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Famous Paintings Reviewed

Famous Painters: More Manet

Posted by Susan Benford

Although now one of the most famous painters in the history of art, Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was scorned and dismissed during his lifetime -- and for nearly a century after it ended.  As Jack Flam (ArtNews, Summer 2011) notes:

What was long considered incompetence we now take to be at the core of Manet's genius: his ability to invent new ways of capturing and holding in uneasy equilibrium the ambiguities - even the absurdities - of modern life. 

manet street singer

 

Edouard Manet.  Street Singer, 1862.  Oil on canvas, 67 3/8" by 41 5/8".  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

No where is this uneasy equilibrium more apparent than in one of the lesser known Manet paintings, Street Singer.  

Edouard Manet, one of the first painters to chronicle modern urban life, portrays a young woman exiting a debatablely tasteful Paris night club or cafe.  Although one of its doors is open, the interior is murky and vague. The directness of the singer's gaze and her hand full of cherries draw the viewer to her eyes, which reveal deep thoughts unknowable to the viewer: did something untoward happen in the cafe? Is she hurrying to another unspecified engagement? Who provided her cherries? Manet captures a moment in time, one akin to a snapshot.  

As in so many Manet paintings, the viewer is left to draw conclusions.

We've seen how Manet painted Olympia after one of the Titian paintings he saw in Paris, Venus of Urbino.  His comparison of himself to Titian, was, by many standards, an act of bravado. But he was to make another bold comparison in one of the best known Manet paintings, The Luncheon, or Luncheon in the Studio

Luncheon is intriguingly inconclusive.  What may initially appear to be a dining room is instead an artist's studio: the shucked but uneaten oysters, the dangling knife, and partially peeled lemon are frequent subjects of Dutch still life paintings.  The armor in the chair is also a still life subject, although lesser so.  

manet luncheon in studio
 

Edouard Manet.  Luncheon in the Studio, 1868.  Oil on canvas, approx. 4' by 5'. Bavarian State Paintings Collections, Neue Pinakothek. 

Above the bearded man's head is a framed map, an allusion to the maps found in Vermeer paintings.  I would've missed this detail without Flam's guidance -- the letter "M" appears in the coffee pot reflection, an echo of the "M" by which Vermeer sometimes signed his paintings.  

Was Manet intimating that he was a painter of the same caliber as Vermeer? I vote yes -- an artist who compared himself to Titian would have no hesitation with comparision to another of the most famous painters, Vermeer!

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

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Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

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Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

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Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

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Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

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Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

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Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

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Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

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Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

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Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

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Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

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Morisot, Famous Paintings

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Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

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Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

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Rembrandt, Night Watch

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Sargent, Madame X

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Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

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Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

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