Best Historical Fiction Novels about Claude Monet & the Impressionism Artists
Are you a die-hard historical fiction bookworm? Do you love the revolutionary French Impressionists? If yes, then this page is for you! I have listed the best historical fiction novels ever written about the impressionists and post-impressionists.
Lie on your bed, or on your favorite couch & allow yourself to time travel through these books into the art world of these painters. These historical fiction novels will take you to the legendary hill-top village of Montmartre where avant garde artists, writers, musicians and poets gathered and together redefined art!
Belle Epoque Paris & the Emergence of Impressionism
The era of the French Impressionists is an especiallly fascinating one. It was the period between the terrible Franco-Prussian War and the devastating First World War (1871- 1914).
During these 40 years, Europe celebrated political stability & a feeling of optimism. It was the beginning of large scale industrialization and the era of public train transport. Europe was rebuilding itself and flourishing. Parisians could now take train trips to the lovely coastal villages of Normandy.
This period era is known as “the Golden Era” or in French “La Belle Epoque“.
It was during the “Belle Epoque” that the French impressionism movement emerged. These revolutionary artists, such as Monet, Manet, Renoir & others were, unknowingly, paving the way to modern art. They turned away from traditional art, causing an uproar in the art world.
In reality, the journey of the impressionists was not an easy one! The art world did not know how to digest the “crude” and “colorful” artworks of these painters. For a very long time, the art establishments, critics and patrons rejected, criticized and scorned their paintings. Many of the impressionists could barely cover the costs of their painting materials. Some even lived in utter poverty, trading their artworks for food and board.
My Comprehensive List of the Top Historical Fiction Books about the French Impressionists & Post Impressionists
Below is a list of some of the best historical fiction novels written about the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism painters. Page by page the book will immerse you into the atmosphere of 19th century Paris during the Belle Epoque. You will meet these young emerging artists who were still unknown and often struggling!
Best Historical Fiction Novels about Edgar Degas & his Fascination with the Ballerinas at the Paris Opera
Edgar Degas was seriously obsessed with the ballerinas of the Paris Opera. So much so, that he created hundreds of beautiful paintings of the ballerinas on stage and behind the scenes. Degas spent nearly 40 years at the Paris Opera and was therefore fully aware, and not at all sympathetic, to the plight of the ballerinas.
The Paris Opera Ballet, one of the first professional ballet companies in the world, was actually a high class brothel behind the scenes. The institution allowed and encouraged rich and powerful men to sexually exploit these young girls. In return, these rich men donated lots of money to the Paris Opera. These vulnerable girls, who often came from poor homes and had nowhere else to go, had no choice but to cooperate.
As well as portraying Edgar Degas, all these books describe the sordid reality behind the scenes of the prestigious Paris Opera ballet. Press here to read my review of one of these books. Sadly, not much has changed in the world as we now know from the recent #MeToo movement.
A wonderful historical fiction novel about Claude Monet
Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell.
The author takes us to the early years of the French Impressionist Claude Monet and his muse, lover and first wife Camille Doncieux. These are difficult years for the struggling artist & Camille has to find the strength to deal with many uncertainties. Press here to read my review of this wonderful book.
Great Historical Fiction Books about the Female Impressionist Berthe Morisot
La Luministe by Paula Butterfield
With Violets by Elizabeth Robards
Both books portray the lesser known, trailblazing female French Impressionist, Berthe Morisot. This incredibly gifted artist was very successful in her lifetime. This is remarkable as it happened in an era when women had no place in the art world. Her accomplishments defied all odds & her amazing story deserves to be told. Check out my review of La Luminste.
Novels about Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir, My Father by Jean Renoir
This engaging biography was written by Renoir’s son, Jean. The book transports you into Renoir’s personal and family life in late 19th & early 20th centuries in France.
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
Vreeland takes us inside Renoir‘s great masterpiece, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Through the book, we learn who the models were inside the painting and Renoir’s relationship with each one (these are actual people!!). The book also takes us to the artist’s favorite haunt, the Maison Fournaise restaurant, on the River Seine just outside of Paris. Check out my review of this fabulous novel!
Top Historical Fiction books about the American/French Impressionist Mary Cassatt
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman
I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira
The author, Robin Oliveira, takes you into Paris life of the impressionism painters in the 1860s. However, the main focus of the book is the complicated and lifelong friendship between the two artists, Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. Check out my review of this wonderful novel.
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Historical Fiction Novels about the tragic life of Vincent Van Gogh
Sunflowers by Sheramy Burndrick
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace
The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gaugin and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence by Martin Gayford.
The Last Van Gogh by Alyson Richman
Alyson Richman beautiful captures the last 70 days of Van Gogh’s Life in Auvers-sur-Oise. The main characters in the book are Van Gogh, Dr. Gatchet and his daughter, Marguerite. Van Gogh and Marguerite form a beautiful, tender relationship but it is doomed, as Van Gogh is on the brink of absolute despair. The Last Van Gogh is a wonderful novel. Press here for my full review.
Lust for Life by Irving Stone
This is a beautiful fictional-biography portraying the misunderstood artist, Vincent Van Gogh. The story spans a decade of Van Gogh’s life, from when he leaves home to become a missionary until his death in Auvers-sur-Oise. You will feel moved by Van Gogh’s intense passion to create, amazed at his brother’s unwavering love and heartbroken at Van Gogh’s emotional anguish. The author has masterfully provided the backdrops to many of Van Gogh’s iconic artworks as he takes us through Van Gogh’s life. For my full review of this wonderful book, press here.
Wonderful Historical Fiction Story about Edouard Manet
The three novels below all focus on Victorine, Édouard Manet’s favorite muse.
