Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Manet: the Man who Invented Modernity

This was the title of the exhibition that opened today at the Musee d'Orsay. I waited in a massive line to enter the museum - this is a momentous occassion - Manet is one of France's own heroes, as the lofty title suggests. I was so blown away by the scale, depth and quality of the permanent collection of 19th century painting and sculpture at the Musee d'Orsay that I will save it for another blog post. For now I will just focus on Manet, the man of the hour.

I must admit I have always had a distaste for the brusqueness of Manet's realism, the harsh opaque blacks and the whites that appear to be spackled onto the canvases, and his vigorous frantic brush marks. His friend, the French writer and critic Emile Zola wrote that "One can see in Manet's paintings a fierce search for truth'. Maybe it is this fierceness that has made me wince in the past, but has also led me to re-examine him with interest and appreciate him anew.

Today I began to see the important connection between Manet and Spanish painting. His works have that bold and generous paint quality of Velaszquez and the strange dramatic tension of Goya and El Greco's works. He even painted many Spanish subjects - traditional Spanish dancers in all their sexy bold finery. Baudelaire once remarked "the genius of Spain resides now in France".

Manet's friendship with the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire was important, as they both sought to bring romanticism into modern life. This is seen most clearly in Manet's famous "Olympia" and "Dejeuner sur l'herbe"

using themes from Italian Renaissance painting and giving them a very harsh modern treatment in these pictures. Even the lighting is harsh and direct. He painted religious compositions to gain public acclaim, but instead scandalized everyone with his 'profane' treatment of sacred subject matter. His "Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels" was mocked by one critic who called it "Christ in the Cellar, supported by Two Chimney Sweeps".

On a lighter note, my dinner tonight: Artisanale Gelato

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Location:Paris, France

1 comment:

  1. It is never a bad time to seek out good gelato and/or chocolate .... before or after an exhibit, day or night, rain or shine . . .