From the archives: Michael Fried on Manet –

On Édouard Manet’s birthday, we’re revisiting “Manet’s Sources: Aspects of His Art, 1859–1865,” the essay that launched Michael Fried’s remarkable, decades-long quest to elucidate the origins and objectives of painterly modernism. Filling the entirety of the March 1969 issue, the treatise reframed its subject’s legacy—too often reduced to his influence on Impressionism—through his overlooked allusions to the old masters, foregrounding questions of Frenchness and universality that led the artist to stage a new kind of encounter between painting and beholder. Greeted with equal parts celebration and controversy, Fried’s monograph can be seen today as a portrait of two young rebels, both searching for their place within the sweep of art history.
IF A SINGLE QUESTION is guiding for our understanding of Manet’s art during the first half of the 1860s, it is this: What are we to make of the numerous references in his paintings of those years to the work of the great painters of the past? A few of Manet’s historically aware contemporaries recognized explicit references to past art in some of his important pictures of that period;1 and by the time he died his admirers tended to play down the paintings of the first half of the sixties, if not of the entire decade, largely because of what had come to seem their overall dependence on the Old Masters.2 By 1912 Blanche could claim, in a kind of hyperbole, that it was impossible to find two paintings in Manet’s oeuvre that had not been inspired by other paintings, old or modern.3 But it has been chiefly since the retrospective exhibition of 1932 that historians investigating the sources of Manet’s art have come to realize concretely the extent to which it is based upon specific paintings, engravings after paintings, and original prints by artists who preceded him.4 It is now clear, for example, that most of the important pictures of the sixties depend either wholly or in part on works by Velasquez, Goya, Rubens, Van Dyck, Raphael, Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Le Nain, Watteau, Chardin, Courbet . . . This by itself is an extraordinary fact, one that must be accounted for if Manet’s enterprise is to be made intelligible. It becomes even more extraordinary in the light of his repeated assertions, the truth of which cannot be doubted, that he had only tried to be himself and no one else. His pictures, he wrote in 1867, were above all sincere: “C’est l’effet de la sincérité de donner aux oeuvre un caractère qui les fait ressembler à une protestation, alors que la peintre n’a songé qu’à rendre son impression.”5 This statement and others like it rest on familiar assumptions of mid-century realism. But they raise the further question of how those assumptions can be reconciled with the scope and explicitness of his involvement with the art of the past.
From 1932 until fairly recently that involvement was seen almost exclusively in connection with issues of subject matter and “composition.” Some historians have argued that for Manet subject matter was nothing more than a pretext for the problems of form and color that alone interested him, and that he used the art of the past as a source of themes which for one reason or another he was unable to invent for himself.6 This is clearly false. For one thing, it has become plain that Manet’s intentions were far more complex than so simple a reading of his art implies. In 1947 Florisoone wrote that “Manet ne prend pas delibérément un sujet dans un maître du passé, mais it demande à celui-ci la traduction plastique de son inspiration provoquée par un fait naturel (des baigneurs à Gennevilliers, un danseur étendu par terre, une femme couchée . . .),”7 and while this does not always seem to have been the case, the implicit emphasis on Manet’s response to reality was salutary. Moreover, it has gradually become clear that, as Schapiro wrote in 1954, Manet chose the subjects of his paintings “not simply because they were at hand or because they furnished a particular coloring or light, but rather because they were his world in an overt or symbolic sense and related intimately to his person or outlook.”8 (Though what this means in individual cases remains to be made out.) It has also been suggested that Manet either lacked the ability to “compose” or was uninterested in that class of problems, and so turned to the Old Masters for the ordonnance of his paintings.9 But this too does not hold up. In the first place, as De Leiris has remarked, “it postulates the existence of an autonomous stylistic element called ‘composition,’ which is presumably absent from Manet’s works, or inadequately developed therein.”10 Whereas the concept of composition has its own history in 19th-century painting and criticism, a history in which Manet’s art plays an important role.11 Furthermore, it simply is not the case that most of Manet’s borrowings from previous paintings are of entire “compositions.”12 Much of the time he takes over single figures, motifs, even details; the question is why. Finally, this type of explanation wholly fails to account for what is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Manet’s borrowings, the literalness and obviousness with which he often quoted earlier paintings. If it is argued that Manet knowingly exploited the art of the past to make up for deficiencies in his own gifts, it must be explained why he would have chosen in effect to call attention to those deficiencies. But nothing now seems less fruitful than attempts to explain disquieting aspects of Manet’s art in terms of supposed defects in his talent or temperament.
In more recent studies the tendency has been to see in Manet’s involvement with past art the ambition both to identify and to compete with the great painters whom he most admired. For example, Sandblad has shown that Manet’s depiction of himself and his future wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, in La Pêche of 1860–61 was a deliberate allusion to Rubens and Hélène Fourment, and that his portrayal of himself at the extreme left of La Musique aux Tuileries of 1862, by analogy with the Louvre’s Petits cavaliers (then attributed to Velasquez), amounts to an implicit identification with the great Spanish master.13 Reff has interpreted Manet’s use of Titian’s Venus d’Urbino in the Olympia in similar terms, adding: “In choosing to identify himself, even if somewhat playfully, with Rubens, Velasquez, and Titian, artists who mingled with the highest society, Manet affirmed that love of worldliness and elegance which governed his own life in the salons and cafés of Paris, and which gave to Olympia its singular tone.”14 Manet’s identification with the great painters of the past has in turn been seen as evidence of his determination to compete with them. Sandblad has argued that this determination became wholly serious with the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia. Until those paintings Manet had been able playfully to evade “the problem of the conflict between classical art and the portrayal of contemporary life.”15 In the Déjeuner, however, Manet set out to show “that he was capable of establishing a modern correspondence to the classical scene [i.e. those of Giorgione’s Concert champêtre and Raimondi’s engraving after Raphael’s Judgment of Paris] as a whole.”16 In other words Manet “wished to compete with [the Old Masters] on his own ground.”17 In the same spirit De Leiris has remarked, “Manet’s art thrived on this constant and deliberately sought challenge of the past.”18
There is truth in these views. It seems clear that Manet did in fact identify himself with Rubens and Velasquez in La Pêche and La Musique aux Tuileries; and inasmuch as those and other paintings explicitly invite comparison with specific works by great painters of the past, they may be said to compete with them. Certainly Manet must have aspired to sustain those comparisons. But this interpretation of Manet’s involvement with past art is deficient on several counts. To begin with, it fails to explain why Manet found it necessary, or even desirable, to compete explicitly with the Old Masters. A test of strength with the standards established by the art of the museums was at least implicit in the ambitious painting of the previous decades; and it was in terms of those standards that 19th-century critics judged the paintings of their time, including Manet’s. Nor does the notion of competition account for the manifest but puzzling, almost riddling, specificity of his references to previous art. For example, it says nothing about why Manet based the Déjeuner sur l’herbe on Raphael and not some other master. And without some rationale for his choice one is left with the impression that any other great painter—Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt—would have served Manet’s purposes just as well, as long as an equivalent motif could be found. Even when historians have emphasized the peculiar aptness of one or another reference to past art, almost no effort has been made to relate those references to one another or to Manet’s development as a whole. Similarly, when it has been recognized that his relations with the art of the past did not remain constant throughout his career, but rather underwent some sort of development, the tendency has been to regard any shifts in those relations as at least somewhat playful or arbitrary—moves in a game which Manet could just as easily have chosen to forego. This is not obviously wrong. Despite the ubiquitousness and specificity of references to previous art in both the great and the relatively lesser paintings of the first half of the sixties, it is conceivable that Manet’s intentions in that regard were finally neither deep nor precise nor coherent enough to reward exhaustive interrogation. But one is not obviously entitled to assume that this is so.
In the pages that follow I shall try to show that exactly the opposite is the case, namely, that Manet’s involvement during those years with the art of the past constituted a profoundly serious, rational and progressive undertaking, virtually every step of which must be understood in relation to every other. I shall also suggest that the undertaking in question was as central to his total enterprise as any other aspect of his art—his realism, for example, or his concern with painting as such—and that in fact it cannot ultimately be understood in isolation from either of these. Finally I shall suggest that Manet’s involvement with the art of the past must be seen in relation to some of the most important intellectual and spiritual currents in 19th-century France.
THE FIRST PROBLEM THAT FACES the student who wants to try to make sense of Manet’s relations with the art of the past is how, and in particular where, to begin. One painting of the first half of the sixties presents itself as a place to start, first because it contains a larger number of specific references to past art than any other picture in Manet’s oeuvre, and second because those references are presented with unique emphasis on the identity of each and hence on the conjunction of all. By studying the relations among the painters and paintings it quotes, one might be able to understand why Manet conjoined them in a single painting; and that might provide one with a kind of key to understanding his involvement with the art of the past generally. The painting I mean is the Old Musician of 1861–62, a work that has received comparatively little attention in the literature on Manet. Except for De Leiris, those who have written about it have been disturbed by the obviousness and apparent arbitrariness of its relations with past art, as well as by the half-realistic, half-fantastic situation it seems to depict, and have tended to characterize it as an immature work in which Manet had not yet managed either to declare his independence from the Old Masters or to turn his attention once and for all to the world around him.
But Manet’s involvement with the art of the past was, as I have said, a general characteristic of his work during these years: what distinguishes the Old Musician from subsequent pictures like the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, the Olympia, the Episode in a Bull-Fight or the Dead Christ with Angels is not the fact of its relation to past art but the number of references it contains and the way in which their coexistence within a single canvas is apparently insisted upon. Moreover, to view the Old Musician’s references to the art of the past simply as indications of influences not yet overcome is to assume something one has no right to assume. There are, after all, generally accepted paradigms of influence; and these bear little resemblance to the obviously deliberate quotations of specific paintings by previous masters that one finds in that picture. It might also be remarked that the Old Musician belongs to the type of painting which seems to have been the vehicle for Manet’s highest ambitions during this period: the large arrangement of two or more clearly defined figures.19 In this important sense it is far more representative of Manet’s enterprise during these years than, for example, the somewhat anomalous (though very great) La Musique aux Tuileries which Sandblad, after downgrading the Old Musician, describes as offering “perhaps the best general departure for an illustration of Manet’s artistic development during the first years of the 1860s.”20
The most notorious though not ultimately the most significant of the Old Musician’s sources in past art is Velasquez’s early masterpiece the Drinkers, which Manet would have known through Goya’s engraving and which, as De Leiris remarks, “offers parallels in its bohemian theme, frieze composition and certain details such as the framing tree branch on the left and the shadowy standing figure on the right.”21 There is also a close relationship between the head, in particular the profile and hair, of the kneeling figure at the left of the Drinkers and the same features of the girl who stands holding an infant at the left of the Old Musician; and there may be a more distant one between the two Drinkers who look out at us from Velasquez’s picture and the two boys to the left of the seated violinist in Manet’s. In addition, Richardson has suggested—convincingly, I think—that the boy nearest the violinist is based on another early Velasquez,22 and Florisoone has claimed to see a connection between Manet’s painting and Velasquez’s pictures of classical philosophers.23
The Spanishness of the Old Musician is not just a matter of references to specific paintings by Spanish masters. For example, the light, almost blonde tonality, the frank but deliberate painterliness, and the particular size and internal scale of the Old Musician seem characteristically though unspecifically Spanish in feeling. In fact it ought to surprise us that this kind of general relation to Spanish painting, which Manet achieved only after long study of pictures like the Petits cavaliers and Murillo’s Flea-Picker, also in the Louvre, was not enough for him,and that he chose to refer specifically to a famous masterpiece that he had never seen. Here it is worth remarking on the apparent gratuitousness of his almost literal quotations from the Drinkers. Manet does not seem to have been led to appropriate either the tree branch or the hair and profile of the standing girl from Velasquez’s painting by urgent needs within his own painting which otherwise would have gone unfulfilled. On the contrary, one feels that Manet did not need to borrow either motif at all; and that he did so only in order to make the connection with the Drinkers as explicit as possible.
The young Manet’s enthusiasm for Spanish painting and in particular for Velasquez has been documented by generations of historians, and it is almost entirely in the context of that enthusiasm that the Old Musician has been seen. There are, however, two further sources for Manet’s painting which bear crucially upon its ultimate meaning and which are not Spanish but French: Louis LeNain’s La Halte du cavalier24 and Watteau’s Gilles.25 The first of these obviously determined, far more closely than did the Drinkers or any other Spanish painting, both specific figures in the Old Musician and its arrangement in general The two boys in the LeNain, one of whom has his arm around the other, have been lifted reversed into the Old Musician; the seated cavalier could hardly be more closely related to Manet’s seated violinist; even the peasant girl at the left of LeNain’s painting has her equivalent in the girl who stands in profile at the left of Manet’s—though I believe that two figures of girls in another famous painting by LeNain, Les Moisscnneurs (or La Charrette), actually provided the basis for Manet’s figure.26 It is equally clear that the arrangement of the figures in the Halte du cavalier provided the basis for that in the Old Musician. In fact Manet seems to have brought over into his painting not merely the physical but also something of the psychological, or spiritual, disposition of the LeNain. Both paintings are marked by an almost complete absence of external action or overt drama; in each the figures stand immobile and largely disjunct from one another; in each they are aligned roughly parallel to the plane of the canvas; in each they convey the feeling of having been posed or placed in the positions they occupy, of having been grouped; and in each the gazes of the individual figures play a role of considerable importance. The Drinkers in contrast is vivid with action and observed behavior. Instead of disjunction between figures there is interplay of a kind that is relatively lacking in the LeNain and completely absent from the Manet. The two Drinkers who look directly at the beholder do so in a way and within a context that is basically inviting. Whereas in both the Halte du cavalier and the Old Musician, especially the latter, the beholder is distanced, and made uneasy, by the strange and for the most part impassive figures who face him.27
Watteau’s Gilles, the second important French source for the Old Musician, is essentially a full-length portrait of a standing figure. Despite the fact that Watteau’s comedian is a grown man, it is clear that he was the model for the small boy dressed in a white blouse, loose light grey trousers and wide-brimmed hat in Manet’s painting. Here again it seems highly unlikely that Manet was compelled to paraphrase the Gilles by needs arising within the Old Musician itself. He could, for example, have based the figure in question on that of the boy playing the flageolet in the Halte du cavalier, whose dress is similar enough to that of the Gilles for the final result to have been much the same. Instead Manet chose the opposite course: he used the similarity in dress to refer specifically to Watteau’s painting while at the same time retaining the prior connection with the Halte du cavalier. The similarity in dress between the flageolet-player and the comedian is only a surface indication of a much more significant affinity between the Halte du cavalier and the Gilles. The same characteristics—immobility, lack of action or drama, direct but uncommunicative confrontation of the beholder—are found in each, though in Watteau’s painting of a costumed actor presenting himself to his audience these characteristics are rationalized both by the conventions of the full length portrait and, more important, by the explicitly theatrical context.
At this point it becomes possible to formulate several basic questions. Why, for example, if the Gilles-like figure in the Halte du cavalier could very nearly have been the source for the equivalent figure in the Old Musician, did Manet insist on referring explicitly to the Gilles itself? To say that Manet saw a deep connection between LeNain’s and Watteau’s paintings is not a full answer. Because the question then arises: Why was it important to him, as it seems to have been, that the Old Musician make that connection explicit? Furthermore, what led Manet to LeNain and Watteau in the first place? Was it simply the recognition that each had something that he could use, or was it more? Finally, what is the relation—if any—between Manet’s involvement with LeNain and Watteau and the manifest Spanishness of the Old Musician, in particular its specific and gratuitous references to Velasquez? I shall discuss these questions in roughly this order.
THE REFERENCE TO THE GILLES in the Old Musician begins to seem if not less unaccountable at any rate less special when it is recognized that a second figure in Manet’s painting, that of the man in top hat and brown cloak to the right of the seated violinist, is also partly based on a painting by Watteau. That figure is, of course, a direct quotation from Manet’s own Absinthe Drinker of 1858–59; and the Watteau on which I believe it partly to have been based is the small panel apparently depicting a man dancing called L’Indifférent, which at that time was in the La Caze Collection in Paris and which Manet certainly knew. Bazin has connected L’Indifférent with Manet’s Polichinelle oil painting and sketch of 1873,28 whose derivation from Watteau’s panel is unmixed with allusions to the work of other painters. The Absinthe Drinker, on the other hand, appears to have been adapted rather freely both from L’Indifférent—I find the odd, almost dance-like formality and elegance of the pose of Manet’s figure inconceivable except on the basis of that of Watteau’s—and from Velasquez’s paintings of the philosophers Aesop and Menippus (and perhaps from the cloaked and hatted figure who stands at the right of the Drinkers as well). The connection with Velasquez is documented in several ways. Manet himself described the Absinthe Drinker as one of “Four Philosophers” when in 1872 he listed it among the paintings he had just sold to Durand-Ruel.29 Also, Antonin Proust reported in an important essay of 1901, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” that Manet had actually said that the Absinthe Drinker was related to the Drinkers of Madrid.30 He went on to quote Manet directly: «“J’ai fait, dit-il, un type de Paris, étudié à Paris, en mettant dans l’exécution la naïveté du métier que j’ai retrouvée dans le tableau de Velasquez. On ne comprend pas. On comprendra peut-être mieux si je fais un type espagnol.»”31 (Proust added: “Et, avec cette bonne humeur que rien ne déconcerte, il donne le Joueur de guitare, qui lui vaut une mention honorable au Salon de 1861.”32) There is some confusion here. Proust’s account implies that Manet had seen the Drinkers by 1859, whereas he did not make his sole visit to Madrid until the summer of 1865. But Proust’s claim that the Absinthe Drinker must be seen in relation to Velasquez is not invalidated: Manet knew both the Drinkers and the Philosophers through Goya’s engravings, and had already formed. his conception of Velasquez’s métier through copying pictures like the Petits cavaliers. More generally, the explanatory power of Proust’s vision of Manet as having wanted above all to be clear, to make himself understood, must not be underestimated. For example, it suggests at least part of an explanation for the reappearance of the Absinthe Drinker in the Old Musician: by quoting that figure in a picture whose relation to Velasquez was made explicit by unmistakable references to the Drinkers, Manet in effect made the connection between the original Absinthe Drinker and Velasquez explicit as well. (At the same time, Manet gave himself an opportunity to redo that figure, to paint it as he wished he had painted it three years before.) Similarly, the reference to the Gilles in the Old Musician made explicit the Absinthe Drinker’s partial and far from obvious basis in a painting by Watteau. This interpretation is, I think, strengthened by Richardson’s identification of a specific Velasquez prototype for the small boy with his arm around the shoulder of his Gilles-like companion, which suggests that Manet deliberately exploited LeNain’s motif of the two boys in order to present references to Velasquez and Watteau in friendly proximity to one another. If all or even most of this is right, the obviousness and apparent gratuitousness of the Old Musician’s references to Velasquez and Watteau become more nearly intelligible: Manet deliberately referred to specific paintings by those men because he wanted to acknowledge publicly the connection he, and perhaps no one else, knew to obtain between his work and theirs.
The larger question of Manet’s relation to Watteau has been almost completely ignored by historians, who have concentrated instead on his manifest involvement with the great Spanish, Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters of the 16th and 17th centuries.33 I am convinced, however, that for most of the 1860s Watteau was at least as important a source of Manet’s art as any other painter, including Velasquez.
