The Salon

Writer(s): Nick Bertozzi
Artist(s): Nick Bertozzi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN: 978-0312354855
Price: $19.95
Page count: 192
Year Released: 2007
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): hardcover originally published by Alternative Comics (ISBN 978-1891867774)
Genres: fantasy; historical fiction; mystery/crime
Recommended for Fans Of: Braque, Picasso, Gauguin, Gertrude Stein, etc.
Possibly Objectionable Material: nudity; sexual situations; violence; drug use; coarse language
If You Like This Book, Try: The Left Bank Gang
Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
In Paris, circa 1908, a rash of killings is being blamed on a "blue-skinned" woman who seems to be targeting Bohemians. Against this backdrop of terror, the French painter Georges Braque is struggling to push beyond the Fauvist style, attempting to build upon Cézanne's idea of simultaneous perspective. His work is discovered by Gertrude and Leo Stein, who welcome Braque into their salon. There, Braque meets the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, and the two form an immediate bond through their desire to transform the very concept of artistic representation in two dimensions.

Meanwhile, the members of the Steins' salon introduce Braque to a rare form of blue absinthe from Hungary, which allows the drinker to physically enter paintings. But when Braque and fellow salon member Guillaume Apollinaire are attacked by an ethereal blue-skinned woman inside a Gauguin painting, the members of the salon reveal to Braque that they suspect Gauguin's mistress, Annah, as the killer. Intrigued by this turn of events, Braque and Picasso set out to capture Annah and solve the mystery before she kills again--all while working together to develop what would become the Cubist art movement.

My Own 2 Cents
The Salon is a fanciful look at the tremendous changes taking place in the Western art world at the beginning of the twentieth century. The hero of the book is Georges Braque--but Picasso is undoubtedly the star. His bravado, his ego, and his womanizing are on full display here, and his idiom when speaking English (as written by Bertozzi) is flat out hilarious.

This is not a book that provides a straight history of early-twentieth-century painting (if the "murdering mistress inhabiting paintings" subplot described above didn't make that clear), but is rather an exploration of the relationships between the disparate personalities that formed the vanguard of Western art in the early 1900s. In addition to Braque, Picasso, Apollinaire, and the Steins, other famous individuals who make their appearances in the book include Matisse, Gauguin (though he actually died in 1903), Erik Satie, and Alice Toklas, among others.

The result is informative, funny, thought-provoking, and eminently readable. Bertozzi clearly spent a lot of time exploring inside the heads of his cast of real-life characters. The intellectually passionate relationship of Braque and Picasso is touching, and the developing rift between Stein and her brother when Toklas arrives on the scene practically crackles on the page. This is the perfect book for anyone interested in the Bohemian culture of Paris in the early twentieth century.