Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore follows a fictional character, Lucien Lessard, who lives with his family in a boulangerie surrounded by the Paris streets of Montmartre. Along with baking bread, Lucien has a passion for painting which is encouraged by the many painters who had studios in the area. Among his friends are Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Camille Pissarro. The story opens with the death of Vincent Van Gogh. While much of the book is fictional, there are many intriguing factoids (be sure to read the Afterword). One such fact is that ultramarine blue was very expensive if the painter used the natural powder from crushed lapis lazuli gemstones. Another tidbit was that Whistler, while scraping and using white lead paint in Symphony in White, developed lead poisoning. Although I enjoyed the interaction between the painters, the book was very odd/strange. The supernatural aspects of the Colorman and Bleu I found confusing.
From the cover:
In July 1890, Vincent Van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers take his life . . . and then walk a mile to a doctor's house? Who was the crooked little "color man" Vincent claimed was stalking him? and why had Vincent recently become terrified of a certain shade of blue?
These questions confront baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec as they seek the truth of their friend's untimely death, a quest that will lead them on a surreal odyssey through later 19th-century Paris.
You can read the first few chapters here