This is not easy to prove. For one thing, Manet’s involvement with Watteau rarely entailed direct quotation of specific works. The free adaptation of L’Indifférent that I have claimed to see in the Absinthe Drinker is characteristic of the relationships that obtain between individual pictures. For example, Manet’s Joueuse de guitare of 1866 makes similar use of Watteau’s La Finette, which throughout the sixties was also in the La Caze Collection and which Manet definitely knew.34 (It is perhaps significant that La Finette is, and was then recognized to be, the pendant to L’Indifférent.) Sometimes the dependence of a particular Manet on one or more pictures by Watteau is further obscured by the simultaneous presence of explicit references to works by other artists. This seems to be the case in the important La Pêche of 1860–61, which Bazin has shown contains quotations from two paintings by Rubens,35 but which I believe ought also to be seen in the context of Watteau’s art, e.g. his pictures of couples strolling in country landscapes. Both the scale of Manet’s picture and the actual character of the landscape are closer to Watteau than to Rubens—I am thinking of works like L’Amour paisible,36 L’Assemblée dans un parc,36a L’Ile enchantée,36b Le Rendez-vous de chasse,36c La Chasse aux oiseaux36d—and I suggest that La Pêche ought to be seen as alluding to both those masters, and perhaps to Carracci as well. Harris has observed that the distant church spire in La Pêche is also found in the etching usually regarded as Manet’s first, Les Voyageurs, and that the landscapes depicted in the two works are similar.37
Here again Manet appears to have taken over aspects of the general organization of a work like L’Amour paisible; and he seems to have adapted the travelers themselves either from one of several versions of Watteau’s Recrue allant joindre le régiment or from the engraving of this subject by Watteau and Thomassin.38 Finally, the relation of a painting by Manet to its source or sources in Watteau may be masked by the exotic, often the Spanish, character of the subject matter. Perhaps the most striking instance of this is the Phillips Collection Spanish Ballet of 1862, which is generally discussed as if it were simply a literal record of the Mariano Camprubi troupe of Spanish dancers, but which I suggest subtly and freely recombines motifs from various paintings by Watteau of the Italian and French Comedy troupes of his time—e.g. Une Mascarade,39 Sous un habit de Mezetin,40 L’Amour au théâtre italien,41 among others.42 No single picture by the earlier master comes close to accounting for the Spanish Ballet as a whole. More serious, there is no single Watteau which seems unmistakably to have left its mark in Manet’s painting. Nevertheless, I believe that both the basic conception of the Spanish Ballet—a troupe of performers presenting themselves to the beholder, who is also their audience—and individual figures in it derive ultimately from Watteau. I want also to call attention to Watteau’s Italian Comedians,43 in which an entire cast of players strike characteristic poses on what is recognizably some sort of stage or playing area: the presence in that painting of a seated musician, a standing Gilles and a bearded man in a dark robe or cloak leaning on a cane suggests that it may have had a role in the conception of the Old Musician itself.
Another instance of the masking of Watteau sources by an ostensible Spanishness occurs in the Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume of 1862, which is inscribed “à mon ami Nadar” and presumably represents the latter’s mistress. Although the painting bears a general relation to Goya’s Maja Clothed, the figure of the young woman resembles very closely that of the reclining female nude sculpture in Watteau’s Fêtes Vénitiennes; while the pose of her upraised hand and arm almost exactly imitates that of one of the women in Une Mascarade.44 The latter connection in particular seems unmistakably to have been intentional, specific.
Other possible instances of Watteau’s importance for Manet’s art at roughly this time might be cited. The Young Man in the Costume of a Majo may have been adapted from various figures in Watteau’s paintings or “Figures de différents caractères.” The two small children who play together in the foreground of La Musique aux Tuileries may derive from any of a number of paintings by Watteau; I suggest in fact that La Musique looks to Watteau perhaps fully as much as to later artists like Debucourt.45 Even Manet’s decision to append a four-line poem by Baudelaire to his etching of Lola de Valence, a common practice in theater prints generally, may have been principally inspired by the use of similar poems in 18th-century engravings after Watteau.
Over and above the connections that can be made between specific works, and largely independent of the convincingness of those connections, Manet’s extensive reliance not just during the first half of the sixties but throughout his career on subjects of guitarists, dancers, costumed performers of all kinds and theatrical productions of diverse sorts46 must be seen as having received important and perhaps even decisive sanction47 from the art of Watteau—in particular the sanction that this apparently less than fully serious class of subjects was in fact consistent with the highest artistic purposes and ambitions. Indeed, the more attuned one becomes to the possible scope of Manet’s relations with Watteau, the less fundamental or essential the obvious Spanishness of much of his subject matter begins to seem. The first stanza of the short poem which accompanies the engraving of Une Mascarade is perhaps apposite: “Les habits sont italiens,/Les airs françois, et je parie/Que dans ces vrays comédiens/Git une aimable tromperie . . .”48 This is not to suggest that Manet’s enthusiasm for the Camprubi dancers or for Spain generally was other than intense or genuine. Rather, it is to say that what enabled him to exploit that enthusiasm in his painting was a prior, and more profound, involvement with theatrical subject matter—an involvement whose chief artistic precedent was in Watteau. The arrival in Paris in August 1862 of the Camprubi troupe gave Manet something which, consciously or otherwise, he had been waiting for: a contemporary equivalent for the Italian and French Comedy troupes of the early 18th century. Even a work as slight as the pencil and watercolor Ballet Slippers that was shown in the Philadelphia exhibition of 1966 must be seen, not merely as a record of the ballerina Anita Montez, but as marking Manet’s discovery of an equivalent in his own experience for the position of the feet in a picture like L’Indifférent.
IT IS IN THIS CONTEXT that we must see the two etchings which Manet made as trial frontispieces for his Collection de huit eaux-fortes, published by Cadart in October 1862. The second of them—the one which Guérin calls Deuxiéme essai de frontispice—depicts the character of Pulcinella, ancestor to the French Polichinelle, thrusting his head through an otherwise drawn curtain as in early engravings of scenes from the Commedia dell’Arte. To the left of the actor’s head the curtain seems to become a wall; at any rate, it supports both a sword (in its scabbard and with belt attached) and a print or drawing of a balloon flying above a landscape with buildings and windmills. A wicker basket filled with clothes and containing a guitar and sombrero rests on the ground. In an important article, “The Symbolism of Manet’s Frontispiece Etchings,”49 Theodore Reff demonstrates that both the curtain and the head of Pulcinella were drawn at an advanced stage in the preparation of the plate, thereby transforming what until then had been a symbolic image of the artist’s studio into an “ambiguous stage.”50
Reff asks why this occurred, and proposes the following answer:
If not intended initially, the actor was probably suggested to Manet by the objects already in existence: the sword and guitar [both of which had appeared in previous pictures by Maneti are familiar properties in many scenes of the Commedia dell’Arte, just as the articles of exotic costume in the basket are familiar features in his own carefully composed productions on Spanish themes. Thus his studio suggested the stage, with himself the figure behind the scenes, even before the latter was actually drawn.51
He relates the basket and its contents to the painting called Guitar and Hat which Manet painted earlier that year to hang over the door of his studio, and discusses 17th- and 18th-century antecedents to that canvas.52 He connects the print or drawing of a balloon in flight with The Balloon, the large lithograph of a balloon ascension in the Tuileries which Manet executed for Cadart at exactly the same time.53 Finally Reff suggests that the Pulcinella may stand for Manet himself, “identified here not with the courtly art of Velasquez [as in La Musique aux Tuileries54], but with the popular art of the Italian comedy. In this studio strangely transformed into a stage, he is the figure behind the scenes and the entertainer appearing before his audience.”55
The other etching, Guérin’s Premier essai de frontispice, depicts a portfolio of prints resting in a wooden stand, at the base of which a cat sits quietly .on- its haunches and gazes at the beholder. Reff points out that the depicted label on the portfolio also functions as the title on the actual page,56 and suggests that various apparent analogies between the portfolio and the cat were intended by Manet to identify the two:
Thus the cat becomes not simply the artist’s studio pet, a genre detail, but a sophisticated allusion to the artist himself, an echo of the portfolio containing his work and name, and in some indefinable sense an embodiment of his presence here, staring intently at the spectator. Its direct descendant is the famous black cat in the Olympia, a creature of similar significance.57
Both etchings, Reff maintains, are therefore “based on a similar awareness of [Manet] himself as a performing artist.”58 But he does not try either to place that awareness in the broader context of Manet’s art during the early sixties, or to account other than by association for Manet’s choice of a subject from the Commedia dell’Arte in works as special, as likely to summarize essential themes, as prospective frontispieces.
A further connection between the two etchings may be noted at this point: each relates to the marionette theater established in the Tuileries by the young novelist and critic Edmond Duranty in the summer of 1861. The chief marionette was Polichinelle—in fact the theater was known as le théâtre de Polichinelle—which suggests that the Pulcinella in Manet’s etching may have had its immediate inspiration in his experience of Duranty’s puppets. This suggestion finds strong support in the fact, hitherto unremarked, that Manet actually depicted Duranty’s marionette theater in the right hand portion of The Balloon: the roofed structure shown there is clearly the same as that in the frontispiece by Legros to Fernand Desnoyers’ Le Théâtre de Polichinelle, a verse prologue written expressly for the theater’s opening.59 Thus the connection, noted by Reff, between the print or drawing of a balloon in flight in the Deuxième essai leads, in part at least, back to Polichinelle himself. Furthermore, the fact that Polichinelle’s traditional companion was nothing other than a cat suggests that the Premier essai as well ought to be seen in relation to Duranty’s marionettes. And this suggestion too finds unexpected support in the virtual identity between Manet’s cat and the one depicted onstage with Polichinelle on the back cover of Duranty’s Théâtre des marionnettes du jardin des Tuileries,60 a collection of short plays illustrated in color by the author. The vignette in question was by Nadar — the dedicatee of the Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume—who was then preparing to build his famous balloon Le Géant.60a (So once again a connection emerges between balloon ascensions and Polichinelle.) Curiously, Polichinelle’s cat seems to have been missing during at least the first months of the theater’s operation. In a short review in L’Artiste praising Duranty’s venture, Victor Luciennes complained:
Mais it y manque quelque chose: un chat, je n’ai pas vu de chat. Vous en souvenez-vous, quand nous étion enfants et que nos mères nous conduisaient par la main, vous en souvenez-vous de ce beau chat, le compagnon inséparable de Polichinelle? II rappelait le choeur dans. Sophocle et dans Euripide. Le chat, mon Dieu! c’est la tradition, c’est la poésie de notre enfance. . . .61
Nevertheless, the cats that appear in Duranty’s illustrations, as well as the single cat portrayed onstage in another print by Legros, the lithograph Le Théâtre de Polichinelle des Tuileries,62 prove that the traditional relationship had not been abandoned.
The question that now arises is why Manet referred, although indirectly, to Duranty’s marionettes in both frontispiece etchings. My answer is that those references are only somewhat less than explicit acknowledgments of his prior involvement with Watteau, the Commedia dell’ Arte and theatrical subject matter generally. This is not to say that Manet identified personally with the character of Polichinelle or Pulcinella, as Reff suggests. The ultimate subject of Manet’s etchings is not himself but essential aspects of his art. Reff is right when he connects various objects in the Deuxième essai such as the sword and the guitar with the Commedia dell’Arte. But he is almost certainly wrong when he implies that Manet became aware of those connections only as he worked on the plate. It seems far more probable that he had been deliberately exploiting them for years.
A few additional remarks about the théâtre de Polichinelle are perhaps in order here. Duranty’s project was the latest in a succession of ventures whose aim was to revive the theatrical conventions of the 18th century.63 Those ventures belonged in turn to a broader current of interest in the Commedia dell’Arte, which received its initial impulse from the estheticism and hedonism of the generation of Romantic writers and artists who reached early manhood around 1830, but which went on to coexist and even partly to coincide with the Realism of the circle of Courbet and Champfleury. Duranty’s marionette theater is an example of just this coincidence of seemingly diverse points of view. Duranty was Champfleury’s protégé and during the fifties had written avowedly realist criticism and fiction; Desnoyers had defended Realism in the pages of L’Artiste in 1855;64 Champfleury himself seems to have supported Duranty’s venture;65 even the drawing of Polichinelle by the youngartist Amand Gautier on the cover of Desnoyers’ prologue had previously appeared on the announcement of the Grande Fête du Réalisme that had taken place in Courbet’s atelier on October 1, 1859, almost two years before the marionette theater opened.66 At the same time Duranty was able to enlist the sympathies of men like Banville and Baudelaire, whose interest in the Commedia dell’Arte and the Rococo was rooted in Romanticism and who throughout the fifties had occupied positions that cannot simply or easily be assimilated to Realist theory or practice.
By the summer or early autumn of 1862, when Manet etched the prospective frontispieces, Duranty himself may well have been known to him.67 Legros definitely was, and it is likely that Desnoyers and Amand Gautier were as well.68 More significantly, at least three men associated with Duranty’s project—Baudelaire, Champfleury and Aurélien Scholl—have been identified among the crowd of fashionable strollers in La Musique aux Tuileries, which dates from roughly the same moment as the frontispieces. And in general Manet’s great painting celebrates the very milieu that revived and supported the marionettes at this time. Moreover, La Musique is related as regards both style and subject matter to The Balloon, which, as has been shown, contains a representation of the théâtre de Polichinelle. All this suggests that La Musique relates, if only indirectly, to Manet’s involvement with Watteau and the Commedia dell’Arte. And it further suggests that that involvement itself must eventually be seen in relation to the collective sensibility that found itself reflected in the puppet theater at precisely this moment.69
THE DÉJEUNER SUR L’HERBE of 1863 is probably the most striking instance of the way in which references to specific works by other painters may obscure a less specific but possibly fundamental reliance upon Watteau. In the first place, the three foreground figures in Manet’s painting are a direct quotation from Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving after Raphael’s Judgment of Paris.70 It is also known that Manet turned to Giorgione’s Concert champêtre for the most immediately controversial aspect of his painting, the depiction of two fully clothed men picnicking with two women one of whom wears nothing more than a kind of shift and the other of whom is (almost) wholly naked.71 But despite the specificity of these connections, the basic conception of the Déjeuner is far closer to Watteau than to either Raphael or Giorgione. Florisoone has called the Déjeuner a “sorte de scène galante,” and has related it to Watteau’s definitive achievements in that genre.72 I believe he was right to do so. Without the precedent of Watteau’s fêtes champêtres Manet might never have found his way to the conception of perhaps his sheerest, most intractable masterpiece. (The full sense in which this may be said to have been the case will, I hope, become clear further on.) Furthermore, the Déjeuner’s relation to Watteau’s art is not simply generic. When Manet’s painting was first exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863 it was called Le Bain, a title which inevitably directs attention to the woman who has waded up to her knees in the stream or pond in the middle distance and who now raises her shift and bends over as if to fill some sort of cup or other receptacle with water. There is no equivalent for this figure in Marcantonio’s engraving. But there is a painting by Watteau, La Villageoise, which also depicts a woman wading in shallow water while raising her skirt and turning her head to the side, and from which I believe Manet adapted the pose of the bathing woman in the Déjeuner.73 A drawing by Manet in the Louvre74 seems to represent an intermediate stage in the process of adaptation: the reliance on Watteau’s figure is closer than in the final painting, but the arms as well as the legs are mostly bare, the breasts are partly revealed and the costume seems generally simpler, more shiftlike. Manet’s use of La Villageoise, especially in conjunction with the original title of the painting, is evidence for the suggestion that Watteau’s art presides over the conception of the Déjeuner as a whole. Though it remains to be seen what relation, if any, Manet’s use of Raphael and Giorgione bears to his involvement with Watteau.
Manet’s other supreme painting of 1863, the Olympia, is also based extremely closely on a 16th-century Italian source, Titian’s Venus d’Urbino. Another article by Reff, “The Meaning of Manet’s Olympia,” deals at length with this connection,75 while Sandblad has emphasized the relation of the Olympia and the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, among other paintings, to the Japanese color woodcuts that had begun to come into vogue in Paris during the 1850s.76 Unlike the Déjeuner, the Olympia is not generically or fundamentally grounded in Watteau.77 But its derivation is more complex, more implicated in modes of feeling whose ultimate source is the Rococo, than its closeness to Titian suggests. Specifically, if one compares the wood engraving by Prunaire after “un lavis à l’encre de Chine de Manet qui était une première idée pour l’Olympia” (Guérin),78 or the almost identical watercolor reproduced by Meier-Graefe in his 1912 study of Manet,79 with Achille Devéria’s lithograph of a sujet gracieux for a macédoine,80 there seems little doubt but that it was to Devéria, and not to Titian or any classical master, that Manet turned for the initial conception of his masterpiece. Devéria, born in 1800, four years before his brother Eugène, whose Naissance de Henri IV was one of the sensations of the Salon of 1827, was primarily a graphic artist.81 Together with his brother he played an important role in the revival of interest in the Rococo that took place during the 1830s, first in the petit cénacle dominated by Petrus Borel and later, around 1835, in the apartment in the impasse du Doyenné in which Gérard de Nerval, Arsène Houssaye and Théophile Gautier all lived. The lithograph in question, which Meltzoff dates around 1824, exemplifies the return to Rococo subject matter and shades of feeling that took place in the work of several young Romantic artists, at least partly under the influence of the erotic art of Jean-Frédéric Schall, the last important practitioner of the traditions inaugurated by Watteau. Significantly, the connection between Manet and the Devéria is documented by Proust. In his invaluable Souvenirs of the painter, Proust describes how, while he and Manet were still painting under Couture, i.e. before early 1856, they were befriended by Raffet and taken by him to the Louvre:
. . . II nous conduisit droit au Pèlerins d’Emmaüs de Rembrandt et aux Cavaliers de Valasquez, puis nous fit faire une longue station devant les dessins des maîtres, surtout devant ceux de Watteau et de Chardin.
La nous trouvâmes [Eugene] Devéria, l’auteur de la Naissance de Henri IV, à qui il [Raffet] avait donné rendezvous. Devéria nous ramena levant !es Veronese et nous fit un éloge enthousiaste des Italiens.
«Les jeunes gens, dit en riant Raffet, ont assez gentiment écouté l’avocat. Le peintre pourrait les conduire devant son tableau au Luxembourg.»
Notre visite y fut rapide. Raffet adressa à Devéria des éloges auxquels nous nous associâmes, ce qui nous fit de Devéria un protecteur et un ami. Celui-ci donna même à Manet ultérieurement une petite Fête de Fragonard peinte sur ardoise, dont mon camarade me fit plus tard présent.82
Eugène Devéria’s gift suggests that, like Raffet, he encouraged in the young Manet an interest in 18th-century French art. And it seems likely that this early friendship was a factor in Manet’s later use of the work of Achille Devéria for the first conception of the Olympia.
