This painting by Edouard Manet is so intriguing. Where is the gentleman looking at the young woman?
However, this picture fits my topic. This post was written yesterday and it is about Covid-19. It’s incredible, but Covid remains a major threat. Yesterday, there were 2,641 new cases in the province of Quebec, revealing that some people celebrated Christmas and the New Year. One couldn’t. However, there was no demonstration against sanitary measures. Somehow, that is not the sort of thing Canadians do.
I pity the people of Washington, DC. There was a huge pro-Trump rally, which means that a thousand or thousands of people were infected. I believe they wanted life to be normal, which has been Mr. Trump’s attitude. Life is not normal and the pandemic will not end if strong measures are not taken. We must accept that there is a pandemic and stay safe. What choice do we have? I’m glad I live in Canada.
Despite the new lockdown, efforts are being made to keep street people safe. As I told you, I didn’t vote for Monsieur Legault, but I admire the way he is dealing with the pandemic. However, after ten months, Quebec still sits at the top of the list of Canadian victims, followed closely by Ontario. Many are working from home, and many are considering instituting a universal basic income. As for retired persons, it seems that pension funds are not decreasing. I keep thinking that poverty is at my door, but that is not the case.
Both Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Whistler’s Symphony in White were “different,” so both were shown at the 1863 Salon des Refusés.[ii]Émile Zola stated that “[b] eauty [was] no longer an absolute, a preposterous universal standard,”[iii] and, in 1886, he published L’Œuvre (The Masterpiece), a novel inspired by the rejection of Manet’s “Masterpiece.” That same year, Jean Moréas published the Symbolist Manifesto.
View of Mount Fuji from Satta Point in the Suruga Bay, published posthumously (1859)
Sukiyagahsi in the Eastern Capital, from “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” Utagawa Hiroshige, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(Please click on the images to enlarge them.)
Manet’s inclusion in a painting such as the deceitfully realistDéjeuner sur l’herbe of elements that did not seem to belong and did not belong, and Japonisme contributed to the ultimate acceptance of different styles, a multitude of “isms.” How else could Art Nouveau, Post-Impressionism (Van Gogh),[iv]Cubism (Picasso), Intimism, (Modernism [EN]), etc.have emerged? The unexpectedly enigmatic art of Manet and Japonism ushered in the degree of acceptance that characterizes modernism. In fact, Japonism was a tidal wave.
In other words, although there had to be exceptions, beginning with Manet and Japonisme, the world of art broadened. Modernism, starting with Impressionism, inaugurated greater diversity. A list may be useful.
In other words, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, rule-governed academic art simply faded out. But there’s more…
“Views,” or the Japanese Hours
As well, some Japanese prints depicted “hours” of the day. In traditional Japan, hours had been associated with an animal. There were twelve hours: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Hare, the Dragon, the Serpent, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Boar. (See Horloge japonaise traditionnelle, Wikipedia.) These prints reminded me of Benedict’s Canonical Hours. “Hours,” or equivalent observances, existed before Western monasticism. They in fact still exist, not only in Western culture, but also in other cultures and religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Janeism. (See Monasticism, Wikipedia.)
A few days ago, I wrote a post on Édouard Manet‘s Déjeuner sur l’herbe and pointed out that Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia(painted in 1863 and exhibited at the 1865Paris Salon), a sister painting, were enigmatic works of art. Beginning with Manet, art historians tend to look upon a realist or seemingly realist work of art as transitional. The foremost among realist painters was Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877). Now, these transitional works of art take us from Realism to Impressionism, alighting briefly on the Barbizon “plein air” school, but other influences are possible. Such may be the case with Manet.
In the Symbolist Manifesto, written, in French, by Jean Moréas (15 April 1856 – 30 April 1910), born Ioannis A. Papadiamantopoulos, in Greece, and published in 1886, symbolism is described as follows:
“In this art, scenes from nature, human activities, and all other real world phenomena will not be described for their own sake; here, they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideals.”
In a nutshell, ‘to depict not the thing but the effect it produces.'”
See Symbolism (arts), Wikipedia.
