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The Scandinavian Pupils of The Atelier Bonnat, 1867-1894  
By Siulolovao Challons-Lipton
Illustrated. 228 pp.
Edwin Mellen Press. US$109.95
ISBN-10: 0773473335 / ISBN-13: 9780773473331

Although largely ignored in later periods, the French painter Léon Bonnat was one of the key figures the reform of artistic education in France in the nineteenth century. Although he was never a member of the prominent and influential Parisian art school École des Beaux-Arts, Bonnat nonetheless engaged with the École rigorously enough to affect its outlook and curriculum. His innovations in teaching reached a wider selection of students than the ones who actually studied under him.

Bonnat's influence spread not only in France but into Scandinavia as well. Scandinavian admiration of avant-garde developments in French art led a number of Scandinavian art students to study in France. Through her thorough, comprehensive study of this period of time and the artists and works associated with it, Siulolovao Challons-Lipton offers a fascinating and far-reaching portrayal of cross-cultural influences in art.

Dr. Challons-Lipton's research is thorough and broad. Her fluency in Swedish and French allowed her to comb archives in France and Sweden, including diaries and letters of artists, pictures, and the journalistic record to provide a study of this previously little investigated topic. Her reliance on ample primary source documents provides evidence for the connections she shows between nineteenth-century painters of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and their experiences in the studios of Paris.

She further demonstrates that the influence of Bonnat's teaching spread into institutions of Scandinavian art education. The interrelationship between Bonnat's art education in France and the Scandinavian painters who studied under him has left a legacy in the art world that still exists today.

Included in this work are color plates of works of Scandinavian artists who studied in France at the studio of Bonnat. The choice of plates demonstrates the strong visual links between Scandinavian and French painters. The use of light, in particular, is strongly reminiscent of the presentation and play of light so associated with French painters of the day.

Much has been made by art historians of the national character of art and of national artistic periods in history. At times, the nationalist focus has detracted attention from the complex interplay of artists, influence, and art education that exists between countries.

All art is subject to reinterpretation. Readers of this work may find their previous notions about the influence of national character upon art may be challenged and altered. In this study, Dr. Challons-Lipton offers more than an excellent interpretation of the place of nationality as a factor in defining schools of art. She has also created a scholarly study that can stand as a model for other researchers and writers in cross-cultural art history and interpretation. Her research is of this valuable material is comprehensive and detailed, her conclusions well supported by the material, and her writing style a pleasure to read.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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