For Baudelaire, who was not born until 1821, Achille Devéria was one of the chief figures of the Romanticism of the Restoration, a period which the poet idolized throughout his life. In fact, Baudelaire saw Devéria as epitomizing that aspect of early Romanticism which was closest to the Rococo in spirit and which largely amounted to a kind of revival of Rococo artistic conventions and modes of feeling. As early as his Salon de 1845 Baudelaire protested against the current tendency to denigrate Devéria’s accomplishment, which he described in the following terms:
Pendant de longues années, M. Achille Devéria a puisé, pour notre plaisir, clans son inépuisable féconclité, de ravissantes vignettes, de charmants petits tableaux d’intérieur, de gracieuses scènes de la vie élégante, comme nul keepsake, malgré les prétentions des réputations nouvelles, n’en a depuis édité. II savait colorer la pierre lithographique; tour ses dessins étaient pleins de charmes, distingués, et respiraient je ne sais quelle rêverie amène. Toutes ses femmes coquettes et doucement sensuelles étaient les idéalisations de celles que Ion avait vues et désirées le soir dans les concerts, aux Bouffes, à l’Opéra ou dans les Brands salons. Ces lithographies, que les marchands achètent trois sols et qu’ils vendent un franc, sont les représentantes fidèles de cette vie élégante et parfumée de la Restauration, sur laquelle plane comme un ange protecteur le romantique et blond fantôme de la duchesse de Berry.83
Almost fifteen years later, in Le Peintre de la vie moderne, Baudelaire named Devéria among the “historiens des graces interlopes de la Restauration.”84 And in his Salon de 1859 he remarked of that period:
Cette époque était si belle et si féconde, que les artistes en ce temps-là n’oubliaient aucun besoin de l’esprit. Pendant qu’Eugène Delacroix et [Eugène] Devéria créaient le grand et le pittoresque, crautres, spirituels et nobles dans la petitesse, peintres du boudoir et de la beauté légère, augmentaient incessamment l’album actuel de l’élégance idéale.85
By 1860 if not earlier Baudelaire and Manet were close friends.86 and it is perhaps not accidental that Manet turned to Achille Devéria for the initial conception of the painting which, more than any other, critics and historians have tended to describe as Baudelairean.
In La Musique aux Tuileries Baudelaire is depicted in conversation with Théophile Gautier and Baron Taylor, two of the most distinguished representatives of the Romantic era then alive.87 I have already suggested that La Musique relates indirectly to the théâtre de Polichinelle, and have observed that the sensibility that revived the marionette theater in the early sixties had important roots in the Romantic taste for the Rococo. The Olympia, whose first conception was, it seems, based on just such a Romantic source, ought also to be seen in relation to that sensibility. The close resemblance—at least of pose—between the notorious cat in the Olympia and the cat in Legros’ lithograph Le Théâtre de Polichinelle des Tuileries strongly supports, and perhaps decisively confirms, this suggestion.88
MANET’S INVOLVEMENT WITH THE ART of Louis LeNain was neither as general nor as profound as his involvement with that of Watteau. The first painting that seems clearly to depend upon LeNain is the Portrait of the Artist’s Parents of 1860. The figure of his father—note in particular the clenched fist—seems to me to have been inspired by figures such as those in the La Caze Collection Repas de paysans, which Manet undoubtedly saw in the important exhibition of French paintings from private collections that was held at Martinet’s on the Boulevard des Italiens the same year.89 (Watteau’s Gilles, L’Indifférent, La Finette and Le Rendez-vous de chasse, plus versions of Une Mascarade and L’Amour paisible, were in that exhibition as well.) The figure of Manet’s mother, although perhaps related generally to the woman standing at the left of the Repas de paysans, seems to have been based on the female figure in another major painting by LeNain, The Forge, then as now in the Louvre.90 It may or may not be significant that the relative positions of Manet’s father and mother are paralleled rather closely by those of the central male figure and the standing violinist in the Repas de paysans. Almost certainly, though,the arresting mood of Manet’s painting—above all the apparent abstraction or self-absorption of his parents—derives from LeNain.91 Even the apparent harshness of Manet’s depiction of his parents, which disturbed the critic Léon Lagrange,92 may have been the result of a conscious attempt to emulate LeNain’s powerful example.
The second painting that seems to have been based at least in part on LeNain is the Gypsies of 1861. Only a few fragments of the original picture survive: Manet himself dismembered and mostly destroyed the large canvas after it was shown in his retrospective exhibition of 1867. But on the strength of the etching that he made of it in 186293 it seems likely that the female gypsy seated on the ground and holding an infant in her lap was adapted from the similar figure in the foreground of LeNain’s Les Moissonneurs (then in the collection of Philippe de Saint Albin but well known through reproduction94), or from that of Saint Anne in the Nativity of the Virgin in the Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris, or from both together. Furthermore, the standing gypsy has, I feel, certain affinities—of sheer presence as much as anything else—with the blacksmith in The Forge, and the possibility that Manet partly based his figure on LeNain’s cannot be discounted.
Manet’s interest in LeNain reached its high-water mark in the Old Musician, probably the next painting he made, after which it seems more or less to have disappeared from his work as an active, shaping factor. But despite its relatively short tenure—from 1860 through early 1862—it was far from unimportant; indeed, his deeper and more lasting involvement with Watteau cannot fully be understood apart from it.
Manet’s uses of LeNain were charged with an immediate, so to speak prima facie significance which his references to Velasquez and Watteau did not have, or not to the same degree. The three brothers Antoine, Louis and Mathieu LeNain, of whom by far the most important was Louis, had been largely unknown until the years just before the Revolution of 1848 when a group of young, democratically inclined writers about art—including Théophile Thoré, Paul Mantz, Philippe de Chennevières, Clément de Ris, Eudore Soulié, Charles Blanc and Jules Husson who wrote under the name Champfleury—began to rediscover them.95 Their subsequent revival was almost wholly the work of Champfleury, who throughout the fifties was Courbet’s foremost champion and the principal ideologist of what both men called Realism in painting and literature. Champfleury’s first slim book on the LeNain was published in 1850, at the outset of the struggle for Realism, but his definitive and more substantial study of their art did not appear until ten years later. By then, as Meltzoff has shown, he explicitly revered them as anti-academic, democratic, above all realistic painters—in short as forerunners of the contemporary art for which he himself had fought. What will always be seen as true of the LeNain, Champfleury wrote in 1860:
. . . c’est qu’ils étaient pleins de compassion pour les pauvres, qu’ils aimaient mieux les peindre que les puissants, qu’ils avaient pour les champs et les campagnards les aspirations de La Bruyère, qu’ils croyaient en leur art, qu’ils l’ont pratiqué avec conviction, qu’ils n’ont pas craint la bassesse du sujet, qu’ils ont trouvé l’homme en guenilles plus intéressant que les gens de cour avec leurs broderies, qu’ils ont obéi au sentiment intérieur qui les poussait, qu’ils ont fui l’enseignement académique pour mieux faire passer sur la toile leurs sensations; enfin parce qu’ils ont été simples et naturels, après deux siècles ils sont restés et seront toujours trois grands peintres, les frères LeNain.96
Champfleury’s views, both historical and critical, received the widest possible publicity, and by the early 1860s if not before, the LeNain were inextricably associated both with Champfleury and with the modern art which he was known to have supported.97 Moreover, by 1862 Manet actually knew Champfleury, whose connection with the théâtre de Polichinelle has already been mentioned and who is portrayed seated and in conversation with several women in the right-hand portion of La Musique aux Tuileries. All this suggests that Manet’s references to LeNain in the Portrait of the Artist’s Parents, the Gypsies and the Old Musician ought to be seen as a kind of declaration that he conceived of his art as essentially realist in intent, and hence as an invitation to compare his work with that of the great painter of the preceding generation, Gustave Courbet. Courbet himself may have been influenced by Louis Le Nain’s Repas de paysans when he painted the first masterpiece of Realism, the After Dinner at Ornans of 1849, and it is possible that Manet was deliberately challenging the latter in the Old Musician. At any rate, the decision to make one of his figures a violinist seems to relate simultaneously to Courbet and LeNain. In fact, the seated figure at the right of the Repas de paysans is almost identical with the main figure in the Halte du cavalier, and in some respects—the bare head, the feet alongside one another—seems even closer to Manet’s seated musician. If it is also true, as I have suggested, that the standing girl at the left of the Old Musician is largely based on the two similar figures in Les Moissonneurs,98 Manet made use of no less than three paintings by LeNain, two of them well known, in his picture of 1861–62. Except by directly paraphrasing Courbet himself, Manet could hardly have done more to declare his basic allegiance to the Realist conception of art.
(This is borne out by the fact, which I simply mention here, that Manet’s next large scale figure painting, the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, represents just such a paraphrase of Courbet—specifically, of the Demoiselles au bord de la Seine which had scandalized the French public when it was shown in the Salon of 1857. The ostensible subject matter of the two paintings is roughly the same: two women, obviously loose, picnicking on the banks of the Seine. Only in Manet’s painting they have been joined by their male companions and have undressed. Manet’s gratuitous quotation of Courbet’s rowboat was intended to make the connection between the two paintings even more explicit than it already was, and thereby to insure that the Déjeuner as a whole would be seen in the context of Courbet’s art and of Realism generally.)
Almost certainly, Manet did not mean by these acts to identify his purposes with Courbet’s. Rather, the deliberate and explicit siting of his art in the context of precedents and assumptions established by Courbet and Champfleury during the preceding dozen years should, I feel, be seen as an attempt to make the differences between his realism and theirs as salient and as intelligible as it was in his power to make them. I intend to discuss those differences at length in a future study.99 For the present I call attention to just one of them, which hinges on the status and ultimately the meaning of the art of Watteau. The subject comes up more than once in Champfleury’s later study of the LeNain, the first time in the following passage:
Le doyen des critiques d’art, M. Delécluze, regarde «la voie simple qu’avait ouverte LeNain comme bien au dessus du genre imaginaire et fantastique, tel que Watteau l’a traité.» Je ne discuterai pas cette opinion; les oppositions de maîtres, la comparaison des anciens et des modernes peuvent fournir de longues thèses, mais sans grande utilité. Watteau est Watteau, LeNain est LeNain. Si ma nature me pousse vers LeNain, je ne saurais empêcher les esprits de fantaisie de s’enthousiasmer devant les masques italiens, les comédiennes et les embarquements amoureux; mais on a calomnié le XVIIIe siècle en l’affublant exclusivement de galanterie. . . .100
(Because, he adds, the 18th century also includes Chardin, and the reaction against the painters of fêtes galantes in the name of the antique, and finally the Revolution itself.101) This initial comparison between LeNain and Watteau is somewhat restrained, perhaps because Théophile Thoré, whom Champfleury admired and to whose pseudonymous identity of Willem Bürger he dedicated his study when it was published in book form in 1862,102 had made it clear in his own critical and historical writings that he considered Watteau a great painter. The second time Champfleury treats the same comparison he again tries to be circumspect but in the end his true feelings emerge more distinctly. The passage in question is long but worth quoting extensively. Champfleury is discussing the La Caze Repas de paysans:
Un des tableaux les plus singuliers de LeNain fut exposé en 1860, au boulevard des Italiens, au milieu des maitres galants du XVIIIe siècle, Watteau, Pater, Lancret, Boucher, Gillot, Lemoine, etc. Cette peinture faisait une triste figure, je l’avoue, au milieu de toutes ces sensualités élégantes. Qu’on s’imagine, au milieu de courtisans habillés de soie, une bande de charbonniers qui sont tombés dans la farine, et on aura à peine l’idée du LeNain sobre et sévère dont je laisse la description à M. W. Bürger. . . .103
He goes on to quote Thoré’s description of the Repas de paysans, which ends with the remark that everything about that painting constitutes “une singulière anomalie au milieu de l’art pornpeux et théâtral du XVIIe siècle.”104 Champfleury continues:
Et M. W. Bürger ajoutait avec raison que, «parmi les peintres parisiens», LeNain et Philippe de Champaigne, par leurs convictions, semblaient deux «excentriques.» Le mot est juste. Dans une galerie de peintures du XVIIIe siècle, LeNain est un excentrique. Il est calme et tranquille d’habitude, it parait sévère en telle compagnie. Placez un portrait d’Holbein à coté d’une tête de femme de Fragonard, et rendez-vous compte de l’abîme qui sépare ces deux façons d’envisager la nature, qui font penser à une lecture d’un roman de Crébillon fils après avoir médité une pensée de Pascal. L’art est régi par des courants mystérieux qui conduisent le pinceau d’un Watteau et d’un Boucher; mais qu’on fasse actuellement une religion de ces maîtres agréables, qu’on en arrive à admirer leurs imitateurs, leurs copistes et tous leurs contemporains, voilà une mode et une adoration contre lesquelles on ne saurait trop protester. Ces époques de dissolution ont abouti à la Révolution, et en présence de ce joli dans l’art, on est arrivé à regretter que la revolution imprimé par David n’ait pas été plus nette et plus absolue, puisqu’un siècle après nous revenons à cet art de troisième ordre qui avait sa raison historique et sociale, mais qu’il ne faut regarder que comme une amusette.
Ne serait-il pas bon aujourd’hui de laisser de côté Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, pour nous préoccuper d’une école française plus glorieuse: Les Clouet, les Poussin, les Champaigne, les LeNain?105
This comes close to misrepresenting Thoré, who contrasts LeNain with the rhetorical, and in that sense theatrical,106 art of the 17th-century French masters (e.g. Le Brun, Vouet), not with Watteau and the other 18th-century French painters of whom Champfleury disapproved. By 1860 Champfleury’s contrast between Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard on the one hand and a more serious and ultimately higher strain in French painting on the other was itself traditional, having been formulated in roughly those terms by writers like Hédouin, Clément de Ris and Champfleury himself in the years before the Revolution of 1848. Basically, however, Hédouin and Clément de Ris admired Watteau and sought chiefly to counteract what seemed to them the excessive fashion for his work and the uncritical overvaluing of his followers. Whereas Champfleury throughout his life was driven to deny the Rococo as such all value as art.
I HAVE TRIED TO SHOW that between 1859 and 1863 Manet was deeply and almost continuously involved with Watteau, and that his reference to the Gilles in the Old Musician should be seen as an acknowledgment of that involvement. At the same time, Manet chose to make his acknowledgment in a painting that was fundamentally dependent on LeNain, whose art Champfleury had just claimed was the antithesis of Watteau’s. Given Champfleury’s importance, and his association with Courbet, it is not credible that Manet did this lightly, or that the significance of the conjunction escaped him. On the contrary, he must have been sharply aware that to yoke references to these painters was to go in the teeth, not just of Champfleury’s distaste for Watteau, but of the traditional contrast between the realistic, democratic, serious, naïve and moral painting of the LeNain and the fantastic, aristocratic, frivolous, contrived and dissolute art of Watteau that was basic to Champfleury’s view of the history of French painting. Manet hardly meant by this—he literally could not have meant—to call into question the realism of the LeNain. His intention seems to have been the reverse: to claim Watteau for realism, in opposition both to those who, like the Romantics of the 1830s, delighted in his art because of what they saw as its fantasy, sensuality and gratuitousness and to those others who, like Charnpfleury, deplored it for the same qualities. Manet was not alone in seeing Watteau as essentially realistic. As early as 1847 Paul Mantz had argued that Watteau, Chardin and Boucher had painted their contemporaries truly.107 But the man who more than any other had advocated this view of Watteau’s art was the great critic, connoisseur and pioneer art historian—and dedicatee of Champfleury’s 1862 volume on the Le Nain—Théophile Thoré.108 In the same article on the Boulevard des Italiens exhibition of French paintings from private collections from which Champfleury quoted his description of the La Caze Repas de paysans, Thoré wrote of Watteau:
Pour les observateurs superficiels, Watteau n’a pas beaucoup lair d’adhérer à la nature. C’est pourtant là son suprême mérite, avec le sentiment de l’élégance un esprit subtil et délicat.
N’allait-il pas, le jeune mélancolique, regarder et dessiner dans les environs de Paris, toutes les fois qu’il en avait le loisir? Quand la maladie eut attaqué ses forces vitales, où donc eut-il l’idée d’aller se raviver? A la compagne, au bord de l’eau, en pleine nature. Et quelle innombrable quantité d’études n’a-t-il pas laissées, toutes, même les moindres traits, accentuées avec une passion pénétrante! On le voit bien, qu’il aimait la nature, dans ses paysages mystérieux et poétiques, dans ses ciels éblouissants de lumière, dans la désinvolture incomparable de ses figurines aux extrémités si fines et si agiles, dans la couleur exquise des carnations de ses femmes, dans la combinaison prestigieuse des nuances de ses étoffes, dans l’harmonie de ses effets d’ensemble.109
Thoré acknowledged that Watteau’s art often did not look realistic. But he did so in a way that at once deepened the concept of realism—freeing it from mere verisimilitude—and left no doubt as to his belief in Watteau’s stature:
Et, chose inexplicable! quoiqu’il parte ainsi directement de l’observation et de l’amour de la nature, il arrive pourtant à un dessin extrêmement maniéré, à des formes presque impossibles, à des mirages de coloris comme on n’en voit guère. Mais cela est arrivé aussi à quelques autres artistes de génie, à Rembrandt, par exemple, et à Velazquez, qui sont à la fois très-fantastiques et très-réels. C’est un des mystères de la peinture chez certains coloristes privilégiés.110
Earlier in the same article Thoré apostrophized the painter in terms which implicitly opposed any account of Watteau’s art, such as Champfleury’s, that viewed it as fundamentally aristocratic and therefore as corrupt, decadent, anti democratic:
Watteau! Avant lui, on faisait des princesses, et il a fait des bergères; on faisait des déesses, et il a fait des femmes; on faisait des héros, et il a fait des saltimbanques—et même des singes!111
These remarks are to be understood in the context of Thoré’s democratic and socialist political beliefs. In a series of ground-breaking catalogues of various Dutch and Flemish museums and largely theoretical articles on the relation of art to society written during the late 1850s, Thoré stated and restated his belief that the dominant, progressive tendency of the modern age was towards universality, by which he meant the transcendence of class and even of nationality in the recognition of all men’s common humanity. (I shall return to this later on.) Accordingly, he deplored the “Part pour l’art” esthetic of Romanticism and summed up his own counter doctrine in the words “l’art pour l’homme.” He regarded the Dutch school of the 17th century, which he saw as essentially naturalistic, as the great precedent for the modern art in which he believed. Read in this light his apostrophe to Watteau salutes that painter for having taken a decisive, even revolutionary step within French painting towards the still incompletely realized achievement of a truly human art.
Thoré’s interpretation of Watteau’s art parallels Manet’s use of that art in the Old Musician. It is also true that Manet’s sense of the compatibility of Watteau and realism is manifest in his first ambitious painting, the Absinthe Drinker of 1858–59, and seems to have been one of the basic givens of his vision. But in Thoré’s article on the Boulevard des Italiens exhibition of 1860, as well as in his books and essays of the late fifties and early sixties, Manet found what he would have felt as further sanction for his own intensely personal vision of Watteau’s art. It goes without saying that Thoré’s writing could not have had that power had it not been the product of one of the finest pictorial intelligences then at work. (Which is only a way of saying that the sanction Manet created for himself in the art of the past, and the sanction he found created for him by the most serious art writers of his time, were finally the same.) In fact, I regard it as questionable whether without Thoré’s sanction Manet would both have acknowledged publicly his involvement with Watteau and have declared publicly his commitment to realism in the same painting, as I have claimed he did in the Old Musician.