“Ainsi, dans cet art, les tableaux de la nature, les actions des humains, tous les phénomènes concrets ne sauraient se manifester eux-mêmes ; ce sont là des apparences sensibles destinées à représenter leurs affinités ésotériques avec des Idées primordiales, …”Manifeste des symbolistes, Le Figaro, Supplément littéraire, p. 1-2, Saturday, 18 September 1886.
A Note on Charles Baudelaire
The Symbolist Manifesto was published later than Manet’s epochalDéjeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia(1862-1865). However, Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal (Gutenberg EBook # 6099 [FR]), a major literary turning-point, was published in 1857 and is a symbolist and modernist collection of poems. In « Correspondances », Baudelaire states that man passes through “forests of symbols” (des forêts de symboles) and he makes associations, which he calls correspondances, that sometimes jar. Yet, although they do not seem to fit or belong, they may be and are very poetical:
Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
– Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants, …
(There are perfumes that are fresh like children’s flesh,
sweet like oboes, green like meadows
– And others, corrupt, rich, and triumphant, … )[ii]
In short, in Déjeuner sur l’herbe, what one sees may be allusive, which would link Manet to symbolism. The naked ladies of Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe may be a reference, as may the gentlemen. They may in fact be remembrances, but whatever they are, they do not truly belong. Nor does Olympia. The public did not like Olympia, but it may simply be that instead of painting a Titian Danaë, or Titian’sVenus of Urbino, which Olympia resembles,Manet showed a demi-mondaine [FR], a modern high-class prostitute or cocotte. This was shocking and a rather peculiar form of modernity.
As for A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, just where is the man? Moreover, is the second woman a reflection of the woman tending the bar? Manet was a trained artist and knew perspective. Therefore, when and if he encroached on the rules of perspective, he did so consciously. At any rate, something jars.
Not all of Manet’s paintings are as evocative as Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Olympia, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère or La Pêche, featured above, but these four paintings feature an uncanny element, such as the couple shown at the bottom right of La Pêche (Fishing). As their clothes indicate, these persons lived in another age. They are Baudelaire’s Vie antérieure(past life).
So it would appear that Manet depicted the ills of modernity and did so in his own modernist manner. He discreetly juxtaposed elements that do not seem related and some of which are symbols. I am using the word “discreetly” because, at first glance, with the possible exception of Olympia, one is unlikely to notice Manet has imported extraneous elements into these paintings. This could be a characteristic of Manet’s modernity.
Let me close, by repeating that the enigmatic Manet may have been influenced by French symbolism. In Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Olympia, ABar at the Folies-Bergère and La Pêche, shown at the top of this post, something does jar. These paintings may be related to the symbolist movement in French literature, but they may also constitute an early form of modernity that expresses resistance to modernity, a resistance conveyed by the inclusion of elements that do not quite fit: “esoteric affinities” (Symbolist Manifesto, quoted above).
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica,
Manet also influenced the path of much 19th- and 20th-century art through his choice of subject matter. His focus on modern, urban subjects—which he presented in a straightforward, almost detached manner—distinguished him still more from the standards of the Salon, which generally favoured narrative and avoided the gritty realities of everyday life. Manet’s daring, unflinching approach to his painting and to the art world assured both him and his work a pivotal place in the history of modern art.[iii]
Although future critics may think differently, Édouard Manet‘s (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883) Déjeuner sur l’herbe, The Luncheon on the Grass, (c. 1863) may well have changed the course of the history of European art, mainly French. It is a representational, à la Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877), rather than an abstract painting. However, it ushered in a revolution.
You may remember thatGertrude Steinand her brotherLeon Steinbought Matisse’s Woman with a Hat, showed at the 1905 Salon d’automne, a newSalon, established in 1903. Matisse was described as a Fauviste, a wild beast, but he didn’t coin the term. This was “du nouveau,” (something new), to quote French poet Charles Baudelaire. Matisse used unusually bold colours. The Cone sisters were also in Paris at the time. These wealthy American socialites could afford artworks.
