Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art is heavy on the blue and the art, but light on the comedy.
The book is set in the art scene of 19th century Paris, a fascinating time for the art world. Every artist of this era makes an appearance in Sacre Bleu, Mr. Moore did a ton of impressive research for this book.
The book begins with the end of Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life, an apparent suicide by gunshot. But somehow Vincent gets himself to his doctor before his death for treatment, where he raves about the color blue. Lucien Lessard (fictional) a baker and aspiring painter and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (real artist, fictionalized) become detectives into Van Gogh’s death, because it is odd that he tried to save himself right after trying to off himself, no matter how crazy he’d become.
It turns out there is a pattern. They find that almost all of their fellow artists have at one point been obsessed with a model, or muse, to the point that they have lost time and paintings. This includes Lucien who’s obsession is Juliette and for Henri it’s a beautiful laundress with red hair, whom you will see in Henri Touluse-Lautrec’s actual paintings. These muses are more than just beautiful people, they are one supernatural being called Blue. Blue and The Colorman, a troll like creature, make ultra marine blue (sacred blue) through a ritual that involves an artists painting, love, pain and sacrifice. This can leave the artist mad, or even dead like Vincent.
Here are a couple of passages I loved.
“An artist cannot let madness stop him from making art; he simply has to channel it.”
“They are not whores as they would be if they took a step outside, or as they will be when they are called down stairs by the madam, but they are nothing else either. They are between. Not what they used to be and not what they’ve become.”
I feel “between” all the time.
A thought I had as I read this. I make my living as an artist (I am not even close to the level as the artists portrayed in this book) and I draw people from life on a daily basis. One of the comments I get all the time is “this (talent) must be a gift from God.” This is always said in the spirit of good will, and is meant only in the most complementary way, but it has always bugged the crap out of me. What I do has nothing to do with some magical being in the sky sticking his finger into my brain and flipping some switch. It’s genetic and hard work, not magic. Shoot, I’d rather be really good at something more lucrative, truth be told.
But this book makes art into magic, the magic of the color blue. I wonder if Christopher Moore was playing with the idea that most people (who can only draw stick figures) look upon those with talent as if they have some magic, or does he himself feel that way.
I am pleased he wrote this book about these artists, the impressionists, that's rare to find.