One further point might be mentioned here. In 1862 Champfleury described the foreground figures in paintings by the LeNain as “acteurs qui viennent sur le devant de la toile chanter le couplet final au public.”112 That however did not persuade him to connect their work with the overtly theatrical art of the 18th century which was so repugnant to him. But by 1863 Ernest Chesneau, a young critic influenced by Thoré, was able to write in a long essay significantly entitled “Le Réalisme et l’esprit français dans l’art”:
C’est donc dans les Manuscrits français, à partir du moment où l’art se sécularise et sort des couvents, à partir du XIIIe siècle, qu’il faut voir le berceau du réalisme tel que le comportait, que le comporte maintenant encore notre goût en fait d’art . . . Comment nier la parenté de certains groupes de saints dans les miniatures, avec les groupes qui figurent dans l’oeuvre des frères Le Nain, de Philippe de Champaigne, de Watteau lui-même et de Chardin, biens moins encore, de Pater et de Lancret? Sous la variété des talents humbles et modestes, ou brillants, éclatants, superficiels et légers, que de fois ne rencontrons-nous pas, même chez les plus corrompus, ce retour de naïveté qui pose bonnement les personnages d’une scène en face du spectateur, inattentifs aux bruits du dehors, l’oeil vaguement dirigé droit devant soi, regardant sans voir:—singulier accent qui se retrouve aux dates les plus éloignées!113
Chesneau saw both the LeNain and Watteau as realists. But what is more significant, he did so partly because of just that immobile, frontal, jarringly direct but finally reserved and impassive relation to the beholder which characterizes the figures in both the Halte du cavalier and the Gilles. If that aspect of their work is thought of as a particular kind of theatricality—and Champfleury’s simile together with the overtly theatrical context of many of Watteau’s paintings encourage one to take this step—Chesneau’s remarks suggest that the recognition of LeNain’s and Watteau’s shared theatricality, experienced as central to their common realism, may have been an important factor in Manet’s decision to conjoin references to those masters in a single, explicitly realist painting.114
MANET’S DECISION TO YOKE LeNain and Watteau in the Old Musician rested, then, on a particular view of the history of French painting. But because it did, it directly engaged with issues even more basic and far reaching in their implications than the meaning of Watteau’s art or the relation of Watteau to the LeNain. Between the mid-1840s and the early 1860s the history of French painting had become a subject of intense study and, partly in response to developments in contemporary art, heated controversy within France. During those years—years which include Manet’s apprenticeship under Couture, his first visits to foreign museums, and his gradual emergence as an independent artist—LeNain and Chardin were revived, Watteau’s reputation was finally stabilized at a high level, the first archival sources of the French painting of the past were published, the contents of provincial museums began to be explored, the Revue Universelle des Arts and the Gazette des Beaux-Arts were founded, the first important monographs on French masters appeared, and two great exhibitions, the Exposition Universelle of 1855 and the Manchester Exhibition of 1857, surveyed the art of Europe since the thirteenth century and thereby made inescapable various questions having to do with the nature of French painting and its relation to that of other schools. The most important of these questions can be formulated roughly as follows: Which painters, ancient and modern, are authentically French and which are not? More generally, in what does the essence or natural genius of French painting consist? Does in fact a body of painting exist in which that essence or genius is completely realized? Has painting in France ever been truly national, or has it always fallen short of that ideal, however the ideal itself is understood?
These questions are not wholly separable from one another. The judgment that certain painters but not others constitute the authentic French school implies a particular view of the nature of French painting, and probably of Frenchness as such, just as any characterization of the essence of French art implies a particular canon of painters and paintings. As a result contemporary discussions of these issues may strike the modern reader as at least somewhat circular or arbitrary. Moreover, the questions themselves are far from rigorously historical by modern standards. The fact remains, however, that almost every important French scholar of the French painting of the past addressed himself to them, not only at the time but for decades after: one might say that the discipline of art history arose in France largely in response to them.
What makes the situation still more complex is that from the outset those questions were of more than just historical significance. The Exposition Universelle in particular had made it clear that starting with David, and probably with Watteau, French painting had been the best in the world. Writing in 1857, Thoré described the contemporary French school as “la première de l’Europe et presque la seule.”115 But the more the task of modern art was felt to have devolved upon French artists, the more all questions about the nature and destiny of French art became inseparable from questions about the nature and destiny of modern art as such. Thus one finds different and sometimes violently opposed critics claiming justification for their value judgments in different histories of French painting, different canons of authentically French masters, different concepts of Frenchness. Here, for example, is another passage from the article by Chesneau quoted above:
Les tendances réalistes de l’école moderne ne sont, en effet, que les indices préliminaires d’un retour légitime aux anciennes tendances de l’art français. Ces aspirations primitives, refoulées, étouffées dès l’origine sans avoir pu se développer et se mani fester avec suite sont en rapport étroit avec le génie même de la France intellectuelle . . . Une étude successive des peintres français qui sont restés vraiment Français, qui ont secoué ou n’ont pas accepté le joug de la tradition italienne, établirait abondamment la justesse de ces assertions.116
It may seem that Chesneau simply used historical arguments to defend his preferences in contemporary art. But I think it would be at least as true to say that his sense of the historical identity of French painting largely determined those preferences in the first place. And in general both the depth and the prevalence of such concerns in the art writing of the fifties and sixties cannot be exaggerated.
One of Chesneau’s assumptions in the above passage deserves closer examination, viz., that only those artists are authentically French who resisted or escaped the influence of the great tradition of Italian painting. Like his equation of Frenchness and realism, this assumption seems to have had its immediate source in Thoré,117 whose powerful influence on his contemporaries throughout the sixties has never adequately been appreciated. For example, Thoré’s discussion of the French school at Manchester begins with a brief historical survey in which it is claimed that throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and with a few exceptions, e.g. the Clouet, Cal-lot) France in effect produced nothing but Italian artists. The breakthrough to something like an authentically national art was the accomplishment of Watteau, and the distinction of the 18th century generally:
Ah! pourtant, voici que commence au XVIIIe siècle une école française: Watteau, c’est un Francais par la tournure et l’esprit, par le style; encore est-il de la frontière flamande, et, comme practicien et coloriste, sectateur de Rubens.—Il n’y a pas loin de Valenciennes à Anvers.
Chardin, it est Français aussi, mais aussi un peu Flamand par la touche et la couleur.
A ce moment-là, et jusqu’à la fin du siècle . . . oui, it y a une école française, dont on peut avoir une opinion quelquonque, mais qui eut même le privilège, en l’absence de toute peinture dans les autres pays, de rayonner sur l’Europe et d’y insinuer son style. Nattier, François Boucher, Fragonard et d’autres sont du moins des Français-Pompadour. Greuze, voilà un Français-Louis XVI.118
Three years later, in 1860, Thoré opened his first article on the exhibition of French paintings on the Boulevard des Italiens with the following para- graphs, which I want to quote at length in order to convey the quality of his effort to put forward an account of the history of painting in France:
Oui, c’est vraiment là l’école française! Certains critiques ont l’air de prétendre qu’il n’y a guère d’école française. Ils n’ont qu’à entrer dans cette exposition. Ah! que c’est français! De l’élégance, du caprice, de l’adresse, du goût; beaucoup de charme et beaucoup d’esprit: on sent tout de suite qu’on est en France.
II faut bien reconnaître que ces artistes sont de chez eux, que leur inspiration et leur manière, leur sentiment et leur style sont propres à leurs pays et à leur temps, et qu’ils composent une école originale, distincte de toutes les écoles étrangères.
A la vérité, la pléiade qui brille à l’exposition du boulevard appartient presque exclusivement au XVIIIe siècle. L’école française ne daterait-elle que de la fin du règne de Louis XIV?—Peut-être.
Au XVIe siècle en France on n’aperçoit, en effet, que le style italien importé par Andrea del Sarto, Vinci, Salaï, Rosso, Primaticcio, Niccolo dell’Abbate et autres; du florentin ou du bolonais, depuis Jean Cousin jusqu’à Martin Freminet.—Ceux qui ne sont pas italianisés sont des Flamands: les Clouet.
Au XVIIe siècle, la fureur de l’imitation italienne est telle, que Molière, le plus français des écrivains français, glorifie Mignard, «ce grand homme devenu tout Romain.» L’école romaine et bolonaise de Vouet, de Mignard et de Lebrun domine si exclusivement, que les meilleurs artistes indigènes s’étaient même expatriés et dénationalisés: Poussin le Normand, Claude le Lorrain, Courtois le Bourgignon, Valentin et d’autres vivent et meurent à Rome,—à l’inverse des Florentins et des Bolonais qui, au siècle précédent, étaient venus vivre et mourir en France . . . Les seuls qui ne soient pas italianisés sont toujours des Flamands: le peintre du grand cardinal et le peintre du grand roi, Philippe de Champaigne et Van der Meulen, qui meurent à Paris académiciens français.
Vers la fin du siècle, cette influence néerlandaise commence à contrebalancer un peu le gôut italien, par Jacob Van Loo, qui implante en France sa dynastie,—par Largillière, éduqué dans la ville de Rubens chez le Flamand Goubau, puis à Londres chez Lely, qui continuait la tradition de Van Dyck,—par Rigaud, qui se perfectionnait aussi en copiant Van Dyck, avec les conseils de son ami par Largillière,—par d’autres encore, qui servent de transition entre «le grand siècle» tout romain et une époque très-divergente, ou la liberté des moeurs allait autoriser la liberté de l’art et l’épanouissement de la fantaisie française en peinture.
Est-il sûr que cette école du XVIIIe siècle soit plus originale que celle du XVIIe? Est-il sûr que Watteau soit plus français que Lebrun? Mais cela saute aux yeux! A peu près comme Rubens et Jordaens sent plus de leur pays que leurs prédécesseurs, les Van Coxcye et les Van Orley; comme Velasquez et Murillo représentent mieux l’Espagne que leurs prédécesseurs, les Van Coxcye et les Van Orley; comme Valasquez et Murillo représentent mieux l’Espagne que leurs prédécesseurs, ambitionnant d’imiter Raphaël ou le Titien.119
The greater Frenchness of Watteau, like the greater Spanishness of Velasquez, consisted largely in his realism, his fidelity to nature (including human nature), his insistence upon basing his art on the life around him rather than on foreign notions of what art should be. It was, Thoré wrote, always through a return to nature, through naturalism, that schools of painting, “même les plus idéales ou les plus religieuses,”120 renewed themselves; and the French school of the 18th century was no exception. He might have added—he as much as said—that it was only thus that they became truly national.
In Chesneau’s writing Thoré’s ideas are qualified by a kind of innate conservatism. The opposite occurs in the work of one of the most interesting critics of Manet’s generation, Jules Antoine Castagnary:
L’art est indigène,—ou it n’est pas. II est l’expression d’une société donnée, de son esprit, de ses moeurs, de son histoire,—ou it n’est rien. II tient du sol, du climat, de la race,—ou il est sans caractère.
Ne craignons pas de l’avouer, nous n’avons jamais eu en France de peinture française.
Les germes d’un art national,—basé sur la nature et l’expression de la vie comme tous les arts nationaux qui se sont développés en Europe,—commençaient à grandir dans les divers centres intellectuels de nos vieilles provinces (on peut voir par les Clouet du Louvre où il eût atteint), quand, à la suite des guerres de la Péninsule, l’influence italienne entra subitement chez nous, apportée par les gentilshommes de François ler, aux fers de leur chevaux. Le coup fut terrible. L’arrivée de Léonard da Vinci et d’André del Sarte, la formation de l’école de Fontainebleau, la prépondérance croissante de Paris, il n’en fallut pas davantage. Jamais invasion ne fut plus rapide ni plus décisive: la peinture française fut tuée net. . . . Dès lors plus d’art, hormis un art de seconde main, un art inspiré de l’art des autres peuples et non sorti des entrailles de la vie ambiante. Aussi qu’arrive-t-il? C’est que nos plus belles gloires, celles dont nous somme le plus disposés à nous enorgueillir, ne nous appartiennent qu’à demi. Estce que Nicolas Poussin, Claude Gelée sont français? Ils ne le sont ni par la tournure de leur esprit, ni par le choix de leur patrie adoptive, Lesueur lui-même, qui pourtant n’a jamais quitté Paris, est italien. Dans ce grand courant d’imitation qui part de Primatice pour aboutir on ne sait à qui vers la fin du dernier siècle, quelques individualités surnagent: Lenain, Watteau, Chardin; mais combien peu nombreuses et de combien peu d’influence?121
It is not part of my purpose in this study to document the continuing importance of this version of the history of French painting.122 But something of its pervasiveness and durability may be gathered from the following passage, written in 1888, from De Chennevières’ frank, subtle and extremely informative Souvenirs d’un Directeur des Beaux-Arts:
. . . Et pourquoi n’aurions nous pas le courage de crier de suite tout haute et tout franc:
«Assez, assez du XVIIIe siècle; assez de cette faisanderie. Le XVIIIe siècle nous a amollis, il nous a gâtés, il nous a pourris, et finalement il nous a tués. J’entends qu’il a amolli et pourri ceux de son temps, et qu’il a suffi à quelques amateurs d’en reglisser le ferment de notre goût, dans notre art national, pour nous gâter et nous décomposer à notre tour. Ah! qu’ils avaient raison, David et la forte légion de ses élèves de honnir, de la maudire et de le proscrire avec haine et sans pitié et du plus haut de leur dédain; et qu’il est vraiment temps de nous débarbouiller à notre tour de cette farine, ce cette poudre de riz empoisonnée! . . . Comment, c’est-là ce XVIIIe siècle, que les Goncourt et les Marcille et les Walferdin, et tons nous amateurs depuis trente ans, ceux dans lesquels nous avions le plus de confiance, nous ont représenté comme la seule école française, comme la date d’apogée du vrai génie français! . . .123
When De Chennevières wrote these words Manet had been dead almost five years. But the issues raised in Thoré’s writings of the late fifties and early sixties were still alive.
IN VIEW OF MANET’S INVOLVEMENT with the art of the past, it is inconceivable that he was unaware of these issues. And in fact his paintings of the early sixties suggest that he was more than just aware of them. Starting in 1859, as I have tried to show, Manet repeatedly adapted paintings by Watteau or engravings after those paintings in his own work. By 1860, the year the La Caze Repas de paysans was exhibited on the Boulevard des Italiens and Champfleury’s study was published in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, he began deliberately to exploit the LeNain as well. Both involvements are conjoined in the Gypsies of 1861 and, more explicitly, in the Old Musician of 1861–62. The first picture obviously inspired by Chardin, a still life, was painted in 1862.124 Two years later Manet produced a number of paintings in this genre, all of them in frank emulation of Chardin,125 the best of them as good as Chardin. These painters—the LeNain, Watteau, Chardin—were the heart of the pre-19th-century French school as Thoré and those influenced by him saw it. And the inference is strong, first, that Manet too, perhaps partly because of Thoré, saw those masters as authentically French; and second, that his explicit references to them—in particular to LeNain and Watteau in the Old Musician—were intended to secure or establish or guarantee the Frenchness of his own art.
These inferences find support in the testimony of his lifelong friend and fellow student under Couture, Antonin Proust. In his Souvenirs of the painter Proust quotes the young Manet’s account of an incident involving Courbet and Diaz:
«. . . L’autre jour, it ICourbet] entre chez Deforge. Diaz y était: «Combien que vous vendez votre Turc? dit-il à Diaz, en désignant un de ses tableaux a l’etalage.—Mais, répond Diaz, ce n’est pas un Turc, c’est une Vièrge.—Alors cela ne peut pas faire mon affaire, je voulais un Turc.» Et le voilà regagnant le café de Madrid avec ses amis, en riant aux éclats. Diaz courait derrière lui, voulant le pourfendre avec sa jambe de bois. Quel fumiste, hein! Mais it a beau gouailler, it a des côtés très français, ce maître peintre, car, il n’y a pas à dire, nous avons en France un fonds de probité qui nous ramène toujours à la vérité, malgré les tours de force des acrobates. Regarde les Lenain, les Watteau, les Chardin, David lui-même. Quel sens du vrai!»126
LeNain, Watteau, Chardin—and, almost certainly, the David of the realistic Death of Marat. Proust went even further in “L’Art d’Edouard Manet”:
On s’etait fait dâns notre pays une idée si fausse des conditions du beau dessin, de la belle couleur et de la saine composition que Watteau et Chardin sont passés presque inaperçus au milieu du tapage des pinceaux bruyants, à côté du dessin métallique et de la banalité des arrangements prévus par le codex des professeurs attitrés. C’est tout au plus si l’on a concédé à Watteau l’élégance des personnages de ses fêtes galantes et à Chardin un brevet de maître de la nature morte. Des étonnantes sanguines rehaussées de crayon noir du premier et des portraits du second, on ne faisait plus de cas que des oeuvres de Clouet, de Janet et de Cousin. Manet nous ramenait au respect de cette tradition nationale, à l’admiration des choses méconnues. II faisait revivre tout cela par ses observations personnelles, mais l’oeil de ses contemporains persistait à ne pas voir. . . .127
The last sentence is tantalizing but ambiguous: did Proust mean to hint that Manet consciously and deliberately recreated the French art of the past by his observations of reality, that is, in his paintings? Is that what his contemporaries failed to see? (His next remarks, which concern Manet’s admiration for Ingres and the way in which the Olympia reveals that admiration, perhaps point to this reading.) Or did he simply mean that Manet made the art of Watteau and Chardin live again in his conversation, but that his contemporaries failed to see their merit? In any event, Proust’s witness—and I shall be quoting more remarks of his to the same effect further on—leaves no doubt but that Manet was consciously concerned with Frenchness, and that like Thoré he associated it with probity, truthfulness, realism.
For Proust, appreciation of the characteristic virtues of French painting entailed the sharp downgrading, not only of the Italianate school of the court of Francis I, but of the art of the Italian Renaissance itself. In his Souvenirs he remarks that what above all he admires about Puvis de Chavannes is “son aversion pour la Renaissance italienne, sa fidélité à la simplicité et à la mesure de notre art français.”128 And in the article of 1901 he writes: “C’est un des symptômes le plus curieux de la force des superstitions que l’erreur qui a, pendant les siècles, depuis la funeste époque de la Renaissance, entraîné l’art hors de sa voie naturelle, soit à ce point forte que toute loyale expression de la vérité ait pu apparaître comme un mensonge.”129 Proust cannot here be assumed to represent Manet’s views: the explicit dependence of both the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia on works by supreme masters of the Italian Renaissance makes it clear that Manet’s relations with the art of foreign schools were far less circumscribed, far less ideological than Proust’s.
But this reflection, like every other about Manet, raises a further question: What is to be made of the fact, hitherto unremarked, that the Déjeuner and the Olympia were the first paintings in roughly four years—since before the Absinthe Drinker—to refer unmistakably to Italian sources?130 It is extremely unlikely that this was due simply to an aversion on Manet’s part that later disappeared: the various copies which he made after Italian paintings in the mid-fifties, as well as the numerous drawings of that period after Andrea del Sarto and other Florentine masters, suggest that Manet was by nature strongly attracted to Italian Renaissance art.131 Nor can the absence of Italian sources be explained away as merely accidental: his use of previous art was highly conscious, even programmatic, though it has not yet fully emerged what that program was. Almost certainly, the absence of Italian sources between late 1858 (if not before) and late 1862 was the result of deliberate abstention. And that is exactly what one would expect if, as has been inferred, Manet was intent on securing the Frenchness of his own art on the basis of a canon of French masters that excluded the Italianate figures Thoré deprecated. In other words, I am suggesting that Manet refrained from using Italian art, not because he did not admire it, or because he overlooked it, but because the use of it was ruled out from the start by his understanding of Frenchness. His decision in late 1862 to base the Déjeuner sur l’herbe on Raphael and Giorgione must therefore have been concomitant with some analogous change in that understanding, or at any rate in his canon of French masters.
