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Harriet Scott Chessman

Teoksen Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper tekijä

8+ teosta 554 jäsentä 25 arvostelua

Tietoja tekijästä

Harriet Scott Chessman teaches writing at Yale University & is on the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. She has written a book on Gertrude Stein, "The Public Is Invited to Dance," as well as essays on modern literature. Her most recent book was "Ohio Angels". She näytä lisää lives with her family in Connecticut. (Bowker Author Biography) näytä vähemmän
Image credit: Micah Wolf

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Yale University



A lovely little book which brings to life the artist Mary Cassatt and her older sister Lydia, who posed for her over 1878-81 while slowly deteriorating from a kidney disease. It’s told in five parts, each centered around one of the resulting paintings, and the insights that Chessman provides make it impossible to see these works in the same way again. The chapters are like little impressionist paintings of their own, and the book doesn’t get bogged down in details or attempt to be more comprehensive, which for the most part I found a strength, but confess it left me wanting a little more. Edgar Degas was in Cassatt’s life at this time and so he figures prominently, and it was interesting to read Chessman’s take on their enigmatic relationship. Most of all, I appreciated the reminder of the humanity of these individuals, and that the fleeting images left behind in the artwork are just small reflections of their dreams, loves, and frustrations in life. There is something profound in shifting the focus to Lydia Cassatt, who led a quiet little life and had it cut short at 45, someone who like the rest of us would soon be forgotten by the world, and yet lives on in a way because of her sister’s art and Chessman’s book.… (lisätietoja)
1 ääni
Merkitty asiattomaksi
gbill | 17 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 15, 2022 |
This novel had much more depth of understanding than I thought it would when I picked it up at a used book sale. Told in the first person, Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper delves into the model's thoughts and feelings as she sits for her sister, the impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.
Older by eight years, Lydia has Bright's Disease, an historical name for a number of kidney diseases, which, in the 1870's, was untreatable and almost always fatal. Although fiction, the book considers the process of painting from the model's perspective, and therefore lends greater insight into the paintings themselves. There are five reproductions included. Recommended for anyone with interest in art, impressionism, or the dying process.… (lisätietoja)
1 ääni
Merkitty asiattomaksi
lansum | 17 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jun 17, 2020 |
From the book’s preface: “Some of Degas’ most beautiful and haunting paintings came out of the winter of 1872-73, when he stayed with his Creole cousins, Didi, Mouche, and Tell, in New Orleans. The sketchbook found by my character Tell – Edgar Degas’ cousin and sister-in-law – is a fiction. However, art historians have wondered about the absence of a sketchbook devoted to New Orleans. This is the mystery that has inspired my story.”

This book works on a couple of levels. First, the look Estelle (Tell) Musson takes back at the visit her cousin made a decade earlier and the events which followed are touching – her husband running off with a family friend, her eyesight deteriorating to the point of blindness, the death of her sister, and the death of four of her six children. In discovering this lost sketchbook and in sifting through her memories, she tries to better understand what happened to her, and what others knew about what was going on in her house. Chessman does a fantastic job of keeping the complete truth as elusive as memories from the past often are. However, I don’t think she quite told the story in the words a 19th century woman in New Orleans would have used.

It was heading for a more average review score from me, despite learning more about Degas - his mixed heritage, his brother’s marriage to his first cousin, and the retinal disease that he also had, which seriously impaired his art as his life went on. As the truth unfolds, however, the thought that paintings from this little period of his life could be explained by a story, and what Degas saw in this household and then transferred onto canvas, hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s fiction, but believable, and more importantly, reminds us to think about the artwork we see, and what may be behind it. Looking up the paintings which are referenced while one reads is half the fun, and shows how Chessman was quite clever in fusing the true history of this family with Degas’ paintings to produce this lovely little story.

On appreciation:
“I try to remember more of my conversations with Edgar as he sketched or painted me. I remember bits here and there. It was more of a feeling I recall, though, of being looked at very carefully and very slowly, each inch of my face, my body. Of being cherished – maybe that was it.”

On beauty, keeping one’s eyes open to it in life, and love:
“Such beauty – I could not have known there would be such beauty – and may I hold all of this in my heart, and in my inner eye; may I continue to open my eyes; and may her light always shine inside me, so.”

On love, from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken…”
… (lisätietoja)
2 ääni
Merkitty asiattomaksi
gbill | Sep 30, 2018 |
Beautiful. I cried. I shall look at paintings differently in future.
Merkitty asiattomaksi
thewriterswife | 17 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 26, 2018 |


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