Growing Up with the Impressionists
Orphaned in her early teens, Julie Manet was practically reared by the Impressionists. Renoir oversaw her outdoor painting excursions, Degas received her at the Louvre, and Monet hosted her at his home. Furthermore, her legal guardian and sailing companion was Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme, and poet Paul Valery married her cousin.
In this diary, begun at age fourteen, Julie Manet displays a critical judgment that is astonishing for a teenager. Her writing, which is always adequate, occasionally soars to create a kind of Impressionist prose. Describing a landscape at dusk, Julie writes that she saw “the crosses on the tombs etched against the silver sea where two black sails, made larger by their own reflections, were passing by.”
A fascinating aspect of this diary is its revelation of the spiritual ugliness of some of the artists who were capable of producing such beauty. Julie herself adopts some of the anti-Semitic attitudes of her mentor, Renoir. The diary has been published with an introduction (written by the editors and translators, Rosalind de Boland Roberts and Jane Roberts) that provides a historical perspective on both French anti-Semitism and Impressionist aesthetics. This is an unusual volume that serves equally well as a display book or as a work for serious reading.