By the same reasoning the extensive allusions to Flemish and Spanish artists in Manet’s paintings during these years must mean that he did not regard the art of those schools as irreconcilable or incompatible with Frenchness. And this, too, seems to bear a direct relation to the art writing of the time. “Les seuls qui ne soient pas italianisés sont toujours des Flamands,” Thoré wrote in 1860, meaning the Clouet, Philippe de Champaigne and Van der Meulen; while in those articles and elsewhere he claimed both that Watteau and Chardin were distinctively French and that their art bore deep analogies to that of Flanders and Holland.132 In particular, the actual historical relation of Watteau to Rubens came to be generally recognized during the second half of the 1850s.133 The LeNain, too, were seen in terms of Flemish art. But most commentators also detected a strong Spanish element in their paintings. For example, Thoré described them as “sorte d’Espagnols égarés,”134 while Champfleury wrote:
. . . certainement les LeNain avaient été élevés à l’école flamande, par un maître flamand, par la vue de tableaux flamands qui ont eu une grande influence sur leur avenir. Ils sont tout à la fois Flamands et Espagnols; un annotateur de catalogues du XVIIIe siècle ne manquait jamais de définir ainsi leurs toiles: «dans le goût de Morillos», et cet annotateur avait quelque clairvoyance. Par le costume, ils sont souvent Flamands, par le pinceau Espagnols. II y a là des délicatesses à trouver pour me faire bien comprendre, car en même temps ils sont très Français.135
And he quoted the description by a young writer, Zacharie Astruc—who by the early sixties was a close friend of Manet’s—of a painting by the LeNain that had been exhibited in Manchester:
Six petits enfants. L’un joue du violon, un charmant objet de fantaisie, l’autre, du hautbois. Ils sont presque sur le même plan, et semblent comme indifférents les uns aux autres. Fond de mur grissombre. Le sol offre des nuances verdâtres. Très-brillant de couleur, quoique dans une gamme paisible. Se rapproche beaucoup des Velasquez par le même sentiment cristallin des teintes. Plaît par son caractère simple et doux. Sa naïveté vous frappe comme une bizarrerie gracieuse.136
I believe that associations such as these at least sanctioned, and perhaps suggested, the double references to Watteau and Rubens in La Pêche and to LeNain and Velasquez in the Old Musician; and in general that they provided Manet with what I think of as an access to Flemish and Spanish painting, which because of his canon of French masters he did not then have to Italian painting. (Manet’s relation to Dutch painting is discussed separately further on.) This is not to say that such associations compelled or even inclined Manet to make use of foreign sources in the first place. On the contrary, the impulse to combine both French and foreign sources, already manifest in the Absinthe Drinker, seems to have been one of the deepest traits in his artistic character and must be understood as the expression of profound need. One might say that these sorts of associations, which one encounters time and again in the art writing of the fifties and sixties, laid down the conditions within which that trait could be expressed and that need fulfilled.
In an obvious sense Manet’s access to the art of foreign schools was determined, at any rate limited, by his canon of authentically French painters. But in another, ultimately far more important sense his access to foreign art may be said to have been enabled by that canon. That Manet required such access—that the great painting of foreign schools was in effect unavailable to him without it—is a crucial difference between his enterprise and that of any painter before him.
In this connection it is informative to compare Manet’s relations with the art of the past with what was then meant by eclecticism. For example, in an essay of 1862 the critic and historian Henri de La Borde characterized what seemed to him the French essence of Ingres’ recent painting Jésus au milieu des docteurs and then asked:
Dira-t-on qu’en prétendant reconnaître les inclinations ou les traditions françaises dans le talent de M. Ingres, nous oublions les emprunts, assez dignes d’attention pourtant, que ce talent a pu faire à l’art grec et à l’art italien? Certes, l’influence de pareils modèles a été grande sur le peintre du Virgile et de l’Apothéose d’Homère, du Voeu de Louis XIII et de Saint Symphorien. Aujourd’hui encore, le tableau qu’il nous donne révèle a cet égard des admirations obstinées, des études poursuivies avec une ardeur infatigable; mais il ne dénonce pas, tant s’en faut, la manie de l’imitation et l’érudition servile. En voyant le Jésus au milieu des docteurs, on pourra se rappeler telle composition de Raphaël ou de Fra Bartolommeo exprimant, comme celle-ci, le goût de l’équilibre absolu, de la rigoureuse pondération des lignes; la fraîcheur et la limpidité du coloris remettront en mémoire les fresques d’Andrea del Sarto, tandis que la franchise et la diversité des types nous feront songer aux oeuvres, si admirables en ce sens, des Masaccio et des Filippino Lippi: suit-il de là que la mérite du tableau consiste dans l’amalgame d’éléments empruntés? La méthode de M. Ingres n’a-t-elle d’autre principe que l’éclecticisme, d’autre fin que l’introduction dans la peinture d’une sorte d’ordre composite dont les découvertes d’autrui feront les frais, et quelques combinaisons adroites la fortune?137
The question is pertinent, the answer lame: “S’il en était ainsi, on ne s’expliquerait pas chez le maître cette facilité singulière à varier, à renouveler son style en raison de chaque sujet qu’il traite, de chaque exemple que la réalité lui fournit . . .”138
I do not mean to suggest that Ingres’ art was eclectic. But I want to point out, first, that eclecticism was a pejorative notion for de La Borde, and second, that his defense of Ingres rested essentially on the artist’s responsiveness to subject matter and to external reality rather than on any structure of relations with the art of the past in the work itself. Four years later Castagnary criticized both the classical and romantic schools for their failure to achieve a truly national art, a failure which he connected with what he saw as their eclecticism:
Ce tut une des prétentions du romantisme de fonder l’école nationale. La grande levée de boucliers contre la présence des Romains et des Grecs dans la littérature et dâns l’art se fit au nom des idées de nationalité. Ce souvenir est amusant; car c’est justement de cette époque que date le cosmopolitanisme dans l’art et le débordement de toutes les imitations. II n’y a pas vingt ans encore, toutes les écoles de tous les temps et de tous les lieux se trouvèrent à la fois chez nous. A côté de M. Ingres, qui s’inspirait de Rome et d’Athènes, M. Eugène Delacroix se réclamait d’Anvers et de Venise, M. Meissonier de la Flandre, et quant à Ary Scheffer, c’est à son compatriote Rembrandt qu’il demandait le secret de la couleur. Au dessous de ces illustres chefs de file chacun imitait qui it pouvait. C’était une Babel, une anarchie, un pêle-mêle qui n’eurent d’égal et ne devaient avoir pour parallèle que cet effroyable tourbillonnement de tableaux empruntés à tous les ages, à tous les pays, à tous les styles, dont depuis plus de trente ans la salle des commissaires priseurs a comme infecté Paris.
C’est cet enviable état que l’éclectisme bâtard de noire époque, voudrait prolonger et prolongera, si une jeunesse plus hardie ne vient prendre l’affaire en main, et si le classicisme avec le romantisme ne sont pas définitivement extirpés.139
This was to be accomplished by the nascent movement that Castagnary called naturalism, whose Frenchness would reside in the truthfulness of its depiction of contemporary French society and which, aspiring simply to “exprimer la vie et de faire vrai,”140 would have the courage to sever all connection with the art of other times and nations.141 Whereas Manet seems to have felt that simply depicting contemporary France was not, or was no Ionger, enough to secure the Frenchness he too wanted; and that in general what was needed was not any further severing of relations with the art of the past but on the contrary the re-establishing of something like natural or necessary connection with it.142
LET ME SUM UP the argument to this point. By the early 1860s, if not before, Manet was intensely concerned with questions having to do with the natural genius of French painting which had recently become central to the study of the history of painting in France. In order to secure the Frenchness of his own work—one of the chief imperatives of his enterprise at that time—he found himself compelled to establish connections of different degrees of explicitness between his paintings and the work of those painters of the past who seemed to him authentically French. This imperative did not conflict with the essential realism of his vision. In fact his remark, quoted by Proust, to the effect that the distinctive character of French art was its “sens du vrai” implies that each reinforced the other. At the same time Manet seems to have been driven by an at least equally profound need to make his art more than national, that is, to establish some kind of direct, vital, not simply ad hoc (or eclectic?) relation between his enterprise as a whole and the great painting of the past of all the schools. And this had to be achieved without compromising the Frenchness of his art in any way—but how? Manet’s solution, almost certainly intuitively arrived at, has the simplicity and elegance that characterize everything he did: he made explicit, or took as sanction, the “natural,” widely recognized affinities between what he regarded as the authentically French painting of the past and the painting of other national schools. Manet’s sense of nationality was such that he needed nothing more to give him access to the art of the great French painters of the past. And his genius, about which not enough has been said, enabled him to make Frenchness itself the medium through which Frenchness was transcended and access to the great painting of other nations secured.
It is not clear when Manet fully arrived at this answer—certainly by the Old Musician, probably as early as the now dismembered Gypsies which immediately preceded it, perhaps even earlier. In the Gypsies as in the Old Musician Manet used LeNain and to a lesser extent Watteau to gain access to the painting of a great foreigner with whom they had been compared—in this case not Velasquez but Rubens. The particular painting by Rubens that stands behind the Gypsies is the Hermitage Bacchus, which in the 18th century had been in the Crozat Collection in Paris and which Manet must have known from engravings.143 For example, Manet clearly based the figure of a boy drinking from an upraised jug in his painting on the similar though adult figure in the Bacchus, while the standing gypsy bears an analogous if somewhat Iooser relation to the seated Bacchus himself. I have already observed that the female figure seated on the ground in the Gypsies seems to be based on the seated woman in LeNain’s Les Moissonneurs or on Saint Anne in his Nativity of the Virgin, and that the standing gypsy apparently relates to the blacksmith in The Forge. Finally, the implicitly theatrical subject matter, as well as aspects of the standing gypsy’s pose and general aplomb, seem to bear some sort of relation to Watteau (admittedly that relation is far less specific than the connection with LeNain just cited).144 Manet had previously conjoined Watteau and Rubens in the small but important La Pêche of 1860–61. Another important painting, the slightly later Nymph Surprised, was based—as Charles Sterling long ago showed—on a Vosterman engraving after a lost Rubens Susannah.145 In other pictures of 1861 such as the Reader and the Boy with Sword Manet’s intense interest in Spanish painting is manifest. The depth and urgency of that interest are shown by the fact that although the basic source of the Gypsies was Flemish, Manet seems to have tried to make the figures as much like Spanish types, and the painting as a whole as Spanish in feeling, as he possibly could. (In fact it is conceivable that the landscape background relates to those in the various portraits by Velasquez which Goya engraved.) But it was not until the Old Musician that Manet established an explicit connection between a large, multi figure painting and a specific Spanish source. And this, I suggest, strongly implies that it was not until the Old Musician that Manet was prepared to rely on tile “Spanish” element in LeNain’s art, as remarked by Thoré, Champfleury, Astruc and others, to provide anything like full or natural access to Spanish painting.
In other words, that LeNain, Watteau and Chardin were chiefly seen in connection with Flemish art—indeed that Thoré associated the authentic French school with the art of Flanders—helps explain Manet’s decision to base perhaps the three most conceptually ambitious pictures of the year that preceded the Old Musician, La Pêche, the Nymph Surprised and the Gypsies—on paintings by Rubens, while at the same time his interest in Spanish painting, and presumably his desire to make use of it in his own work, seem only to have deepened. This is the sort of thing it means to say that Manet stood in need of access to the art of the past.
Earlier I claimed that the Absinthe Drinker of 1858–59 combined Watteau and Velasquez. In that picture, however, the question of access to Spanish art does not seem to have arisen: rather Manet appears simply to have assumed that Watteau and Velasquez, or French painting and Spanish painting, could be combined without any further sanction or principle of joinage than his desire to combine them. (And of course I am not claiming that he was wrong. to assume this.) But as Manet became more and more intent on establishing the Frenchness of his own art as incontrovertibly as he was able, the relation, or lack of it, between that Frenchness on the one hand and the painting of foreign schools on the other inevitably became a problem that could not be ignored. And as this happened Manet seems to have come to feel that the sort of unmediated fusion of sources and national influences that one finds in the Absinthe Drinker was no Ionger tenable. Sanction of some explicit, objective sort was required. And in the course of the year that led up to the Old Musician Manet arrived at the solution described in these pages. It is in the context of these developments that the full meaning of Manet’s decision to paint the Absinthe Drinker over again in the Old Musician at last can be made out: he did so not just to acknowledge that the earlier picture combined Watteau and Velasquez, and more generally French and Spanish painting, but also to justify, retroactively as it were, his original, unmediated act of fusion.
With the Old Musician, but not before, access to Spanish painting was secured, and not for that picture alone. The connection once made, the justification once achieved, Manet was able to use Spanish painting freely, when and where he wanted to, without the mediation of the LeNain. More than anything else it was this breakthrough in the medium of nationality which made possible the remarkable fruitfulness of the year 1862 for Manet. Throughout 1861, despite his attraction to Spanish painting, Manet was constrained to base his most ambitious pictures on Flemish sources. Whereas his work after the Old Musician consistently and successfully exploited the new accessibility of Spanish painting and Spanishness in general—an accessibility that had almost nothing to do with physical proximity and almost everything to do with the kinds of relationship I have tried to describe. Meanwhile his involvement with Watteau, which had remained intense, reached a new level of naturalness and freedom. The arrival of the Camprubi dancers presented opportunities for synthesizing French and Spanish painting which he quickly seized. It must have seemed to Manet, who in January 1862 had turned thirty, that at last everything was falling into place. At any rate, it is tempting to see the superb Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada, which Manet probably painted in the autumn or winter of that year, in some such terms. First, the explicit theatricality of the painting as a whole, in which a young Parisienne dressed as a matador poses detachedly as if in an arena with a bullfight taking place behind her, would have been inconceivable without the prior example of Watteau. Manet does not seem to have based his painting on a specific Watteau source. But I am convinced that his involvement with his great predecessor in Mlle. V. was at least as deep as in the Absinthe Drinker or the Old Musician itself. Only Watteau could have made imaginable—could have sanctioned—the choice of so manifestly artificial a subject by a realist painter of major ambition. In any case, that artificiality, and with it the Frenchness of the young woman—Manet’s favorite model, Victorine Meurend—are made explicit by the very title of the painting.146 Second, it has been recognized from the start that the bullfight subject itself was inspired by Goya; and Harris has shown that two plates from Goya’s Tauromaquia provide exact sources for the bull and picador and for the group by the wall in Manet’s canvas.147 Finally, I want to suggest that the Iower portion of Victorine’s body, and the initial idea for the cape which she holds in her left hand, just may have been based on an oil sketch by Rubens for a Fortune or Venus, then in the Galerie Suermondt in Aix-la Chapelle.148 Rubens’ painting was reproduced in a small engraving in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1860, accompanying a short review article by Emile Galichon of Thoré’s catalogue of the Galerie Suermondt, which had been published under his pseudonym of Willem Bürger earlier that year.149 If the last connection is right, Manet’s painting is a characteristically subtle and complex résumé of his relations with the art of the past as they then stood.
IT IS ALSO CHARACTERISTIC of Manet that things did not stand that way for long. I have already suggested that the absence of any overt reference to Italian painting from Manet’s art through almost all of 1862—until he began work on the Déjeuner sur l’herbe—indicates that during the first years of the sixties his personal canon of authentically French painters excluded the Italianate masters whom many considered the glory of the national school but whom Thoré and those influenced by him regarded virtually as foreigners. Conversely, I take the fact that the Déjeuner and the Olympia are based respectively on Raphael (or Raphael and Giorgione) and Titian to mean that by late 1862, or at the latest early 1863, he excluded them no longer. And I regard the sheer perspicuousness with which both paintings refer to their. Italian sources as signifying that Manet wanted to make the clearest possible—the most explicit—public acknowledgment of what was probably the most important alteration in his vision of the art of the past that he had yet experienced. The modern French painter who most embodied the Italianate tradition was Inures, and it is not surprising to find Proust. testifying to Manet’s admiration for his art:
. . . Lorsqu’il disait que, dans notre siècle, M. Ingres avait été le maître des Maîtres, on tenait pour un blasphème du peintre du Dejeuner sur l’herbe cette manifestation de son culte pour le peintre de la Source . . .
Le célèbre tableau de l’Olympia_, exposé au Salon de 1865 et qui est, à l’heure présente, au Musée du Luxembourg, procède, pour quiquonque examine les choses de sang-froid, de la constante. préoccupation qu’a eue M. Ingres et qu’a voulu avoir Manet de chercher dans les contours de ses figures une irréprochable pureté de lignes. Est-il rien de mieux mis en place, pour employer l’expression favorite de Manet, que la figure d’_Olympia? Assurément non.150
Proust’s remarks suggest that Manet’s reconciliation of French and Italian painting may have been mediated by his appreciation of Ingres; in any case, that reconciliation was by its nature a spanning of the entire French school, past and present, from LeNain to Poussin, Watteau to David, Courbet to Ingres.151 With the Déjeuner and the Olympia, but not until then, Manet at once bridged the divisions of the present and established the connectedness of his art with the full range of the great French painting of the past:
Dans ses promenades au Louvre, avec les habitués du café Guerbois, qui avaient pour principe de ne rien trouver de bien, Manet s’arrêtait et les arrêtait devant les Poussin. Tout ce qui était français le séduisait.152
Manet frequented the Café Guerbois in the second half of the sixties—according to this account, well after he broke through to a broader view of French painting in the Déjeuner and the Olympia. This is not to claim positively that Manet did not admire the Italianate French masters from the outset of his career. But if he did, his adherence to the conception of Frenchness that I have associated chiefly with Thoré prevented him from putting that admiration to work in his art before the winter of 1862–63.152a
One important consequence of these events seems to have been that for the first time since the 1850s, when he had painted several small pictures of Christ, Manet chose to make use of explicitly religious subject matter: as though during the early sixties—perhaps influenced by Thoré153—Manet associated Italian art with religious (or perhaps specifically with Catholic) content, so that access to the first naturally entailed access to the second. Whether or not this was the case, the first of the two large religious pictures which Manet painted roughly at this time, the Dead Christ with Angels of 1864, has been connected with Italian precedents—most convincingly, I think, with Veronese’s Descent from the Cross and Tintoretto’s Dead Christ and Two Angels. In other respects—for example, its near brutality—the Dead Christ with Angels contrasts rather sharply with the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia. But it extends and deepens the achieved involvement with Italian painting which begins in them.
