Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Après Manet, le deluge?

T.J. Clark finds that Manet isn't what he used to be:
The fallen idol whose fate leaves me by far the most uneasy--uncertain, that is, whether the fall is his or mine--is Manet. It keeps happening without my being wholly aware of it. This spring in Chicago, for instance, I realized at the end of a morning in the Art Institute that I had spent long minutes absorbed in the naiveties of a Delacroix lion hunt--wondering at the way the absurd wish-fulfillment called "North Africa" managed to focus and concentrate the painter's energies, producing a green and blue like nobody else's--and I'd never looked, for more than a moment or two, at Manet's street-people on the opposite wall of the gallery. "Velazquez kitsch," I found myself murmuring when I did. Whereas what Delacroix had done with Rubens!
I have my own uneasy feelings about Manet, wondering whether he was the beginning of the end for fine art. The Olympia -- look! a hooker on a bed! -- is only the most extreme example of what, for want of a better word, I call his postmodern tendency. Think of Victorine Meurent dressed up as a bullfighter, looking like ... Victorine Meurent dressed up as a bullfighter. (And did Manet's style really develop beyond, as Clark suggests, a pastiche of Spanish styles?)

The urinal on the museum wall, and Jackson Pollock for that matter, may just be differences of degree, not of kind, from what Manet did in his masterpieces.

No comments:

Post a Comment