Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Renoir, Sisley, Berthe Moriost and Mary Cassatt were all branded as lunatics, but today this is a roll-call of great artists, whose paintings evoke a unique atmosphere of harmony: languid landscapes flooded with light, shop-workers dancing on their day off, bars and gas-lit streets, the sunlit beach at Trouville. We all know these dazzling pictures - but how well do we know the Impressionists as people? This book tells their story. In a vivid and moving narrative, Sue Roe shows how the early leaders of the group first met in the Paris studios and lived and worked closely together for nearly twenty years. Painting outdoors, meeting in cafes, they supported each other and shared emotional and financial difficulties. Defying the hide-bound rules of the salon, they staged joint exhibitions and rebelled against artistic prejudice, moral tyranny and social hierarchy. Often rejected by their horrified parents, they led volatile and precarious lives: their wives were servants, models, flower-sellers and, although their paintings today sell for millions, they were barely able to support their families. This intimate, colourful, superbly researched account takes us into their homes as well as their studios and describes their love affairs and arguments, heartaches and dreams as well as their canvases and theories. Over the years there were divisions and rows, but in the end this constellation of talent shone through, giving the world a new, exhilarating form of art.