As the first post in Noah Dillon's new "Tell Me" series, where artists discuss single work of art in person, Eric Sutphin considers Manet's Boating (1874) (and Bouguereau) at the Met.
Sutphin comments: "This painting feels rather stripped in a way, and I think our identification with some kind of subject, a human subject, is an important aspect of this painting. And it brings me into that by way of all of the vision games Manet’s playing... When you spend a lot of time thinking about how contemporary vision is shifting as a result of the ubiquity of screens, lenses, cameras, all these things, it can feel a little scary, vertiginous. It’s a consolation to know that these guys were also at that same precipice. A significant difference between Bouguereau and Manet is the matter of vision and seeing. The two artists are representative of two types of seeing and a shift in the way that people perceive images. It’s not incidental: space like this becomes physiological, and by closing in on this scene Manet was both internalizing and depicting a new paradigm in perception."
Alexi Worth examines the link between Delacroix's observations on photography and the paintings of Manet.
Worth writes: "It’s clear that Delacroix loved the new technology’s dazzling naturalism, but not its overabundant detail. Again and again he mentions simplicity—a key term for Delacroix—as a quality good photographs lacked. There was something disagreeable about their 'all the tiles on a roof' busyness, their lack of selectivity... Imagine yourself as an ambitious young Parisian artist in the 1850s... Judging by Delacroix’s own writings, the answer is clear: you would start from imperfect or faulty photographs. You would strip away overabundant detail. Your execution would be selective and uneven. In some areas, you might follow photographic proportions; in others you might be tolerant of incorrectness. In 1863, in the very year that Delacroix died, the Parisian public singled out a painting that embodied exactly these qualities, a painting whose imagery recalls, with strange specificity, the story of Delacroix’s experiment. It’s odd that this painting, Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, which has tested our ingenuity for 150 years, has never been linked to Delacroix’s journal account."
Camilla Fallon blogs about Édouard Manet's The Dead Toreador, 1864 in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Fallon writes: "The figure cuts a powerful diagonal within the rectangle’s frame. The beautiful, exquisitely dressed corpse floats before us for our inspection. We see hardly a crease in the clothes, or a mark on the body. The silent wide fact of it is a shock. Only the head is dramatically off axis. The young man is dead but just a trickle of red near his shoulder and smudge about the mouth indicates blood. Red is echoed throughout, notably in the pink satin muleta resting on the floor, emphasizing the ground plane, fixing the eye level, and leading us into the space that his body occupies. The tiny red flecks of blood on his hand and pink sash are another hint as the mottled sash bisects his body. Stretched out and motionless, this beautiful giant’s pink cummerbund conveys volume and whispers to our perceptions of stamina and virility. The head’s counter-diagonal position relays the idea that the man is dead. But Manet holds back, creating drama not by indicating action but by using extremes of light and dark, with the blackest black and the whitest white inhabiting the same color space."
Dennis Kardon considers Edouard Manet's painting Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers (1864–65).
Kardon writes: "As with Olympia, and many other Manet paintings, we occupy an unstable place as viewers. A narrative is suggested but there is a dislocation in the normal suspension of disbelief. We experience a vibration between different levels of representation: between a painting of a story, a realist painting of a group of models or actors, and the theatrical enactment of a scene where a slightly effete intellectual white boy is bullied by lower class brutes, identified as soldiers, but really more like a gang. Yet it is also hard to escape being in the present, self-consciously experiencing oneself in the act of looking at the painting, admiring the formal construction—the opposing vectors formed by various limbs, edges, creases and rods that create negative spaces that reveal subtle information, as well as the action of the paint. Simultaneously there is the awareness of all the narrative possibilities this mise-en-scene implies."
Martin Gayford talks to four painters - Tom Phillips, Christopher Le Brun, Michael Craig-Martin, and Sean Scully - about the paintings of Manet on the occasion of the recent exhibition Manet: Portraying Life at the Royal Academy, London.
Gayford writes that each artist "who talks about Manet here admires him as a supreme master of the brush, using it both slowly and at astonishing speed. Suitably, Sean Scully RA pays tribute to Manet the colourist, meaning not that he used a rainbow palette but that he did unprecedented and marvellous things with the shades – sometimes using just black and cream. Michael Craig-Martin RA talks about Manet the modernist, anticipating the century to come in the way he structured a picture, his enigmatic approach to narrative, and – what everybody comes back to – the marvellous things he did to paint with his brush."
On the occasion of the exhibition Manet: Portraying Life at the Royal Academy, London (on view through April 14, 2013), Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann examines the paintings of Manet and the failure of language to capture the "complex tying together of propositions, the psychological nuances and the suspension of time that characterise our experience of painting."
"Wrapped up in Manet’s complexity," Wiedel-Kaufmann concludes, "we are in awe of his poetic harmonies. Transported through a scene of daily life to an eternally balanced irresolution, a meditation on the process of vision and the mechanics of painting at once bound to and detached from the portrayal."
Painter Alan Gouk visits Manet: Portraying Life at the Royal Academy (through April 14, 2013) and muses on the ways Manet has influenced later painters.
Gouk concludes: "There are aspects of modernism which of course challenge this nexus of values, but Manet’s art is a permanent reminder that the complex constructions of cerebral compulsiveness, the ploddings of so called 'realism,' or indexes of socio-political advance in mores and life-style, however 'modernistic' they may consider themselves to be, are likely to be, in spite of themselves less a true reflection of their times than an indictment of it. They have missed the message. Manet emphasises that the continuity of painting, the continuity of value in life, is made apparent if the artist finds and holds on to his own mode of vision, trusting his own eyesight and his 'convictions of taste,' influenced as they inevitably will be by the passing show, and the march of 'history'."
On the occasion of the exhibition Manet: Portraying Life at the Toledo Museum, Ohio (on view from October 7, 2012–January 1, 2013), Tyler Green talks to exhibition co-curator Lawrence Nichols and Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The segments include a discussion of Manet's interest in portraiture, his subjects, his interest in Frans Hals, and "the Spanish influence on Manet’s portraiture, both Spanish pictures Manet saw in France in the 1850s and early 1860s and then the importance of Manet’s 1865 visit to Spain."
An argument for painting's ongoing potential as a medium for social commentary.
"There is no reason for today’s painting - even in the age of multi-media, performance or interdisciplinary artists - to step down and limit its activity to what is believed to be its unaltered or eternal essence. The fixed image, may it be produced in drawing, painting or in print, can do much more than be 'content with a material-based practice.' All of the [works mentioned in the post] of traditional art share the following: they mastered their medium and they were socially relevant if not transformative. Why should not the same be true for painting and painters today?"
Scott Allan detail Manet's Portrait of Madame Brunet, which recently entered the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Allan notes that the painting "[calls] to mind 17th- and 18th-century examples of the Spanish, Flemish, and English schools... For all the veiled quotation in Manet's portrait, however, the signature elements of his original style are blazingly evident: in the brilliant summary execution of the mesmerizing gloves, the subtle wielding of a nuanced range of blacks in the dress, the sharp silhouetting of contours, and in the radical suppression of half-tones and shadows on the pale oval expanse of Mme. Brunet’s strongly lit face."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.