Reviewed August 2019
Peter Klubek, Reference Librarian/Assistant Professor; Department Chair Library
Baton Rouge Community College
Claude Monet: The Water-Lilies and Other Writings on Art is an open access e-book published by Windsor and Downs Press, written by Georges Clemenceau, a former Prime Minister of France, and translated by Bruce Michelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois. Readers have the option of reading the book directly online, or downloading it as an EPUB file. Both are no-cost options.
The book is arranged logically and presented in easily-digested segments. As Bruce Michelson points out in his preface, this is not the first translation of Clemenceau on this topic. However, it is the first to include the translations of his additional writings, which serve to provide a context and understanding of Clemenceau not only as a politician but also as a friend and advocate for the arts. The book begins with a listing of image credits, follows with a preface by Michelson, and is then divided into two parts. Part one is broken up over ten chapters and addresses Monet and his water-lilies, while part two includes other writings related to art that discuss the Louvre collection, other smaller museums, and the importance of the visual arts to the cultural identity of France.
In the online reading option there is an opportunity to search for content using a link provided in the upper left hand side of the page. The “Sign in” button is a bit of a mystery, as no sign in is required, and the content is freely available. Additionally, there is no sign up option for those who do not already have an account. Readers of the online option can also share a link to the entire e-book directly through Twitter or Facebook using the buttons provided for each social networking platform. The book can be read by clicking the “Read” button in the navigation bar, or by selecting “Read Book” in the center of the screen. The content is displayed clearly in an intuitive interface, and readers can scroll through an entire chapter on one screen.Moving through chapters is effortless with two large buttons allowing one to advance forward or backward.
A quick catalog search from two research libraries and one museum library revealed similar titles on this topic. However, none of them approached Monet’s water lilies with the quality and perspective offered in this volume.
Users of this e-book might include art students attempting to gain insights on Monet’s thoughts about his art and art processes, art historians exploring the wider ideals and implications of Monet’s water lily paintings, and historical researchers. This last target audience might include researchers analyzing the life of Clemenceau, as Monet was a close friend of the author, and through discussions of their friendship Clemenceau reveals a mindset that may not be found in other historical documents. Insights into Clemenceau’s passion for the arts is also represented by the additional writings included with this translation. His writings on the Louvre and the people that run the museum provide a primary source from a man who loved France and how art helped shape the culture of that nation.
Claude Monet: The Water-Lilies and Other Writings on Art is a quality resource that is freely available to all with an internet connection. Navigation is easy and intuitive. Scholars from the arts as well as history might be interested in the content. Michelson has gathered and contextualized primary sources touching on aspects of art, history, and culture in this update to material that would otherwise be dispersed amongst different publications. By combining these resources, they are now conveniently accessible to all.