Here I find myself compelled to enforce a connection which I recognize may be controversial and which I fully acknowledge is not perspicuous the way, for example, the Déjeuner sur l’herbe’s dependence on Raphael, or the Olympia’s on Titian, or the Old Musician’s on LeNain, are perspicuous: namely, that Manet partly based the Dead Christ with Angels on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Specifically, I believe that Manet took Géricault’s foreground group of a bearded, grieving man holding the dead body of a younger man (often mistakenly called his son), and with the help of one or perhaps both of the Italian prototypes mentioned above, transformed the grieving man into the weeping angel and transfigured the corpse of the younger man into the crucified and—as I shall try to show—now just quickening Christ. The similarity between the poses of the grieving man and the weeping angel and between the left arm and hand of the youthful corpse and the arms and hands of Manet’s Christ are, I think, striking. In addition, the powerful musculature and general physicality of the Christ, the special starkness with which bodily death has been represented, and the achievement of a mode of realism that without actually employing violent chiaroscuro nevertheless implies it, all suggest a common source of inspiration in the greatest painting of Romanticism. I do not mean by this to deny the importance of (for example) Veronese’s painting to Manet: it alone could have determined most of the Dead Christ with Angels. Moreover, Veronese’s Christ is certainly closer than Géricault’s corpse to the Christ in Manet’s painting (though Géricault’s grieving man is far closer in gesture than either Veronese’s or Tintoretto’s angels to Manet’s weeping angel). But we have already seen that Manet often deliberately over-determined individual motifs and even whole paintings by not just conjoining but superimposing references to previous works; so the closeness of Veronese’s image to the Dead Christ with Angels does not in itself rule out the possibility that the Medusa, too, figured in its conception. In fact, it would not have been uncharacteristic for Manet to have turned to Veronese, whose art was now available to him, precisely in order to subsume Géricault, whose relation to Italian art had been the subject of critical discussion for decades, in a broader synthesis. What makes this reconstruction too simple is that Manet must have intended to paint a religious picture from the outset: which for me suggests both that he had Veronese’s prototype, or at least the subject of Christ with angels, in mind all along, and that he saw Géricault’s corpse as itself a kind of dead Christ. There is nothing besides the paintings themselves to which I can point—no traditional sources of evidence to which I can appeal—that would in effect prove that this was so. But on the basis of my experience of these painters and these paintings, I am myself not in doubt: (At any rate, I am not in doubt about the basic connection between the Dead Christ with Angels and the Raft of the Medusa.)
The powerful realism of the Raft of the Medusa, and of the young male corpse in particular, was remarked in an essay of 1851 by one of the most important critics of Thoré’s generation, Gustave Planche:
. . . Géricault, sans accorder moins d’importance [than Gros] à l’effet dramatique, traite avec un soin persévérant l’imitation de la réalité; it s’efforce d’en reproduire tous les détails avec un soin scrupuleux, et ses efforts sont presque toujours couronnés de succès. La poitrine du jeune homme étendu aux pieds de son père, qui est sans contredit la figure la plus remarquable du tableau que j’étudie, ne laisse rien à desirer sous le rapport de I’imitation; les fausses côtés sont indiquées avec une précision qui défie tous les reproches. On trouverait difficilement, dans l’histoire entière de la peinture, un modèle rendu plus exactement. Toutes les parties de ce cadavre sont traduite avec une fidélité qui étonne, qui épouvante. Ni David, ni Girodet, ni Gros n’ont jamais trouvé, pour représenter la forme humaine, la puissance, l’énergie que nous admirons dans Géricault. Le Deluge de Girodet, si justement applaudi d’ailleurs pour la science qu’il nous révèle, demeure bien loin de la figure qui tout d’abord attire l’attention dans le Radeau de la Meduse.155
Géricault, Planche wrote, had “une passion pour la réalité qui ne pouvait accepter aucune contrainte”156; in his Chasseur of 1812 he “a représenté naïvement, franchement ce qu’il avait vu”;157 he was “tout entier au désir de substituer la réalité à la convention”;158 he “ne s’est jamais proposé, du moins dans ses oeuvres connues, qu’une seule chose, l’expression de la réalité.”159 Moreover, he appears to have been seen in similar terms by the Realists themselves. Courbet is generally said to have had a special admiration for Géricault.160 And in Du Principe de l’art et de sa destination sociale, which was published posthumously in 1865, the socialist philosopher Proudhon makes the following significant remark: “Un seul tableau comme le Naufrage de la Méduse, de Géricault, venant un quart de siècle après le Marat expirant, de David, rachète toute une galerie de madones, d’odalisques, d’apothéoses et de saints Symphoriens; il suffit à indiquer la route de l’art à travers les générations, et permet d’attendre.”161 This statement, which occurs in the portion of Du Principe de l’art that summarizes the history of painting before the advent of Courbet, and which was surely grounded in Proudhon’s intimate friendship with that master, implies that the Medusa’s indications for the future were picked up and developed by Courbet roughly thirty years after Géricault’s painting was exhibited in the Salon of 1819. Manet’s use of the Raft of the Medusa—given that he did use it—was therefore entirely consistent with his realist aspirations. But once again those aspirations cannot be equated with Courbet’s. As George Heard Hamilton has observed,162 the Dead Christ with Angels must be seen as a deliberate challenge to Courbet’s fundamental principle—that the artist should paint only what he sees. And to compound the challenge Manet went back to the masterpiece of the modern painter who more than any other seems to have been important for Courbet, and based his first major religious painting on the foreground group which includes perhaps the most powerfully realistic representation of physical death in all French art. In other words, Manet not only challenged but circumvented Courbet’s authority.163
A further possibility ought at least to be mentioned. Manet may have meant the Dead Christ with Angels to be seen in relation to David’s Death of Marat as well as to the Raft of the Medusa. It is perhaps relevant that David’s painting was often called Marat Dying and that the original or working title of Manet’s picture seems to have been Christ ressuscitant assisté par les anges: at any rate, this is the title given by Baudelaire in a letter to De Chennevières requesting that Manet’s and Fantin’s entries to the Salon of 1864 be hung as favorably as possible.164 The same letter gives the correct title of Manet’s second entry, Episode d’une course des taureaux; and in general it seems likely that Baudelaire would have taken pains to send De Chennevières the most accurate information then available. This suggests that Manet may have conceived of his picture as re-creating, and in a sense transcending, both David’s and Géricault’s supreme images of physical death. The relation to Géricault, if it is there, is explicit and based on affinities between figures. The relation to David, if it exists, is implicit and essentially conceptual; though at one stage it may have been acknowledged by Manet’s title itself.164a
Finally, the possibility cannot be ignored that other paintings of the same year might fruitfully be seen in connection with Géricault. For example, Manet may have found in the naval battle between the Union warship Kearsarge and the Confederate Alabama that took place off Cherbourg in June 1864 the opportunity to establish an approximate formal equivalent for the Raft of the Medusa’s basis in an actual disaster at sea. This if true would help to account for the apparent instantaneousness of Manet’s decision to base a major painting on that battle.165 In 1864 too Manet painted a large horse-race picture, generally called the Race Course at Longchamps, which he later cut into segments; and while this was not at all like Géricault’s racing pictures in conception or motif,166 it is still conceivable that Manet’s awareness of the latter may have been a factor in his decision to attempt such a painting at this time. (It may or may not be relevant that Manet’s later racing picture, the Race Course in the Bois de Boulogne of 1872, clearly relates to Géricault’s Epsom Derby of just over half a century before.) Even the Dead Torero—the bottom segment of the larger Episode in a Bull-Fight which Manet painted in 1864 and later dismembered—ought perhaps to be seen not just as an adaptation of the picture known as the Orlando Muerto, which in Manet’s time was thought to be by Velasquez, but as a kind of reworking, with the help of that painting, of the same figure in the Raft of the Medusa that I have suggested was a source for Manet’s Christ.167
Manet’s second large religious picture, the Christ Scourged of 1865, while grounded generally in Titian’s Christ Crowned with Thorns, is chiefly based on Van Dyck’s painting of the same subject in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, which Manet could have known through an engraving by Bolswert.168 If it is true that when Manet painted the Dead Christ with Angels he associated Italian art with religious or Catholic subject matter, the Christ Scourged breaks that association. And in the light of the deliberateness of Manet’s use of the art of the past generally, it is at least possible that this too was intentional.
In an obvious sense, the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia constitute a decisive break with Thoré’s view of the history of French painting. But in another sense Manet did not break with that view so much as subsume it in a broader and more fecund vision of Frenchness. He did not, for example, give up seeing French painting as essentially committed to the values, including the ethical values, of realism. Nor did he repudiate his previous canon of French painters: on the contrary, his decision to make the first painting to embody his new vision of Frenchness a large fête galante, and moreover to base the one figure not accounted for by Marcantonio’s engraving on a painting by Watteau, specifically established the Déjeuner’s continuity with his previous work and with the view of the. history of French painting on which that work rested. Finally, however, these paintings jointly represent a turning point in Manet’s career. In them, by a supreme feat of imagination, Manet discovered the reconcilability, even the deep affinity, between both the Florentine and the Venetian art of the High Renaissance and a conception of the natural genius of French painting that had been formulated largely in opposition to that art and which Manet himself, it seems, had previously held; and by so doing he achieved access, once and for all, to something like the entire range of the great painting of the past. This, fully as much as anything else, underlies one’s conviction that the Déjeuner and the Olympia are the climax or culmination of an undertaking, a phase of Manet’s development to which he could never return.
Not that these paintings mark the end of his involvement with the art of the past—far from it. But from this point on, with the qualified exception of several paintings of the late sixties which I shall discuss shortly, Manet’s relations with past art can no longer be described in terms of standing in need of access to it. Even in the Dead Christ with Angels, in which French and Italian sources are superimposed, the meaning of that superimposition is not, I think, that Géricault provided access to Italian art so much as that the access to the latter which Manet had previously achieved in the Déjeuner and the Olympia, and the concomitant shift in his conception of Frenchness that had taken place at that time, now made Géricault a natural source of inspiration and direct reference.
The Christ Scourged also makes use of a French source: the soldier holding what seems to be a spread cloak behind Christ, and in effect exhibiting Christ to the beholder, is based on the angel warming a piece of the infant Mary’s linen in the Nativity of the Virgin by LeNain (at any rate, the motif of the holding of the cloak is based on that of the warming of the linen).169 But again the meaning of Manet’s adaptation of LeNain’s motif seems to have been not to provide access to the Van Dyck on which the Christ Scourged as a whole largely depends, so much as to help secure the Frenchness of Manet’s painting in a way that was consistent with its overall dependence on a Flemish prototype. Moreover, Manet’s obviously deliberate use of a French angel as the basis for one of Christ’s tormentors suggests that blasphemy of some explicit sort was on his mind: perhaps he was expressing in advance his defiance of the French public which presently was to subject the Christ Scourged and the Olympia, his submissions to the Salon of 1865, to a sustained blast of derision and outcry without precedent or sequel in the history of painting.
Manet’s trip to Spain in the summer of 1865, in the aftermath of the Salon of that year, marks a further climax in his career. After his return Manet seems to have felt free at last to seek out the artists and works of art that most attracted him, without having to justify or secure those choices in his paintings themselves, and without having to fear that his paintings would lack the comprehensiveness or inclusiveness that evidently obsessed him prior to 1865. As for the Frenchness of the paintings that resulted, that was now at most a matter of subtle, unprogrammatic synthesis—of delicate, unmediated fusion—as in the Femme au perroquet and the Fifer of 1866, in which the manifest ambition to emulate Velasquez goes hand in hand with quiet, rather general allusions to Watteau (and in the Fifer anyway to LeNain as well). Manet was able to do this only because in his pictures prior to 1865 he had established the Frenchness of his art broadly and in controvertibly, and had secured access to something like the full range of the great painting of the past. In themselves, however, paintings like the Femme au perroquet and the Fifer bear essentially the same relation to their French and foreign sources that the Absinthe Drinker of 1859 does. It is not clear whether Manet was in fact disappointed that it was to this, rather than to some entirely new development, that his unprecedented efforts of the first half of the sixties had led. He had, of course, no call to be dissatisfied with the sheer quality or level of the paintings in question. But one can hardly summarize the undertaking I have tried to describe in this study in terms of the pursuit of quality alone; and it remains questionable what in 1866 or ’67 Manet’s view of his achievement up to that time actually was. Proust tells us that in the years following his trip to Spain, Manet suffered from long spells of lassitude and apparent indecision during which he painted little if at all, and he suggests that this was the result of the relentless, unfeeling hostility of the public.170 There can be no doubt but that Manet was depressed by that hostility, and perhaps he really was sometimes incapacitated by it. It is also conceivable that his relative inactivity for at least a few years after his trip to Spain in 1865 expressed a lack of the inner certainty that comes when one is engaged in a single protracted undertaking whose aims and conventions are essentially lucid, at least to oneself, and in whose imperativeness one believes absolutely. It is even conceivable that Manet never enjoyed that sort of internal certainty again.
FINALLY, I MUST CONSIDER briefly three paintings of around 1868 whose relation to the art of the past seems a kind of reversion to that of the pictures of the first half of the sixties, and which thereby bring into relief aspects of Manet’s enterprise during those years.
First, the Munich Déjeuner ought I believe to be seen partly as an attempt to incorporate the art of the great Dutch painter Vermeer, whose revival had recently been initiated—once again, by Thoré—in the pages of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts.171 At the same time, the still life elements on the table allude unmistakably to Chardin (cf. La Raie dépouillée). Moreover, the Déjeuner bears certain more or less obvious affinities to two important French paintings of the late 18th century, David’s Andromache Mourning Hector and Guérin’s Return of Marcus Sextus, and it is possible—I do not say probable—that Manet intended to allude to them as well.172 At the very least, Manet combined Vermeer and Chardin in the Déjeuner; and may even have used Chardin to give him access to the work of the foreign master, much as he had done throughout the early sixties.
The whole question of Manet’s relation to Dutch painting is a rather difficult one. In his Souvenirs, Proust refers several times to Manet’s admiration for Rembrandt and Hals, and actually quotes his friend as saying, apparently at some point in the 1870s: “Lorsque nous allons à Amsterdam, le tableau des Syndics nous empoigne. Pourquoi? parce que c’est l’impression vraie d’une chose vue . . .”173 While in his article of 1901 Proust credits Hals with having inspired Manet’s determination to paint the Paris of his own time: “. . . la hardiesse des partis pris de Franz Hals lui causa, en Hollande, une telle impression que, revenu à Paris . . . il se décida à aborder franchement les divers aspects de la vie parisienne.”174 And in general Manet seems to have been at least acutely aware of Rembrandt and probably Hals as well during the first half of the sixties.
In spite of this, it seems to have been the case that Manet did not refer explicitly to Dutch sources in his ambitious pictures of those years. If he was thinking of Hals when he painted the double portrait of his parents, he nevertheless based that picture not on the Dutch master but on the Frenchman LeNain. It is true that Germain Bazin long ago connected the Nymph Surprised of 1861 with Rembrandt’s Susannah in the Hague.175 But almost immediately after Bazin’s article appeared, Charles Sterling showed that Manet’s painting was based very closely on a Vosterman engraving after a lost Rubens;176 and while it is possible that Manet also had Rembrandt’s painting in mind, the fact remains, and must be accounted for, that it was to Rubens and not Rembrandt that Manet turned for the actual prototype of his figure. Similarly, I suspect that the basic conception of the Street Singer of 1862—a figure emerging onto the street—derives from the Night Watch, and that the bearded man with a cane at the extreme right of the Old Musician may have been intended to allude to analogous figures in paintings and etchings by Rembrandt. But the girl in the Street Singer clearly was not based on any single figure in Rembrandt’s painting;177 and one is not shown enough of the man with a cane in the Old Musician to connect him with a specific painting by Rembrandt, or even to be quite confident that a general allusion to the latter was intended.
Manet’s apparent reluctance or inability to refer explicitly to Dutch sources in his paintings of the first half of the sixties is all the more surprising in view of the fact that Thoré, whose importance to Manet has emerged in these pages, was an ardent champion of Dutch painting—he argued for the superiority of Rembrandt to the great Italians178—as well as its leading French connoisseur. Perhaps, however, Thoré’s vision of Dutch painting, as at once intensely national and essentially realistic,179 in effect made it unnecessary for Manet to refer to specific Dutch painters and paintings in his own art. That is, Manet may have felt that the congruence of his own enterprise with that of Dutch painting made the latter fully available to him, with the result that he was not compelled to secure access to it in his paintings themselves. Thoré also pointed to various affinities between the work of French artists like LeNain, Watteau and Chardin and that of 17th-century Dutch painters; and in view of Chardin’s manifest importance to the Munich Déjeuner, it is likely that Manet’s Chardin-based Boy Blowing Bubbles of 1867 was partly an attempt to approach, or re approach, Dutch painting by way of that master.180 At any rate, it belongs to a cluster of works—including the Portrait of Theodore Duret, the Portrait of Emile Zola, Madame Manet at the Piano and the Munich Déjeuner itself—which in different ways appear to evince concern with Dutch painting. But it is only in the Déjeuner that Manet seems to have tried to secure access to the work of a specific Dutch master by means that recall those he employed in the great paintings of the first half of the sixties.
In a second painting of roughly this moment, the Balcony of 1868, Manet seems to have made a point of acknowledging his involvement with Dutch painting. Specifically, the well dressed man holding a cigarette as he emerges from a dark interior onto the balcony—Manet’s friend Antoine Guillemet—seems to me to bear a general relation to Dutch prototypes, e.g. the principal figure in the Night Watch.181 His “Dutchness” would be less striking if it were not apparent that the two female figures, Berthe Morisot and Fanny Claus, were meant to seem “Spanish” and “Japanese” respectively. (The painting as a whole is based on Goya’s Women on a Balcony in the Prado.) In short, Manet seems to have meant the Balcony to be seen as an acknowledgment of his simultaneous involvement with Spanish, Dutch and Japanese art. He does not seem to have tried to find parallel French sources either for the individual figures or for the painting as a whole; and instead of basing the figures closely on specific works by foreign masters, as in his paintings before 1865, he seems for the most part to have tried to couple accurate portrayals of his sitters with rather general projections of different national types.
The figure of Mlle. Claus is not the only Japanese element that occurs in Manet’s work at this time. Shortly before, in his Portrait of Emile Zola, the third and last in the group of pictures I discuss in this section, Manet depicted on the wall above Zola’s desk a print of Velasquez’s Drinkers, a colored woodcut by Utamaro, and an etching or photograph of the Olympia, thereby stating the importance of Spanish and Japanese art for his own work. Sandblad has discussed at length the question of Manet’s use of Japanese prints in his paintings of the first half of the sixties, and while I am not in agreement with his formulations, I do not want to take issue with them here.182 Rather, I want simply to remark that while Manet undoubtedly was encouraged and even influenced in specific respects by Japanese prints during those years, he did not make this fact explicit in the paintings themselves. It would be surprising if this were not the case. In the first place no connection was made in the art writing of the time between French painting and Japanese art of the past, for the very good reason that no such connection existed. Furthermore, in the early sixties knowledge of the existence of Japanese prints was limited to a relatively small group of artists, critics and connoisseurs; and Manet always aimed to be comprehensible at least in principle, if not to the public at large, at any rate to a wider circle. Neither of these considerations kept Manet from exploiting Japanese prints stylistically in his pictures. But they absolutely prevented him from establishing the sort of relation to those prints that I have described as one of securing access to the art of a foreign school; and they even seem to have ruled out the kind of acknowledgment cf the importance of Japanese art to his work that he later made in the Portrait of Emile Zola and the Balcony.
It is, I think, possible to explain Manet’s new willingness to make that acknowledgment. The chief artistic event of 1867 was the Exposition UniverseIle, an international exhibition of works of art and industrial products of all kinds that included a large Japanese section. Chesneau, writing in 1878, claimed that it was that exhibition which made Japanese art fashionable in Paris: “En 1867 l’Exposition universelle acheva de mettre le Japon à la mode.”183 And in his article of 1868, “L’Art Japonais,” he characterized the natural genius of the Japanese in terms whose relevance to Manet, though partial, is nevertheless striking:
. . . on peut dire que les artistes japonais ont pour la réalité un respect profond qui s’allie chez eux à une intelligence esthétique admirable. Ils ont le don d’assouplir le réel aux caprices d’imagination les plus étonnants, sans jamais trahir ni dénaturer cette réalité, principe et point de départ infaillibles de touter !curs combinaisons de formes. La nature leur fournit toujours l’élément primordial. Seulement its en usent librement au point de vue du caractère.184
As a result of the Exposition Universelle, Japanese art ceased being the admiration of a small professional class and became known to the general public. Moreover, it was seen and admired in terms that Manet may have felt were not wholly inappropriate to his own work.
