There's so many great art history books! Re. Ross King, try his Defiant Spirits
about the Canadian painters, Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven (sounds a bit like a C&W bar band
If you are interested in 19thC French art, here's a few recommendations -
First to get a real sense of the massive changes French society was undergoing during the period, and that artists were responding to (not much on art other than photography, but essential to understanding the period):
Paris, Capital of Modernity
Simon Schama's Citizens
is a good start for understanding the French Revolution that set the stage for the changes. Schama does a good job of integrating art into what is essentially a history book. (See also his book The Embarrassment of Riches
for a similar treatment of the Dutch Golden Age through art. Also his book, Rembrandt's Eyes
, which focuses on Rembrandt, and to a lesser extent, Rubens, and does a great job of developing an understanding of Dutch society of the time.)
TJ Clark's The Absolute Bourgeois
and Image of the People
are great intros to the mid-19th C work and politics. He writes from a very Marxist position, but in a way even a cranky right-winger like myself can appreciate. A former student of Clark's, Hollis Clayson, wrote Painted Love
, a study of prostitution and art which is worth reading. She's not a good writer (the book reads a bit like a senior thesis), but if you can get past that, the material is quite intriguing.
Sweetman's Explosive Acts
is an interesting look at Lautrec, Feneon, and Wilde, and the anarchist culture of late 19thC France. It's not a great book, but again, one worth reading. (His Gauguin
is much better.)
FWIW - if you are interested inthe history of American art, try Robert Hughes's American Visions
. He does a great job of linking the social and political history of the US with its art.
(to be continued, I hope, but I have to get into the studio).
PS - re. late 19thC French art - to get a good sense of the society of the time, try some of Zola's novels, particularly The Belly of Paris
, The Debacle
, La Terre
, the Masterpiece
. They are all fiction, but Zola was meticulous in his research into the ways people lived, and was a very humane writer, so the novels yield a good sense of French life of the time. I find the Oxford World Classic translations to be generally the best, but others may differ.