Victorine-Louise Meurent was a French artist and model for many famous painters. Over the years, Victorine modeled for Édouard Manet many times. Although Manet was married, there is speculation that they may have had a long love affair.
Victorine by Drema Drudge
Drēma Drudge’s novel, Victorine, is a beautifully crafted historical fiction story about Édouard Manet’s favorite model, Victorine Meurent & her transformation into an accomplished artist in her own right. From the dank depths of the catacombs to the art studios of some of the most esteemed impressionists of Paris, this first-person story captures a time and place from the unlikeliest of sources – the model for Manet’s “scandalous” painting, Olympia. Press here for a full review about his book.
However, Victorine was much more than a painter’s model. She was also a talented artist in her own right. The prestigious Paris Salon exhibited many of her paintings, which was an amazing accomplishment for any female in those times.
A Historical Fiction Story about Camille Pissarro
Depths of Glory by Irving Stone
Irving Stone has crafted a fictional-biography about the impressionism painter Camille Pissarro. The story tells of Pissarro’s challenging journey through life in both his artistic and personal spheres. However despite his many challenges, Pissarro passionately continued to paint and create. Throughout the book, you are also transported into the world of the Impressionism artists and their connection to Pissarro. All the big names are here, such as Manet, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Degas and many more.
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
Marriage of Opposites is a fabulous love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas. The main protagonist is a headstrong Jewish woman, Rachel, who breaks all the rules. She eventually gives birth to the impressionism painter, Camille Pissarro, who inherited her avant garde character.
Best Historical Fiction Novels about the 19th & 20th century French Post-Impressionism Artists
Historical Fiction Novels about Paul Cezanne, The “Father of Modern Art”
Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland
Lisette’s List is a beautiful love story that deals with the themes of art, love, loss and healing. The setting is a small rustic village in picturesque Provence and during the gloomy years of WW2 . The book transports you into the world of the French post-impressionists, such as Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall who spent time in this region. Press here for my full review.
Top Historical Fiction about the sad life of the post-impressionist Toulouse Lautrec
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore
The Moulin Rouge by Pierre La Mure
This book was written in 1950 but is a timeless classic. The story captures the sad life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec from his birth town in Albi, to his creative years in in Montmartre until his death in Saint-André-du-Bois. It will ignite your imagination and romantic hunger of 19th century Paris during the emergence of the impressionists. For my full review, press here.
Great Historical Fiction about the Belarus / French artist Marc Chagall
The Bridal Chair by Gloria Goldreich
The Bridal Chair is a wonderful historical saga that follows the Chagall family through the eyes of Chagall’s daughter, Ida. The book is set in turbulent times, especially for Jews and also in France where Chagall and his family live. It’s a well written book, full of fascinating historical detail and featuring a host of famous artists from that period. Check out my full review here.
Best Historical Fiction books Novels about Pablo Picasso – one of the greatest artists of the 20th century
Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
Madame Picasso is a beautiful love story. It is a known fact that Pablo Picasso’s art was influenced and inspired by the women in his life. This book is about one of those women, Eva Gouel. Eva is probably one of the lesser known women but she was in fact one of his greatest loves. We learn about Picasso and his avant garde art world through her eyes. The author wonderfully captures the events that molded Picasso into the artist he was yet to become. Press here for my full review.
Novels about the Pont Aven Artist Paul Gauguin
Wonderful Historical Fiction about the Trailblazing Female Post-Impressionist Suzanne Valadon
Renoir’s Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewitt
Suzanne Valadon: The Mistress of Montmartre by June Rose
Both book are about the lesser known, trailblazing female, post-impressionism painter Suzanne Valadon.
Valadon was a poor French country girl when she moved to Paris towards the end of the 19th century. She wanted to become an artist but could not afford professional art classes. However, she managed to enter the art scene by modeling for many of the emerging artists of that time, including Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani and others. Through these artists, she learned of what was happening in the art world.
Valadon eventually found the courage to show her artworks to her artist friends and she became a well-respected artist in her own right. This was an incredible achievement as Suzanne Valadon was a self-taught and still managed to make a name for herself in the male-dominated art world.
Both books transport you into the avant garde art scene of Montmartre in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You will read about Suzanne Valadon’s remarkable determination to live by her own set of rules & defying all the norms of the time. Valadon’s story is inspirational. Check out my full book reviews here.
Historical Fiction Novel about the Post Impressionist Maurice Utrillo (son of Susan Valadon)
Man of Montmartre by Stephen & Ethel Longstreet
Historical Fiction Story about Pierre Bonnard Bonnard
Contre-Jour: A Triptych After Pierre Bonnard by Gabriel Josipovici
Novels about the French Impressionism Sculptor Auguste Rodin
Best Non Fiction Books (biographies) that Capture the French Impressionists & Post-Impressionists in 19th – 20th Century in Belle Epoque Paris
Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe
This wonderful book captures the pulse and atmosphere of Paris between the years 1871 and 1900. Each chapter is devoted to a year in the French capital. We learn of different events that happened in those years through the incredible people who were part of it, such as the artists Victor Hugo, Monet, Degas, Rodin, Manet, Zola, Degas, Rodin and prominent politicians and scientists, such as Clemenceau and Marie Curie.
Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War by Mary McAuliffe
Mary McAuliffe’s second book is a follow up to her first one: Dawn of the Belle Epoque. This book focuses also on some very famous people from the years 1900 until the end of WW1 in 1918. The author tells us the stories of trailblazing characters such as Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Rodin, Debussy, Satie and others. Like in her first book, each chapter covers another year starting with 1900. Although non-fiction, the book reads like historical fiction, enjoyable and totally engaging.
Tell me of your favorite art historical fiction book that is not on my list!
Please send me your comments & recommendations of any art historical fiction novels or wonderful biographies about the impressionists that is not on my list.
I look forward to hearing from you!