Best selling novelist Christopher Moore is at the top of his game. With seven national best-selling novels under his belt, the author of LAMB and FOOL spins another tale destined to become a classic. Anyone with a sense of humor will enjoy his latest, SACRE BLEU. It's only that much better for the reader with a passion for painting, the Impressionists, and art in general. Did I mention that anyone with a sense of humor will love this story?
In this, his thirteenth novel, Moore explores one of his greatest personal passions--art history--with a focus on and around the 19th century impressionists. SACRE BLEU (April 2012, Harper Collins) delivers a mysterious and magical journey through a period that painters such as we could only dream of visiting. As of this writing, time travel is still considered too risky, so for us, Moore's novel may be just the ticket. Be forewarned: SACRE BLEU is not for everyone. If you don't like to laugh out loud, if you don't believe that Manet, Gauguin, Seurat, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir were cool to hang around with, or if you still believe that Van Gogh shot himself, then this book may not be for you. If you want to fall in love with the real Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, horn-dog that he was, SACRE BLEU is for you. SACRE BLEU is a love story, love for the passion of art and painting and of the never-ending search for a muse. It is about the passion of what many consider to be the most beautiful of pigments, ultramarine blue, originally acquired from the semi-precious stone, Lapis Lazuli. It is about the trouble that passion can bring. It is, above all, the story of a French baker, Lucien Lessard, who struggles to paint, to love, and to unravel one of the greatest and most dangerous mysteries in art historyÑthe mystery of blue.
My enthusiasm for SACRE BLEU runs deep, for it was in essence the birth of this novel that led to my becoming a plein air painter. I am hopeful that a whole new cadre of Moore's readers will gain, from reading this novel, the spark that touched me and that they may eventually even pick up a brush. During the Summer of 2008, my wife and I were visiting with Chris Moore and his wife at their home in San Francisco.
Chris had set up a small studio and was learning to paint, or as he put it, to "push color around on the canvas. He was researching SACRE BLEU and wanted to acquire an understanding of what his characters experienced when they were painting. For several days we spent many hours discussing the book. But even more intriguing to me was Chris's depth of knowledge about art history and his unbridled passion for the subject. Just listening to him was exciting, and that excitement, combined with the comic element in his paintings, made me want to pick up a brush. He inspired me, though I wondered if at forty-eight it was too late to get started and to be able to accomplish anything serious. I wondered out loud if a person needed to be born with innate ability to be a decent artist. Chris told me to stop whining, handed me a couple of instructional DVDs, and said, "Buy some paint and have fun." He pushed me out the door and that was that.
Thanks to Christopher Moore and SACRE BLEU, my painting life had begun. This novel will always hold a tremendous amount of magic for me. I hope it will inspire both accomplished and novice painters to believe in the magic that we have all felt when squeezing out the sweet, translucent blue as we lay it down on the palette, or when we pull our brush through the pigment rich linseed oil.
When you read SACRE BLEU, I hope that you will feel the tenderness and love that Chris has for the characters, the artists, and the art --albeit with some hardcore comic perspective--because I can tell you, it is real. I believe you will understand his passion for our art. As you read, think of the smell of a fresh oil painting as it dries, or better yet, read it in your studio and let the smell envelop you. Hold a number 8 flat bristle in your hand as Henri Tolouse-Lautrec charms you. Or read SACRE BLEU en plein air in the Spring grass and let your imagination drift, as the sun goes down laying yellow-green light, and wonder how you'd mix the colors. Look at the sky. Do you see the ultramarine, the Sacred Blue? You do? Then you're a romantic, an artist, and the magic of SACRE BLEU will delight you. And even if you're not, SACRE BLUE is one hell of a fun read.
Garry Kravit is a reader of Plein Air Magazine and a painter since 2008. Garry flies the Boeing 777 as a captain for United Airlines to pay for his color, brushes, and linen.