Concurrently, his retrospective exhibition of 1867, in which fifty paintings were shown, must have given Manet a more comprehensive view of his own development than ever before. And this too may have been a factor in his decision to call attention to the role that Dutch painting and Japanese prints had played in his work, and in general to take up again the explicit concern with nationality that I have tried to show was one of the central themes of his art during the first half of the sixties.
ONE IMPORTANT RAMIFICATION OF THIS account of Manet’s mind during the first half of the sixties concerns his relationship to his teacher, Thomas Couture. In the book Méthode et entretiens d’atelier which he published in 1867 Couture insisted on the need for French painting to be truly national and even suggested, like Castagnary, that this had never been fully accomplished:
. . . Vivrai-je assez pour voir renaître le véritable art français? . . . Je le vois, venir, ah! que vous êtes heureux d’être jeunes.
Tout me l’annonce, cet art que j’ai tant rêvé: l’indifférence du public pour celui qui existe est d’un bon augure,—pourquoi lui, si vivant, s’intéresseroit-il à cette peinture issue des tombeaux.
II n’y a plus que quelques peintres, clients d’un monde qui s’éteint, qui produisent encore pour la satisfaction de petits appétits bourgeois. L’art national est à naître ou du moins à continuer, car depuis Gros et Géricault it est interrompu, et même je dirai malgré mon admiration pour l’art de la révolution, qu’ils n’avoient pas complétement trouvé l’art français, ils sembloient n’aborder les sujets modernes qu’à regret, its n’étoilent pas francs d’allure, l’étude et les fleurs de rhétorique se montroient trop, enfin cet art nouveau faisoit encore ses classes.
Reprenez aujourd’hui cette belle peinture interrompue, et soyez encore plus de sol, plus franchement français par la forme, et votre art égalera en grandeur, en majesté, les plus splendides pages vénitiennes. Vous deviendrez non les copistes, mais les égaux des Grecs.
Regardez autour de vous et produisez. . . .185
Unlike Castagnary, Couture did not believe that the national art he called for could be achieved by the literal representation of reality alone:
En France, la peinture simplement d’imitation est loin de nous satisfaire; it faut que l’art s’élève; comment s’élève-t-il, c’est en s’augmentant par la pensée, par la poésie, par la philosophie, ou par le sentiment chrétien; plus l’artiste ajoute de qualités à celles du peintre, plus il est grand.186
One cannot imagine Manet saying this. For him Frenchness was not something added to the pictorial qualities of his work but was part of its essence. Nevertheless, it is worth remarking that for Manet as well as for Couture authentic Frenchness was not achieved simply by depicting contemporary French society. Similarly, there is a world of difference between Manet’s evident ambition to comprehend the whole of French painting and Couture’s claim that in order for French painting to remain the best in the world, “il faut que nos peintres, nos sculpteurs, nos architectes les mieux doués cessent de satisfaire les gouts particuliers; it faut qu’ils s’adressent à la nation. . . .”187 But there is also an important sense in which Couture’s claim and Manet’s ambition express the same unwillingness to rest content with a partial or limited relation to France.
In the political context of the 1860s Couture’s nationalism, with its simple faith in the infallibility of the masses who supported Napoleon III, was conservative in its implications. But the rhetoric in which it was expressed was nominally democratic, even populist; and it is not surprising to learn that Couture ardently supported the Revolution of 1848—De Chennevières describes the painter crying, “A l’Hotel-de-Ville!” and rushing to embrace Lamartine188—and that he played a role of some importance in the attempts to reform the administration of the arts in France that took place in its wake.189 He had previously painted the portrait of the great Romantic historian and political theorist, Jules Michelet, and in the Méthode et entretiens he described at length the sessions during which, around 1850, he portrayed the poet Béranger whom he held in awe and to whom he had been introduced by George Sand.190 These three—Michelet, Béranger, George Sand—were among the older figures most admired by the young political left in the years before 1848,191 and Couture’s connection with them is evidence of his political sympathies at the time.192
His stunning success at the Salon of 1847, the large and very ambitious Romans of the Decadence, by contrasting the virtues of a republican past with the vices of a degenerate and impious present, symbolically arraigned the France. of Louis-Philippe and all but called for the revolution which, within a year, ended the July Monarchy.193 It should be noted, however, that Couture did not rely simply on the symbolic overtones of his ostensibly antique subject matter to carry the politically charged meaning which he wanted at once to affirm and to disguise. Beyond that, he based his picture on an earlier painting, or projected painting, whose national and revolutionary content could not have been more explicit: David’s unfinished Tennis Court Oath. The statue, perhaps of Germanicus,194 which stands facing us in the center of Couture’s painting is therefore a reference both to republican Rome and to Revolutionary France, i.e. to the figure of Bailly who stands in an analogous pose and position, administering the oath itself, in David’s magnificent studies for the enormous painting he was never able to complete. Couture’s lasciviously embracing couples at once symbolize a falling off from the severe morality of earlier Romans and parody the chaste, fraternal embraces of David’s heroes. The entire painting must be understood almost feature by feature in this double light. It is as though Couture’s ambition in the Romans of the Decadence was to complete David’s unfinished masterpiece by taking for his subject matter precisely the radical contrast, as he saw it, between the Revolutionary France of 1790 and the Orleanist France of the years just prior to 1848, and cloaking that ambition itself in classical dress. Couture not only called for a return to the political ideals of the French Revolution; he also explicitly attempted to resume the heroic pictorial tradition of David, Gros and Géricault which he believed the generations that followed them had abandoned. (Couture’s painting is usually seen by historians as a paradigm, perhaps the paradigm, of mid-19th-century eclecticism. But to see it merely in those terms is to overlook the historical truth of Couture’s intentions, which were above all to make a truly national work of art.)
Couture’s political sympathies and political aspirations made him a natural choice for the Second Republic’s commission of a large painting on a national and revolutionary theme, the Voluntary Enlistments of 1792. And once again he seems to have turned to David—above all to the Triumph of the French People of 1793–94—for the basic conception of his picture.195 Couture’s heart and soul were in the project; and when in 1851 the government of Louis Napoleon revoked the commission because of its libertarian content his disappointment was bitter, intense.196 According to Proust, it even made his dealings with the young Manet, who, aged 18, had joined his atelier in 1850, more difficult than might otherwise have been the case.197 In the course of the next several years Couture appears to have made his peace with the Second Empire, and in 1856 he accepted a government commission for a painting of the Baptism of the Imperial Prince. In the Méthode et entretiens both commissions are discussed without reference to the political circumstances in which each was offered, simply as two examples of pictures on national themes. In fact having remarked of the men of the French Revolution depicted in the Voluntary Enlistments that they aspired to abolish privilege, replace abuse with right, and give the whole world the liberty which had become their religion, Couture added: “Nous ne devons pas, nous, peintres, entrer dans des considérations politiques et discuter les sentiments que nous voulons représenter; lorsque nous les avons choisis, tous nos efforts doivent tendre à les exalter dans leurs beautés.”198 It is impossible to know for certain whether Couture actually believed these words or whether they were mostly prudential—perhaps he was still hoping to be allowed to finish the Voluntary Enlistments.199 But there can be no doubt as to his frame of mind around 1850, when Manet placed himself under his tutelage.
The differences between the two men must not be slighted. The natural genius of French painting and its relations with the art of other schools simply were not issues for Couture, who throughout his career more or less equated French painting with the heroic national art of David, Gros and Géricault. At any rate, he clearly regarded those men as constituting the tradition which he aspired to continue and extend, whenever political circumstances made such aspirations tenable. That tradition was not, it seems, simply or directly available to Manet, both because of the political situation in the late fifties and early sixties and because of what one is inclined to think of as more purely pictorial considerations. Instead Manet found himself compelled to take explicit account of contemporary discussions of the historical identity of French painting, in an attempt to establish the Frenchness of his own art as firmly and as objectively as he was able. Almost certainly, however, Manet’s initial concern with the concept of Frenchness, as well as aspects of his use of the French painting of the past as a medium of that concern, had important roots in Couture’s teaching and artistic practice. It may even be significant that by 1864—assuming I am right—Manet came to establish explicit connections between his own work and that of Géricault, whom Couture especially admired. Though once again the differences between their respective relations to Géricault, and between the ways in which those relations were accomplished, must not be minimized.
Couture’s preoccupation with Frenchness was characteristic of the intensely nationalistic ideology of the political left in the years just before 1848, in particular as that ideology was shaped by the teachings of the great Michelet. Indeed, Michelet seems to have been the most important single influence, perhaps along with Gros, on Couture’s thought throughout his life. The close connection between the politics of the Romans of the Decadence and Michelet’s writings of the 1840s is a case in point. And when it is recalled that Couture painted Michelet’s portrait in 1843, the year after the latter had delivered his controversial lectures against the Jesuits, and shortly before Couture himself began work on the Romans of the Decadence, the possibility all but suggests itself that Michelet may actually have helped formulate that painting’s program.200 Also, Couture may have regarded the Voluntary Enlistments of 1792 as a direct answer to the call, which Michelet made in a series of ten lessons published between December 1847 and February 1848, for an art that by taking for its subject matter the true “legend” of the Revolution would help re-unify the nation.201 In any event, Couture’s description of that painting in the Méthode et entretiens of 1867—the same description whose political implications he was careful to disavow—amounts to a virtual paraphrase of passages in those lessons. And in general, Michelet’s themes pervade Couture’s writings of the sixties and seventies. The call for a rebirth of a truly national art; the conception of such an art as a means of public education; the identification of French painting with the art of the French Revolution and after; the insistence that French artists address the French people in its entirety; the glorification of Géricault—all these are found in Michelet’s revolutionary polemics. They are also themes in Couture’s writings of twenty and thirty years later, where the shift in context voids or traduces their political content.
Clearly, Manet’s concern with Frenchness did not bear this sort of relation to Michelet. He did not in any obvious sense take up the subject matter which Michelet had advocated; he does not seem to have conceived of art as a means of educating Frenchmen to their rights and duties as men and citizens; his canon of French painters was not a function of the French Revolution; and so on. But there is another, less precise, but perhaps equally important sense in which what Manet actually did in order to establish the Frenchness of his own work strikingly paralleled what Michelet had argued needed to be done if the deep and otherwise surely fatal divisions in contemporary French society were to be overcome and the unity of France at last restored. In Le Lendemain de la Révolution of April 1, 1848, Michelet wrote of his enterprise in Le Peuple of two years before:
. . . Le mot de fraternité est très-faible pour exprimer le sentiment qui domine ce livre; union, unité, vaudraient mieux, l’unité d’un monde en une âme.
Cette unité en action, c’est le caractère divin des grands jours de la Révolution, tels que je les ai racontés, celui de la Prise de la Bastille, et de nos Fédérations, et du Départ de 92, de tant d’autres moments sublimes. Voilà ce qu’il fallait dégager et mettre en lumière, si l’on voulait donner vraiment le fond, la substance de la Révolution.202
For Michelet it was only with the French Revolution that France achieved not just the unity but also the identity it had been striving towards for centuries. “Il ne faut pas dire la Révolution, il faut dire la Fondation,” he wrote in his lecture of January 27, 1848;203 while in the same vein he had written two years before, “Par-devant l’Europe, la France, sachez-le, n’aura qu’un seul nom, inexpiable, qui est son vrai nom éternel: La Révolution!”204 By studying the Revolution, by writing its history and thereby resurrecting it,205 Michelet hoped to “fonder la République dans les esprits . . .”:206
La foi politique de la France qui doit déterminer ses actes et ses paroles, sa politique et son enseignement, ne doit pas rester à l’état de sentiment, ou de vague spéculation; it faut lui donner la base de l’histoire et de l’expérience.
Voici la France réveillée, debout [Michelet is referring to the events of February 1848]; qu’est-ce qu’elle va enseigner à ses enfants, à son peuple héroïque, au monde qui fait cercle autour d’elle? . . . Est-ce la rhétorique? . . . est-ce l’arithmétique? . . . est-ce le mécanisme gouvernemental, la politique abstraite, à la Sieyès? . . . Non, elle doit, avant tout, fixer et promulguer les principes qui constitueront notre moralité civique, le dogme de la République, le Credo de la patrie. Elle doit enseigner deux choses qui n’en font qu’une, et qui sont le coeur de la France: La foi de la Révolution, et la même foi en pratique, l’histoire de la Révolution.207
The Revolution itself had not taught the one thing which could have saved it: the Revolution.208
Pour cela, it lui eût fallu, non renier le passé, mais le revendiquer au contraire, le ressaisir et le faire sien, comme elle faisait du présent, montrer qu’elle avait, avec l’autorité de la raison, celle de l’histoire, de toute notre nationalité historique, que la Révolution était la tardive, mais juste et nécessaire manifestation du génie de ce peuple, qu’elle n’était que la France même ayant enfin trouvé son droit.
Elle ne fit rien de cela, et Ia raison abstraite, qu’elle invoquait seule, ne la soutint pas en présence des réalités terribles qui se soulevaient contre elle. Elle douta d’elle-même, s’abdiqua et s’effaça. . . .209
What was at stake, finally, essentially, was faith, foi. “La première question de l’éducation est celle-ci: «Avez-vous la foi? donnez-vous la foi?»”210
La foi, c’est la base commune d’inspiration et d’action. Nulle grande chose sans elle.
. . . Ici, s’élève une objection grave. «La foi, comment la donner, quand je l’ai si peu moi même? La foi en la patrie, comme la foi religieuse, a faibli en moi.»
Si la foi et la raison étaient des choses opposées, n’ayant nul moyen raisonnable d’obtenir la foi, faudrait, comme les mystiques, rester là, soupirer, attendre. Mais la foi digne de l’homme, c’est une croyance d’amour dans ce que prouve la raison. Son objet, ce n’est pas telle merveille accidentelle, c’est le miracle permanent de la nature et de l’histoire.
Pour reprendre foi à la France, espérer dans son avenir, it faut remonter son passé, approfondir son génie nature. Si vous le faites sérieusement et de coeur, vous verrez, de cette étude, de ces prémisses posées, la conséquence suivre infailliblement. De la déduction du passé, découlera pour vous l’avenir, la mission de la France; elle vous apparaîtra en pleine lumière, vous croirez, et vous aimerez à croire; la foi n’est rien autre chose.211
I have tried to show that in his paintings of the first half of the sixties Manet deliberately set out, not to break with or to deny the French painting of the past, but to reclaim that painting for the present (and implicitly for the future as well). At every stage in this development the authority to which Manet appealed was that of reason, of history, of the Frenchness of French painting as revealed in history. Moreover, I have suggested that his campaign to take possession of the French painting of the past, to make it wholly present in his own art, must be seen as the expression of deep and more than merely personal need. It was, one might say, in order to secure the Frenchness on which his conviction as a (French) painter depended that Manet found it necessary to concern himself both with what seemed to him the authentically French painting of the past and with the natural genius of that painting, which he appears to have identified with realism or anyway with truthfulness.
The relation of formulations like these to Michelet’s writings of the mid- and late 1840s may seem fortuitous: after all, Manet was essentially concerned with making paintings, while Michelet had been discussing nothing less than the French Revolution and the destiny of France. But Michelet himself wrote in Le Peuple:
. . . Nul objet d’art, nulle industrie, même de luxe, nulle forme de culture élevée, n’est sans action sur la masse, sans influence sur les derniers, sur les plus pauvres. Dans ce grand corps d’une nation, la circulation spirituelle se fait, insensible, descend, monte, va au plus haut, au plus bas. Telle idée entre par les yeux (modes, boutiques, musées, etc.), telle autre par la conversation, par la langue qui est le grand dépôt du progrès commun. Tous reçoivent la pensée de tous, sans l’analyser peut-être, mais enfin ils la reçoivent.212
And in his lesson of January 15, 1848, “Dangers de la dispersion d’esprit,”213 Michelet discussed the life and work of a great painter, Géricault, in terms that prove beyond a doubt that he regarded painting as an enterprise of the highest importance, and moreover as one that could embody the very relation to France that he passionately advocated. Roughly, Michelet saw Géricault not just as the first painter of his epoch but as the only Frenchman who remained true to France during the years just after Waterloo:
On sait l’étrange réaction de 1816, et comme la France semble se renier elle même. Eh bien! de plus en plus, Géricault l’adopta. Il protesta pour elle, par l’originalité toute française de son génie, et par le choix exclusif des types nationaux. Poussin a peint des Italiens, David des Romains et des Grecs, Géricault, au milieu des mélanges bâtards de la Restauration, conserva ferme et pure la pensée nationale. Il ne subit pas l’invasion, ne donna rien à la réaction.214
Seen in this light the Raft of the Medusa became a powerful realist symbol of France itself:
En 1822 [actually it was in 1818–19], Géricault peint son radeau et le naufrage de la France. Il est seul, il navigue seul, pousse vers l’avenir . . . sans s’informer, ni s’aider de la réaction. Cela est héroïque.
C’est la France elle-même, c’est notre société tout entière qu’il embarqua sur ce radeau de la Méduse . . . Image si cruellement vraie que l’original refusa de se reconnaître. On recula devant cette peinture terrible; on passa vite devant; on tacha de ne pas voir et de ne pas comprendre . . .215
For Michelet, Géricault was “l’artiste national dune époque, celui qui, seul, eut alors la vraie tradition; je l’ai dit, et le redis: A ce moment, Géricault fut la France.”216 Not only was the artist himself unaware of this; according to Michelet, the corruption of French society in the early 1820s sickened and depressed Géricault; the apparent death of the country he loved made him despair and finally invite his own death:
C’est le reproche grave qu’on doit lui faire. II n’a pas eu la foi dans l’éternité de la Patrie.
Comment n’y crut-il pas? II venait de lui créer ses puissants et immortels symboles, sa première peinture populaire. La France était en lui.
Il l’ignore, it ne voulut plus vivre.217
In this, too, Géricault’s example was a lesson for young Frenchmen: “Que ce grand homme nous serve par sa vie, par sa mort; ne cédons pas,comme lui, au découragement.”218
I am not here concerned with the historical accuracy of Michelet’s view of Géricault. Instead I call attention to the following points. First, Michelet evidently held that painting could be a political act, even when the subject matter of the work in question was not overtly political. Second, the vital political concepts for Michelet were Frenchness, the natural genius of France, and faith in France—to be acquired through the study of history. And third, Michelet seems to have believed that through his art a painter could place himself, either deliberately or unknowingly, in a relation to France—and by implication to the French Revolution, to the entire history of France—that no one else in the France of his time exactly matched. I am not, of course, suggesting that in 1862 or ’63 or ’64 Manet was France. But I am suggesting that the parallel that has emerged between Michelet’s political tracts of 1846–48 and Manet’s enterprise during the first half of the sixties is not necessarily empty, or merely formal, or unfaithful to the spirit of Michelet. Finally, it should be mentioned that Michelet’s lecture on Géricault was republished in 1862 and again in 1864 by Chesneau as an appendix to his book Les Chefs d’école.219 This raises the further possibility that Manet’s decision, as I see it, to engage with Géricault in the Dead Christ with Angels, and perhaps in other paintings of 1864, may have been partly motivated by the desire to associate or even to identify himself with the French artist whom no less an authority on Frenchness than Michelet had described in terms that Manet would have been deeply gratified to find addressed to himself.
