Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D'Art is a bawdy romp through Impressionist art history that begins with the murder of Vincent Van Gogh. In case you’re wondering, history will tell you that Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, and in the afterword Moore titled “So, Now You’ve Ruined Art," the author asks, “What kind of painter does that? Who tries to kill himself by shooting himself in the chest, then walks a mile to seek medical treatment?” The author concludes with, “What kind of muse inspires that?” and the novel Sacre Bleu is born.
The primary characters are a crooked little man called The Colorman, the muse Sacre Bleu (or simply Bleu), and a baker’s son and would-be artist, Lucien Lessard. Lessard’s father was fascinated by the community of artists and often supported them with his bread. Their frequent visits to the bakery fueled Lucien’s passion for becoming a painter. Moore is a name-dropper, including artists from the art community like Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Georges Seurat, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Claude Monet among others, making them characters in his story. Famous works of art are also reproduced throughout the book.
But Sacre Bleu is not an intellectual study of art history but a dark comedy. Bleu and The Colorman are coarse and merciless, using their ultramarine blue paint with its odd magical properties as a way to seduce painters and steal their paintings. Bleu inspires masterpieces as she inhabits the bodies of models. More than one of the painters in the book die, some from syphilis, although not all deaths are as successful as others. Bleu and The Colorman appear to have eternal qualities, not to mention Bleu’s ability to produce the ultramarine blue color that is like no other.
Sacre Bleu is a unique story. Moore gives the muse embodiment and motive. After all, would a “good” muse inspire Van Gogh’s suicide? At the very least, Sacre Bleu will encourage readers to bone up on their art history and enjoy the works of art reproduced in the book.
Sacre Bleu was published in 2012 by William Morrow.