His Masterpiece (sometimes translated as The Masterpiece) is the 14th novel Emile Zola's grand Rougon Macquart Cycle of twenty novels. I have begun to also read Honore de Balzac and it does not take a degree from the Sorbonne to see his tremendous influence on Zola.
My post read research indicates it is based loosely on Zola's friendship with the artist Paul Cezzanne. Some say the book badly hurt Zola's relationship to Cezzanne. There is also an author included as one of the characters who is clearly attended as a satirical self portrait. This book is Zola's look, his expose, of the business side of the art world in Paris. I found it a very enjoyable read. It was great to see how the art market works, how dealers manipulate prices. The artistic life of the central character in this work is very dominated by his drive to create a large overwhelming masterpiece. We also follow his marriage and see his marriage have serious up and downs but his true love, his mistress, as his wife accuses him, is his ever in process masterpiece.
The denoumont is crushingly sad, very real. I think this is overall a fine novel that could be read as a standalone work.
The next work in the cycle, The Earth, focuses on small farmers.