• In Montmartre

  • Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art
  • By: Sue Roe
  • Narrated by: Emma Bering
  • Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (204 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the 20th century.

In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager for fame and fortune, first makes his way up the hillside of Paris' famous windmill-topped district. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joins the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression.

Sue Roe has blended exceptional scholarship with graceful prose to write this remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of movements like fauvism, cubism, and futurism and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. Relating the colorful lives and complicated relationships of this dramatic bohemian scene, Roe illuminates the excitement of the moment when these bold experiments in artistic representation and performance began to take shape.

A thrilling account, In Montmartre captures an extraordinary group on the cusp of fame and immortality. Through their stories, Roe brings to life one of the key moments in the history of art.

©2015 Sue Roe (P)2015 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A lively and concise account...[Roe is] very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists' love affairs, infidelities, opium parties and eccentric habits...Roe's book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events." (Associated Press)

"Bold, bright and entertaining.... Full of life and color...[Roe] is particularly gifted at describing paintings, conjuring them up in bold, strong strokes...Roe brings an equal incisiveness to her discussions of art, explaining the overlap among painting, music, literature, couture and dance and the driving forces behind the explorations that artists in all these fields were engaged in." (Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Engaging and insightful.... Roe assembles the complex, disparate developments of the decade into a compulsively readable, fascinating story." (Christian Science Monitor)

What listeners say about In Montmartre

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Florid narrative history with suspect details

As fascinating as Roe's broader project is of using Montmartre as the primary location of one era of artistic innovation and (in her next book) Montparnasse as the site of another, this book left me frustrated. It is well-written in terms of style and flow, but there are too many problematic details in her writing to allow a reader to take it very seriously. For one, Roe exhibits the worst traits in popular history by either speculating on or failing to situate the interior thoughts and feelings of her subjects. This isn't exactly Irving Stone explaining Van Gogh or Michelangelo, but Roe's approach is certainly a descendent. Equally frustrating is Roe's tendency to misrepresent events and facts in order to make her story as narratively engaging as possible. Her passage on early cinema in Paris, for example, repeats the long debunked story of audiences frightfully fleeing the Lumière brothers screening of a train arriving at station and then completely misrepresents the timeline of Georges Méliès' career to fit her story. These are egregious errors that a simple referencing of an encyclopedia could have corrected. At best this book is an approximate snapshot of the topic, but if you care about research or accuracy in history I'd recommend avoiding Roe.

To counter other reviews of the narrator, I actually liked Emma Bering's reading. The exaggeration of her French pronunciation is an indication that she actually pronounces French words and passages correctly. There is a division in tone when switching from English to French, for sure, but both are spoken clearly and intelligibly.

6 people found this helpful

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Skillfully balanced, Entertaining, Informative

To capture the story of the culture and artistic community in Montmartre, (and that greater region), during that period, with all the well-known historical characters, is a monumentally intimidating task. Sue Roe deserves praise for just taking on the task. But then she delivers this work which is successful in so many more ways than I expected.

The Author does a wonderful job of not only taking us into the history of the events of the period but also escorts us through in a way that allows is, with a touch of imagination, to experience it for ourselves. But then, to top that off, she really captures the essences of and takes us to excellent understandings of the minds and motivations of such big characters as Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Fernande Olivier, Braque, and so many more. BUT WAIT, she then gets around all the misinformation and hype that exists (and there's a lot) about what motivated Matisse, Picasso, Braque and others and about what they were trying to accomplish. She brings readers to a much more accurate understanding of this uniquely transformational period in Western art history.

Very well done.

"I have created cubism!"...
... is something no one ever said!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

Loved it. Well written wit endless details about each of the artists featured in the book and remarkable description of the era in which those artists began their work.

8 people found this helpful

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Buy if you can get past her French pronounciation

Trying to enjoy this informative book on a part of modern art history but so put off by the readers affected exaggerated way of pronouncing the French words! It is jarring and annoying. May have to return it but for now trying to stick with it a bit longer.

4 people found this helpful

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Loved the author’s French accent!

I loved hearing the names of artists pronounced so beautifully. Listened as preparation for viewing the “Picasso Figures” exhibition in Nashville TN. Very enlightening.

1 person found this helpful

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makes history live

I enjoyed it so much, I ordered the print book as well as pre-ordering her next book in this series on art.

1 person found this helpful

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A nice overview of an era in art history

A clearly rich in knowledge of historic details , but a little catalogue-like overall . The narrator's almost intrudingly enthusiastic pronunciation, however skilled and clear, was a little destracting. A nice overview of an era in art history.

1 person found this helpful

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Very annoying reading

I hated the reading by this woman. Every time she said “”Montmartre” it sounded like she was hacking up a hairball.

5 people found this helpful

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Can't listen to this.

I really wanted to listen to this book but I find the narrator extremely annoying.
Sorry I didn't return it. Tree book for this one.

6 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Don McArthur
  • Don McArthur
  • 02-20-18

Excellent

Wonderful
No need to hesitate-
Well worth choosing
An absorbing, well written story of the people and events involved in a new kind of art.
Brings all this to life.