Saturday, April 14, 2012

Manet. Changing the Map. "Particular and Rare Elements."

One of the best things I ever did was choose to be born to parents who are artists.
My dad is also a teacher. He is very good at it.
One of the other best things I ever did was take classes with him in college.
Art History classes.
I am crazy about Art History.
I inherited none of the Visual Art talent that is so abundant in my family, but, boy howdy, a girl can't have everything.
So one of the paintings I remember most is this one:

It is called "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) and it was painted by this guy, Edouard Manet.

People were very upset by this painting.
I remember my dad talking about it. He lectured with a glee and relish that was a joy to behold.
One of the things that pissed people off was, that if you were going to put naked people in a painting, they needed to be symbolic naked people, like goddesses and abstract nouns like Liberty and stuff.
And here's this naked lady LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU like, "What are you looking at?"
And the guys are wearing the FASHIONS OF THE DAY.
These were not gods and goddesses doing the god and goddess thing.
This was not Liberty Leading the People.
The other lady, she's just having herself I nice cooling-off in the water.
I liked that it looked like the women were doing what they wanted to do.
Be naked on the grass during a picnic? Get down with your bad self.
I love how painters work with brushes and light and how they arrange things.
Here is what Emile Zola said about this painting:
"It is, in short, this vast ensemble, full of atmosphere, this corner of nature rendered with a simplicity so just, all of this admirable page in which an artist has placed all the particular and rare elements which are in him."
I know I am reading a truly map-changing book when I see brushstrokes and light and color in what I am reading.
A lot of times the map changes while people are yelling about holding on to HOW THINGS SHOULD BE DONE.
If you are lucky enough to be around when the map changes and you are witness to what people do with their particular and rare elements it is a wonder and a glory. So have a picnic and celebrate.


  1. I'm in an art history class for a few more weeks. Much of the art is interesting. One which was in the book but the teacher did not mention is called Death and the Matron. It is really interesting if you look at it from a modern perspective.

  2. My senior year in HS my history teacher, Mr. Perlunger taught art history and music history with such a passion it changed the way I listened to classical music and the way I looked at art. I went from no interest to interest. Once he was so involved in a discussion that he stepped onto a chair and then a desk top to make his point. These moments I am so grateful for.

  3. I took my first art history class in college and fell in love with it. I can't draw or paint to save my life but I can look and study and devour art in all its forms. (I remember that painting from class, too.)

  4. So, naked is OK as long as it's symbolic? And, presumably, deeply meaningful?

    How those purists would weep to know that most people viewing those paintings today have no idea what they symbolize. All they see is naked ladies striking self-conscious poses :)

    BTW - visiting from the A to Z. I like the refreshing perspectives on your blog.