Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art Christopher Moore
Here are actual facts:
Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a field and then walked a mile to his doctor's house before actually dying.
True Blue. A blue that wouldn't fade or distort over time was Sacred Blue. The church deemed that this blue was the only color that could be used for the cloak of the Virgin Mary. This blue could only be made from lapis lazuli, which could only be found in the mountains of Afghanistan. For centuries, blue was more valuable than gold.
Before you can paint, you need color. Artists originally were supposed to pick their own plants, grind their own minerals, make their own color. It's a wonder anything ever got painted. Colormen were professionals who made color-- they would sell artists the pigment, the powder, that they would then mix with oil or plaster or whatever they needed to get their preferred medium.
Here's the story that Moore sets forth:
The artist community of Montemartre is deeply shaken by Van Gogh's death, especially Lucien Lessard and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Towards the end of his life, Van Gogh had warned everyone to beware of the Colorman. There were several colormen around Paris at the time, but every artist in the area knew right away which one he meant.
Beware his blue.
There is a woman, a beautiful woman, that's always involved when the Colorman appears. Even as Lucien and Henri are unraveling the mystery, Lucien's becoming the next victim.
And it slowly turns more sinister as you're not entirely sure what the woman is, but it's becoming apparent that she's not human. And through it all is Paris, and the art, and the bread (oh! the bread!), and the drink.
It's hard to fully describe without getting spoilery. It weaves through time and art.
It's not as LOL as the other Moore I've read-- most of the humor comes from bawdy drunk comments by Henri. But it's wonderful. It gives a story to some of the world's most famous paintings, it gives a background and a life to the artists. It's a mystery and a love letter to the color blue.
Henri as a character is delightful. He's much more than the comic sidekick.
I loved the way the Impressionists and the new generation of artists mixed and mingled, fought and mentored, and all were affected by the Colorman and the blue.
Also, this is a book you need to read in print or on a color screen. As much as I love my black and white Kindle, this is not a book for that.
First off, it's printed in dark blue ink instead of black.
More importantly, it's illustrated. The paintings that are discussed, many of which capture important characters and plot points, are all real paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others and they're in the book, scattered in the text, in full color. It's a gorgeous design that doesn't interfere and works perfectly.
Book Provided by... my local library
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