Sunday, May 8, 2016

Musings on Manet

I recently bought a book on Eduard Manet. I was instantly drawn to his paintings when I was younger.  They had a freshness about them.  When I was in the museums as a child I remember thinking that most of the "Classical" paintings made me want fall asleep, but these figures had life in them.  I could see the thickness of the paint applied on the surface.  "The Fifer" I remember seeing in an art book and thinking that it was nice for an artist to depict children in a way that was serious.  "Monk in Prayer" at the MFA in Boston was haunting in its realism.  Manet has a way of drawing from the past and simplifying.  The skull is painted in a painterly way reminding me that this is just a painting, and these are symbols that we are looking at.  "Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe", is a favorite of mine for the strange landscape in the background.  Manet was looking at Giorione's and Titan's,"The Pastoral Concert," as well as engravings by Raimondi.  Giorgione's landscapes are dark and beautiful with space that seems hard to navigate.  Manet's painting too seems hard to believe for other reasons. Both paintings seem to be conjuring a pastoral ideal but Manet's is closer to what we might see in the woods yet still a very loose and imaginative landscape.  I could look at this paintings all day.  The "Olympia" and its predecessor, "Venus of Urbino," also shows how the past is suddenly thrown into the modern.  Manet was looking to the past but drawing from it in a away that made his paintings relevant to his present time yet continuing the narrative of art history. I find this dialogue with the past in his paintings fascinating weather he is drawing from great painters like Diego Velazquez or Raphael.