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Pierre Grassou   By: (1799-1850)

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Pierre Grassou by Honoré de Balzac is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complex world of art and the inherent contradictions within it. Set in mid-19th century Paris, the story follows Pierre Grassou, a mediocre painter who enjoys a level of success in the art world, despite lacking any genuine talent or originality.

Balzac masterfully presents Grassou as a representative character, embodying both the triumphs and the failings of the art scene during that era. Through Grassou, the author raises important questions about the nature of art, the role of artists in society, and the thin line between authenticity and forgery.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this novel is Balzac's ability to depict the various facets of the art world in an incredibly vivid and realistic manner. He skillfully portrays the artist's struggle for recognition and financial stability, the ruthless competition among painters, and the intrigue and duplicity prevalent within artistic circles. Balzac unveils the vanity and ambition that can corrupt even the most talented individuals, making Pierre Grassou a cautionary tale for both aspiring artists and those involved in the arts.

The character development in Pierre Grassou is absolutely superb. Grassou, although lacking in talent, is endowed with a profound moral integrity and an unwavering dedication to his craft. He becomes a sympathetic figure, evoking both admiration and pity from the readers. Through his character, Balzac subtly suggests that perhaps it is not talent alone that defines an artist, but rather the artist's ability to navigate the treacherous waters of the art world and adapt to its demands.

Balzac's prose is elegant and richly descriptive, transporting the reader to the bustling streets of Paris and immersing them in the tumultuous art scene of the era. His keen observations and sharp wit make for an engaging read, while his exploration of themes such as the value of art, the concept of genius, and the influence of society on artistic production adds depth and intellectual weight to the narrative.

However, some readers may find the pacing of the novel to be a bit slow at times, as Balzac meticulously builds the intricate web of relationships and rivalries among the characters. Additionally, the extensive descriptions of artwork and artistic techniques may be overwhelming for those less familiar with the art world.

Overall, Pierre Grassou is a captivating and insightful novel that sheds light on the paradoxes and challenges faced by artists. Balzac's masterful storytelling and profound understanding of human nature make this work a must-read for anyone interested in the world of art or the complexities of the human condition.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To The Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery, Periollas, As a Testimony of the Affectionate Esteem of the Author,

De Balzac


Whenever you have gone to take a serious look at the exhibition of works of sculpture and painting, such as it has been since the revolution of 1830, have you not been seized by a sense of uneasiness, weariness, sadness, at the sight of those long and over crowded galleries? Since 1830, the true Salon no longer exists. The Louvre has again been taken by assault, this time by a populace of artists who have maintained themselves in it.

In other days, when the Salon presented only the choicest works of art, it conferred the highest honor on the creations there exhibited. Among the two hundred selected paintings, the public could still choose: a crown was awarded to the masterpiece by hands unseen. Eager, impassioned discussions arose about some picture. The abuse showered on Delacroix, on Ingres, contributed no less to their fame than the praises and fanaticism of their adherents. To day, neither the crowd nor the criticism grows impassioned about the products of that bazaar. Forced to make the selection for itself, which in former days the examining jury made for it, the attention of the public is soon wearied and the exhibition closes... Continue reading book >>

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