“Solitary flowers in the long beds rose up and said ‘Red’ in a timorous voice.”*

*From The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), by Rainer Maria Rilke:

What such a small moon can achieve. There are days when everything about one is luminous, light, scarcely defined in the bright air, and nonetheless distinct…Who can say what a light green vehicle on the Pont Neuf might be at such times, or some red bursting forth, or even a mere poster on the fire wall of a pearly-grey group of buildings. Everything is simplified, rendered into a few exact, bright planes like the face in a portrait by Manet. And nothing is of slight importance or irrelevance. The booksellers along the Quai open up their stalls, and the fresh or faded yellow of the books, the violet brown of the bindings, the more commanding green of an album: all of it is just right and has its worth and is a part of the whole and adds up into a fullness where nothing is lacking.”

Rebecca Rabinow wrote at metmuseum.org in October 2004:

Édouard Manet—the eldest son of an official in the French Ministry of Justice—had early hopes of becoming a naval officer. After twice failing the training school’s entrance exam, the teenager instead went to Paris to pursue a career in the arts. There he studied with Thomas Couture and diligently copied works at the Musée du Louvre.

The biennial (and later, annual) Paris Salons were considered the most expedient way for an artist to make himself known to the public, and Manet submitted paintings to Salon juries throughout his career. In 1861, at the age of twenty-nine, he was awarded the Salon’s honorable mention for The Spanish Singer. His hopes for continued early success were dashed at the subsequent Salon of 1863. That year, more than half of the submissions to the official Salon were rejected, including Manet’s own. To staunch public outcry, Napoleon III ordered the formation of a Salon des Refusés. Manet exhibited three paintings, including the scandalous Déjeuner sur l’herbe (see image) (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). The public professed to be shocked by the subject of a nude woman blithely enjoying a picnic in the company of two fully clothed men, while a second, scantily clad woman bathes in a stream. While critics recognized that this scene of modern-day debauchery was, to a certain degree, an updated version of Titian’s Concert champêtre (a work then thought to be by Giorgione; Musée du Louvre, Paris), they ruthlessly attacked Manet’s painting style…”

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