The Unknown Masterpiece
by Honoré de Balzac, introduction by Arthur C. Danto, translated from the French by Richard Howard
One of Honoré de Balzac’s most celebrated tales, “The Unknown Masterpiece” is the story of a painter who, depending on one’s perspective, is either an abject failure or a transcendental genius—or both. The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cézanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton’s words, a “fable of modern art.”
Published here in a new translation by poet Richard Howard, “The Unknown Masterpiece” appears, as Balzac intended, with “Gambara,” a grotesque and tragic novella about a musician undone by his dreams.
The greatest novelist of the nineteenth century and perhaps of all time.
—The New York Times
The hero of The Unknown Masterpiece, Frenhofer, is one of Balzac's archetypal artists....
—The Washington Post