting expedition in South America leads his parents to believe that he has at last decided to settle into the task of making his way in the world, but the fervor to paint burns strongly in the young man, and, to his mother’s distress, he determines to devote himself to canvas and palette.
Pissarro’s father is somewhat more sympathetic to his son’s ambitions, but will not outwardly take a stand against his wife when Camille falls in love and impregnates the family maid. The affair is a lasting one and the couple are the parents of three before Camille’s mother relents some twelve years later and gives him permission to marry.
Through these and many more years, Pissarro and his artistic confreres struggle to survive, pitting themselves against an establishment which sees no merit in works not conforming to their rigid, antiquated standards. At length their persistence pays off as the press, the public, their peers, and even their predecessors come to acknowledge the value of what becomes known as the French Impressionist movement.
While lacking the flair of some of Stone’s earlier works, DEPTHS OF GLORY is a well-researched, intriguing account of Pissarro’s development as an artist, and an astounding catalog of the multitude of talented individuals with whom he shared his life and love. Stone paints with words as proficiently as the novel’s central character wields his brush. An impressive seven-page bibliography is appended.