The Masterpiece, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The Masterpiece is the tragic story of Claude Lantier, an ambitious and talented young artist from the provinces who has come to conquer Paris and is conquered by the flaws in his own genius.

While his boyhood friend Pierre Sandoz becomes a successful novelist, Claude's originality is mocked at the Salon and turns gradually into a doomed obsession with one great canvas.

Life - in the form of his model and wife Christine and their deformed child Jacques - is sacrificed on the altar of Art. The Masterpiece is the most autobiographical of the twenty novels in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series.

Set in the 1860s and 1870s, it provides a unique insight into his career as a writer and his relationship with Cezanne, a friend since their schooldays in Aix-en-Provence.

It also presents a well-documented account of the turbulent Bohemia world in which the Impressionists came to prominence despit the conservatism of the Academy and the ridicule of the general public. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199536917



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This book is a masterpiece, so to speak. It centers around the "open air" (i.e., impressionist) Claude Lantier and his struggles to create a masterpiece. The counterpoint is his depressing and tragic relationship with Christine, who ends up a near-martyr to his art. Claude is surrounded by a La Boheme-like group of artists, writers, journalists, and others--including a character based on Zola who is writing a cycle of novels like the Rougon-Macquart cycle.Zola sets out to write a naturalistic, scientific observation but can't help making it a true novel with a well-structured beginning, middle and end, and a certain amount of melodrama along the way. He also sets out to write a criticism of impressionism and the art world, but ends up making it more of an accidental tribute.More than the other two Zola novels I've read, this one truly is about Paris. The peripatetic characters traverse much of Paris, with Zola describing all the streets and landmarks they pass in their wanderings. And Lantier's attempted masterpiece is an enormous painting of the Île de la Cité, which is described from every angle and at every time.It is also much more of a novel of ideas, with long debates on the nature of art and its role in society.It is also a riveting, moving story from beginning to end.

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