|"Cafe at the Folies Bergere" Manet|
Ok, there might be an explanation. Last weekend I went to see Manet's paintings at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. I also had just finished reading the book I mentioned in my previous post: "The Judgment of Paris"... so I guess Eduard Manet was at the back of my head "somehow".
By the way, if you live close by, do yourself a favor and go to the Norton Simon where you'll find a few choice paintings by Manet, like "The Ragpicker", a clear homage to Diego Velazquez in it starkness.
But back to the point, I'll admit I always considered poor syphilitic Eduard kind of an over-rated painter. Never mind that the Impressionists thought of him as a trailblazer. A case of the tide raising all boats I thought.
|The Ragpicker by Manet|
|"Menipo" by Velazquez|
This is a nice painting.
It is also Manet's last painting. He died shortly after finishing it. Would Manet have wanted to "leave" something behind, an artistic testament of sorts?
Well, It is unlikely that he would have chosen this painting in particular to do that. As a matter of fact, his "Olympia" was probably more of a statement than this melancholy maid in a bar. But, to me, this one painting acquires a more transcendental meaning when I realize how much effort Manet devoted to go beyond the beautiful shapes and colors and give us a "truth". It is impressive how much study Manet had devoted to soak up the sources of great art, specially Velazquez and Titian, to translate them into images for the eyes of his contemporaries. In a way, Manet was more himself by imitating his idols and imitating them at every turn.
The maid looks beautiful but real nevertheless. Her arms are not artificially slender; her pose is not that of a classic goddess, she has weight and could be any waitress in any bar. Unlike most other paintings by Manet where his subjects have a certain vacant expression, this red-head does have a soul: a sad, may be bored, may be slightly amused but direct gaze. The mirror in the back reminds the viewer of Velazquez's mirror use, be it in the Meninas or in his "Reclining Venus", a device to break the space represented. The brush stroke is loose and expressive, also a Velazquez trademark. It's obvious application is unable to conceal it's material nature, its truth. It's almost almost sloppy.
|Detail of "las Meninas" (mirror) by Velazquez.|
|"Infanta Margarita" Velazquez|