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe: an element of Magical Realism
Novelty made Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe a painting Academicists would reject. It featured a nude woman sitting with two fully dressed men and sharing a luncheon. Nudes had long entered the Fine Arts, but not in such a manner. The nude figure does not seem to fit the painting. But it could fit the imagination of the gentlemen sitting next to her as well as Manet’s imagination. It could also be a reference or a reminiscence: art within art. There is in Manet an element of magical realism, a characteristic of Latin American literature. According to Professor Matthew Strecher, magical realism is “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”[i]
One of my former teachers writes that “[i]n each case Manet takes a ‘standard’ Reality, not only as to content, but also as toform.”[ii] Professor Gowans also states that Manet was teaching other painters and that his work is therefore “didactic.” As for the public, they were not a factor.
Also enigmatic is Manet’sOlympia, shown at the 1865Paris Salon. But it will not be discussed today.
[i]Matthew C. Strecher, “Magical Realism and the Search for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki,” Journal of Japanese Studies, Volume 25, Number 2 (Summer 1999), pp. 263-298, at 267.
[ii]Alan Gowans, The Restless Art, A History of Painter and Painting 1760-1960 (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1966), p. 190.
There is more to say about Reynard and motifs, but all I can send my readers today are pictures of the women in the life of American-born London-based artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (July 10, 1834 – July 17, 1903). I have been sick with migraine for the last two days. The second part of my blog will be posted later.
Three Women: jO, Maud and Beatrice
The two loves of Whistler’s life were Joanna “Jo” Hiffernan (ca. 1843 – after 1903) and Maud Franklin (9 January 1857 – ca. 1941). Joanna had been Whistler’s model and helped him raise his son Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870–1935) the result of an affair with a parlour maid, Louisa Fanny Hanson. Whistler’s mother never learned about her grandson.
In 1888, Whistler married Beatrice (“Trixie”) Godwin (née Beatrix Birnie Philip). She had been his pupil and model. She was the former wife of architect Edward William Godwin. They first lived in Paris but returned to England when she was diagnosed with cancer. “Trixie” posed for Harmony in Red Lamplight, 1886. They lived in the Savoy Hotel until her death in 1896. Trixie was 39 at the moment of her death. Whistler himself died seven years later.
However the woman who dominates Whistler’s life is his mother, born Anna Mathilda McNeill (September 27, 1804 – January 3, 1881). James’ mother had Southern roots. Whistler enjoyed looking upon himself as an “impoverished Southern aristocrat.” James did not want to have been born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Later in life, when he sued John Ruskin for libel, he insisted he was born in Saint Petersburg.
After Whistler settled in England, in the 1860s, she joined him. She did not like her son’s bohemian lifestyle, so accommodations had to be found for “Jo.” Yet, the most famous of Whistler’s painting is the now iconic Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: The Artist’s Mother (1871–72), a portrait of Whistler’s mother. When she died, he added her name, McNeill, to his.
Today will not be my best day as a blogger, as today is the day Quebec elects a Premier, which is a pre-occupation. But I would like to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr (8 March 1841 – 6 March 1935) with respect to a citizen’s obligation to pay taxes. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” he wrote in Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas vs. Collector of Internal Revenue 275 U.S. 87, 100 (1927). I know very little about Mr Holmes, but he was mentioned in a document I read, which prompted me to investigate a little, but not to an extent that would allow me to express opinions about him. What I know is that he was an “American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932.”
Although there is a collective subconscious, we can to a large extent break away from it. The existentialists also left a message. Put in a nutshell and simplified, this message is that we can shape our lives. In fact, we can do so not only at a personal level but also at a collective level.
Garibaldi and Slavery
Garibaldi, a founder of Italy as a unified state, offered his services to President Abraham Lincoln, but would not act if slavery was not abolished. So although slavery may not have been perceived as unethical to plantation owners, it was perceived as very wrong by Giuseppe Garibaldi (4 July 1807 – 2 June 1882). And among plantation owners, many treated their slaves with a degree of respect, as all human beings should be treated. It could be that they knew, in their heart of hearts, that slavery was morally unacceptable.