Friday, November 8, 2013

Manet, Edouard

oil on canvas
154 × 115 cm
Kunsthalle de Hambourg, Germany

Manet’s painting, depicts a young, beautiful Parisian mistress, who is standing in front of a mirror. Her dress is incomplete in that she is wearing a short, sleeveless bodice, a slip, silk stockings, and high-heeled shoes. The decor of the room suggests a boudoir, and behind the woman is a settee, with a gentleman caller seated, who is dressed very elegantly with a top hat, is staring at her as she is turned to face the viewer. The title and visual depiction suggest that the subject is an upper-class courtesan.

Symbolic meaning which is suggested, is the ibis on the wallpaper symbolizing the unclean bird in the Bible, and the extinguished taper candles may symbolize a lack of affection or love. Manet painted Nana in alla prima style, meaning that the painting was completed all at once. Instead of layering the oil paints, or glazing over an underpainting, Manet painted the realistic scene as he perceived it, and quickly at the moment, in a direct and expressive style with thick lines, and darker colors.

Nana was a common term used in the nineteenth century, for a lady of the evening. Painting a picture with a courtesan being more important than a gentleman, was not accepted readily in the nineteenth century. Manet’s painting titled Nana was refused at the Salon of Paris, the official art exhibition of the Academie des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, in 1877, the year that it was completed. The subject matter was deemed controversial, and contemptuous of the morality of society at that time. Emile Zola, defended Manet’s painting, and soon after, published a novel entitled Nana as a ninth volume to his Les Rougon-Macquart series. Manet is now heralded as an innovative influence for future artists, and his works mark the genius of modern art which he was central in introducing.

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (Manet)

Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are no lines in nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.
"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real." (Manet)