THE SECOND AND LAST RAMIFICATION of this account of Manet’s paintings of the first half of the sixties concerns the relation of his enterprise during those years to certain more general aspects of Thoré’s thought. In the short preface which he wrote (as W. Bürger) for the re-publication in 1868 of his Salons of 1844–48, Thoré contrasted his “ultrapatriotic” attitudes of the 1830s and 1840s with the more just and cosmopolitan recognitions that he had arrived at in exile.220 For one thing, Thoré had come to feel that the great artists of other nations were the equals, and in some instances the superiors, of their French counterparts. More important, he seems to have become convinced that modern society as a whole was in the process of becoming cosmopolitan, of transcending national prejudices in a new awareness of the common brotherhood of mankind. This conviction, which made itself felt in everything Thoré wrote between the late 1850s and his death in 1869, received perhaps its most systematic exposition in two important essays of 1855 and 1857 respectively, “Des Tendances de l’art au XIXe siècle”221 and “Nouvelles tendances de l’art”:222
. . . il y a maintenant en France, et partout, une inquiétude singulière, une aspiration incompressible vers une vie essentiellement différente de la vie passée. Toutes les conditions de l’ancienne société sont bouleversées, dans la science et dans les religions qui sont le résumé de la science, dans la politique et dans l’économie sociale qui est l’application de la politique, dans l’agriculture, l’industrie et le commerce, qui sont les éléments de l’économie sociale. D’incomparables découvertes ont donné à toutes les idées, à tous les faits, une extension imprévue et indéfinie. II y a comme un télégraphe invisible, qui fait circuler presque instantanément et partout les impressions des peuples, les pensées des hommes, les événements, les nouveautés de toute sorte. Le moindre tressaillement moral ou physique, éprouvé sur un point quelconque, se perpétue de proche en proche et se transmet tout autour de globe. L’Humanité est en train de se constituer, et bientôt elle aura conscience d’elle-même jusqu’aux extrémités de ses membres.
Le caractère de la société moderne—de la société future—sera l’universalité.
Tandis qu’autrefois—hier—chaque peuple se renfermait dans les petites circonscriptions de son territoire, de ses traditions spéciales, de son culte idolâtrique, de ses lois égoïstes, de ses préjugés ténébreux, de ses coutumes et de son langage, it tend aujourd’hui à s’épandre hors de ses bornes étroites, à ouvrir ses frontières, à généraliser ses traditions et sa mythologie, à humaniser ses lois, à éclairer ses conceptions, à élargir ses usages, à confondre ses intérêts, a prodiguer partout son activité, sa langue et son génie.223
Thoré believed that this development was already at least imminent in poetry, literature, painting. In particular he regarded international expositions, such as the Exposition Universelle of 1855 and the Manchester Exhibition of 1857, at once as expressions of the general impulse towards universality and as major factors in the promulgation of that impulse within the arts:
Quand les arts de tous pays, avec leurs qualités indigenes, se seront ainsi rapprochés souvent, quand ils auront pris l’habitude d’échanges réciproques, le caractère de l’art y gagnera partout une incalculable étendue, sans que le génie particulier à chaque peuple en soit altéré. II se formera de la sorte une école européenne d’abord, au lieu des sectes nationales qui divisent encore la grande famille artiste selon la topographie des frontières; puis, une école universelle, familiarisée avec le monde, et à laquelle rien d’humain ne sera étranger.224
The general implications of this development for criticism and esthetics were plain:
L’esthétique et la critique au XIXe siècle doivent donc, suivant nous, abdiquer toute école, tout système, toute nationalité, tout préjugé local ou historique. Elles ne doivent être d’aucun pays, ni d’aucun temps, afin de favoriser la convergence sympathique et providentielle des facultés créatrices attribuées aux différents peuples.
. . . On dit que l’art est l’expression de la société: assurément, puisqu’on appelle société le faisceau des manifestations humaines . . . Le progrès de l’art contemporain consiste donc à traduire dans une forme harmonieuse le sentiment irrésistible qui entraîne le monde vers l’unité.225
Specifically, Thoré believed that the art of the future would consist in a new naturalism based on the recognition of the common humanity of all men—it would be an art for man, like the Dutch painting of the 17th century, only extended now beyond the limits of any single nation to embrace the entire world.
It is not entirely clear whether or not Thoré believed that nationality as such would eventually come to an end; perhaps he did. But he does not seem to have felt that the respective demands of nationality and of universality were essentially or necessarily opposed to one another.226 The development of modern society towards universality would, he believed, naturally erode national prejudices, hostilities, caprices, arrogances, blindnesses; at the same time, the fuller expression of the natural genius of individual peoples was seen as promoting the recognition of the common brotherhood not just of nations but of mankind. His recurrent figure of speech for the relation of individual nations to the universal society of the future was that of natural accord, natural harmony, natural convergence towards a common end. This is implicit in the passages quoted above, as well as in the following remarks from his preface to Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre, a book-length study by national schools of the paintings in the Manchester Exhibition of 1857:
Une histoire générale de l’art semble être dans les tendances et les nécessités de la civilisation moderne. Les monographies nationales ne suffisent plus. Le caractère de notre temps, en art, en littérature, en sciences, aussi bien qu’en économie sociale et en industrie, c’est la généralisation, c’est l’universalité. Les frontières morales sont abaissées entre les peuples. Ils sentent désormais, non-seulement la concordance de leurs intérêts, mais la solidarité de leur imagination et de leur intelligence.
Cette histoire universelle de l’art, comment la faire, sinon en récoltant des faits, des dates, des particularités de toute sorte, qui aident à comprendre les différentes époques, les différents pays, les génies différents, et surtout à saisir les analogies et les harmonies qui les relient dans une grande unité?227
It is not clear from this—it must have been unclear to Thoré—exactly what a general or universal history of art would finally consist in, i.e. what the terms were in which such a history would finally be written. (It seems unlikely, for example, that Thoré would have regarded a stylistic or formal account of the development of the visual arts as universal in his sense.) But what is clear, I think, is that the category of nationality was fundamental to Thoré’s conception of the historical enterprise which he himself was actively pursuing.
And in fact it has already emerged that considerations of nationality were basic to Thoré’s descriptions both of the French painting of the past and of the relations which that painting bore to the work of foreign artists. But it is only in the context of his belief in the tendency of modern society towards universality—indeed, only in the context of his lifelong commitment to democracy, socialism and progressive politics generally, which led him to welcome that tendency with all his heart—that the meaning of Thoré’s concern with Frenchness becomes fully clear. Far from being the expression of a narrow or restrictive nationalism, that concern was inspired by the belief that the pursuit of universality was actually inherent in the natural genius of French painting itself. Even Thoré’s insistence on distinguishing between the relatively few painters whom he considered authentically French and the mass of painters whom he did not is to be seen in this light: the authentic Frenchness of the former consisted chiefly in their willingness to depict the men and customs of the France of their time; and by so doing they contributed to the eventual, though in Thoré’s view still incomplete, achievement of a universal art for man.
It has also emerged that Manet’s involvement with the art of the past must be understood in terms of a conscious program to establish a particular kind of relation, which I have described as one of access, to the painting of the major foreign schools; and that Thoré’s writings played a far more important role in that program than those of any other critic or historian. I think of this aspect of Manet’s art as a deliberate attempt to establish the universality of his own painting. This is not to imply either that Manet thought of his use of past art in connection with Thoré’s concept of universality, or that Thoré himself, if he had grasped the meaning of Manet’s relations with the art of the Old Masters, would have regarded Manet’s paintings as universal in his sense of the term. It is, however, to assert that Manet’s evident determination to secure access to the major schools of painting must be seen, not simply as motivated by his intense interest in each school in its own right, but also—fundamentally—as directed towards the accomplishment of access to the art of painting in its entirety, so to speak. Both Thoré and Manet were simultaneously concerned with the natural genius of individual nations on the one hand and, on the other hand, with the transcendence of nationality in a comprehensive and essentially natural unity. Moreover, just as Thoré’s concern with Frenchness in his later writings was an expression of his belief in the progress of modern society towards universality—a belief which was itself grounded in the politics of a lifetime—so Manet’s explicit involvement with the Frenchness of French painting was an expression of his complete dedication to the art of painting altogether.228 It is as though Manet achieved in just a few years and within his paintings alone what Thoré expected would come about only gradually and in painting at large: “II se formera . . . une école européenne d’abord . . . puis, une école universelle . . .” (It may be argued that the latter step did not occur definitively until the Exposition Universelle of 1867 enabled Manet to acknowledge the importance of Japanese art to his paintings of the first half of the sixties.)
Thoré’s remarks about the need for a universal history of art also seem specially relevant to Manet. We have seen that it was in order finally “à comprendre les différentes époques, les différents pays, les génies différents, et surtout à saisir les analogies et les harmonies qui les relient dans une grande unité” that Thoré collected facts, dates, particulars of all kinds, and in general made himself one of the leading connoisseurs of his time. And as I have tried to show, Manet put Thoré’s findings to his own uses—uses which, in important respects, were consistent in spirit with Thoré’s aspirations. The solidarity of the pictorial thought and imagination of different peoples, the analogies and harmonies that bind different national schools into the single unity of painting— where are they to be found if not in the Old Musician, Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada, the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Olympia, the Dead Torero, the Dead Christ with Angels, the Christ Scourged, the Fifer, the Munich Déjeuner and the Balcony, to name only ten of Manet’s paintings of the sixties? I am not suggesting that Manet’s paintings are the universal history of art that Thoré called for (though Thoré’s apparent uncertainty as to the nature, organizing principles, basic categories, etc., of such a project perhaps suggests that the possibility ought not to be rejected out of hand). At the very least, however, it seems true to say that paintings such as those just cited constitute a kind of fruition both of Thoré’s historical labors and of the aspirations towards a universal history of art in which those labors were grounded.
Thoré says just a bit more about those aspirations in a remarkable passage in his first article of 1860 on the Boulevard des Italiens exhibition of French paintings from private collections:
Assurément, pour arriver à faire une histoire de l’art européen depuis la Renaissance, ce qui semble tourmenter notre époque, il faut établir une justice distributive entre les écoles, constater leurs qualités essentielles et distinctives, reviser les prétentions de chaque pays et lui attribuer ce qui lui revient dans le développement général. Par instinct, on sent aujourd’hui chez presque tous les peuples qu’il se prépare une sorte de Jugement dernier, aprés quoi, le passé étant liquidé, on entrera dans un nouveau monde.229
Until now I have been emphasizing the sense in which Manet’s enterprise during the first half of the sixties may be seen as an attempt to reclaim the past, to re-possess it, and thereby to establish its presence in his art in a new way—explicitly, specifically, comprehensively. But there is also a sense in which that enterprise may be seen as having the same essential purpose as Thoré’s historical “Last Judgment”—to liquidate the past and so enter a new world. It is as though by 1860 the past of painting was no Ionger present as until then it had been, in continuity and return and revolution. Nor, however, was it simply or wholly absent. Whatever conventions of painting had changed, however the essence of painting may have changed during the centuries — since Giotto, or the High Renaissance, or the age of Velasquez, Rubens, and the great Dutchmen—the success or failure as art of a new work ultimately depended (as it ultimately depends) on the ability of that work to stand comparison with the art of the Old Masters. And that meant that the very enterprise of painting—the very possibility of that enterprise—was essentially a function of what they had done. (Hence the futility—and, as it turned out, the sterility—of Castagnary’s repeated calls to break with the art of the past; hence also the simple falseness of his claim that paintings are not made with paintings.) One might say that by 1860 the past was present chiefly in absentia, as commodity or reproach or nightmare; and that Manet, partly by establishing its presence explicitly in his own work in ways which I have tried to describe, resolved that situation once and for all. It is perhaps misleading to say that Manet made the past directly available again to the painters who came after him: for one thing, because that may seem to imply that in the end nothing changed, that there is nothing new or different about the modern painter’s relation to the past of his art. At the very least, however, Manet made the past something that once again did not need to be dealt with, but which could be ignored, taken for granted, even forgotten. It is also true that probably the most single important characteristic of ambitious painting since Manet has been the closeness and particular urgency of its involvement with the ambitious art of the immediate past—its commitment to what might be thought of as the historical present. But no painter since Manet has been faced with the need to secure the connectedness of his art to that of the distant past, to the enterprise of the Old Masters. With Manet’s paintings of the first half of the sixties, that simply and without notice disappeared as a problem for painting.
In those paintings Frenchness was the medium through which Frenchness was transcended and access to painting in its entirety—to what I have called the art of painting altogether—was finally achieved. That it was Frenchness which Manet used to this end was, naturally, a function of Manet’s own Frenchness—of the historical accident of his birth. But that accident concerned both the fact that he was French and what it meant to be French, what Frenchness itself was. Above all I am referring to the conception of France and of the relations between France and the rest of the world that one finds in the teachings of the man I have already discussed in connection with Manet’s involvement with Frenchness—and who was also a decisive influence on the thought of the young Thoré—Jules Michelet.
To begin with, the general relation of individual nations to the universal whole they constitute—a question one finds active both in Thoré’s later writings and, I have argued, in Manet’s paintings of the first half of the sixties—has perhaps its deepest source in Michelet’s writings of the 1830s and 1840s. For example, in the chapter of Le Peuple entitled “La Patrie: Les nationalités vontelles disparaître?” Michelet wrote:
Le plus puissant moyen de Dieu pour créer et augmenter l’originalité distinctive, c’est de maintenir le monde harmoniquement divisé en ces grands et beaux systèmes qu’on appelle des nations, dont chacun ouvrant à l’homme un champ divers d’activité, est une éducation vivante. Plus l’homme avance, plus il entre dans le génie de sa patrie, mieux it concourt à l’harmonie du globe; il apprend à connaître cette patrie, et dans sa valeur propre, et dans sa valeur relative, comme une note du grand concert; il s’y associe par elle; en elle, il aime le monde. La patrie est l’initiation nécessaire à l’universelle patrie.230
But while Michelet venerated nationality as such, and conceived of the brotherhood of mankind in terms of a concert of highly individualized nations, he reserved a position of unique importance for his nation, for France:
Pour nous, quoi qu’il advienne de nous, pauvre ou riche, heureux, malheureux, vivant, et par delà la mort, nous remercierons toujours Dieu, de nous avoir donné cette grande patrie, la France. Et cela, non pas seulement à cause de tant de choses glorieuses qu’elle a faites, mais surtout parce qu’en elle nous trouvons à la fois le représentant des libertés du monde et le pays sympathique entre tous, l’initiation à l’amour universel . . .
Sans doute, tout grand peuple représente une idée importance au genre humain. Mais que cela, grand Dieu, est bien plus vrai de la France! Supposez un moment qu’elle s’éclipse, qu’elle finisse, le lien sympathique du monde est relâché dissous, et probablement détruit. L’amour qui fait la vie du globe, en serait atteint en ce qu’il a de plus vivant. La terre entrerait dans l’âge glacé où déjà tout près de nous sont arrivés d’autres globes.231
The great idea which France represented was that of the Revolution of 1789: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, above all the last of these. France was “la patrie universelle”;232 she was “plus qu’une nation; c’est la fraternité vivante.”233 More than any other nation France had “confondu sont intérêt et sa destine avec ceux de l’humanité.234 Each French child, Michelet wrote, should be taught “que Dieu lui a fait la grâce d’avoir cette patrie, qui promulgua, écrivit de son sang, la loi de l’équité divine, de la fraternité, que le Dieu des nations a parlé par la France.”235 In the Revolution and the wars that followed it, France, like a Christ among nations, sacrificed herself in the attempt to redeem humanity as a whole:
Nous sommes les fits de ceux qui par l’effort d’une nationalité héroïque, ont fait l’ouvrage du monde, et fondé, par toute nation, l’évangile de l’égalité. Nos pères n’ont pas compris la fraternité comme cette vague sympathie qui fait accepter, aimer tout, qui mêle, abâtardit, confond. Ils crurent que la fraternité n’était pas l’aveugle mélange des existences et des caractères, mais bien l’union des coeurs. Ils gardèrent pour eux, pour la France, l’originalité de dévouement, du sacrifice, que personne ne lui disputa; seule, elle arrosa de son sang cet arbre qu’elle plantait.236
More than once “la France a donna sa vie pour le monde.”237 And if because of her selflessness, her sacrifices, France in 1846 was weak, divided, impoverished, nevertheless “ce n’est pas le machinisme industriel de l’Angleterre, ce n’est pas le machinisme scolastique de l’Allemagne, qui fait la vie du monde; c’est le souffle de la France, dans quelque état qu’elle soit, la chaleur latente de sa Révolution que l’Europe porte toujours en elle.”238 Only when France recalled herself to herself, only when she regained faith in her divine but profoundly human mission, would she be strong, unified, invincible; and only then would she be able to bring the principles of the Revolution to the entire world. Revolution alone “peut nous réunir, et par nous, sauver le monde.”240 There was no other way for humanity to be saved; no rationalist humanitarianism based on the concept of the individual could possibly do it: “La patrie, ma patrie peut seule sauver le monde.”
For Michelet, then, diversity of nationality was a necessary condition for meaningful concord, meaningful unity; and it was France alone which could accomplish that unity by bringing the principles of the Revolution to all the nations of the world and thereby liberating humanity as a whole. There is no evidence that the young Manet actually read Le Peuple or other works by Michelet of roughly the same moment, though the strong republican sympathies which he clearly felt before and after the Revolution of 1848 suggest that he may have done so.241 In any case, I have tried to show that his concern with Frenchness in his paintings of the first half of the sixties must be seen in relation to Couture and Thoré, both of whom were directly and powerfully influenced by Michelet. So Manet would not have had to study Michelet’s writings himself in order to have had his mind shaped by them. The availability of a vision of France as “la patrie universelle”—as that nation which naturally transcended itself, which naturally identified its interest with that of humanity as a whole—was instrumental in enabling Manet to make the Frenchness of French painting a medium of access to foreign schools of painting and finally to the art of painting altogether. One might say that it was Michelet who in his writings of the 1830s and ’40s made Frenchness as such a medium of transcendence, of universality; and that it was Manet who made Michelet’s vision of Frenchness a medium of painting. It is even conceivable that without. Michelet’s inspired reading, or resurrection, of the history of France and in particular of the French Revolution, Manet would have been unable to attain the depth of conviction in his work as painting which, partly because of Michelet, he was able to attain. The least that must be said is that without Michelet’s vision of France, Manet’s paintings of the first half of the sixties would have been radically, unimaginably different. And it is not at all certain that they would have been as great, or for that matter as revolutionary, as they have proved to be.
MANET MUST HAVE HOPED that at least a few critics would grasp the intentions which he had worked to make perspicuous. But none did. For a moment Chesneau almost came close, when he spotted the dependence of the Déjeuner sur l’herbe on Raimondi’s engraving after Raphael,242 as well as something of its relation to Courbet.243 But he regarded Manet’s use of Raphael as eccentric, incomprehensible; and he deplored what seemed to him Courbet’s ruinous influence on many of the most gifted younger painters, Manet included.
It is not surprising that the only critic who consistently discussed Manet’s paintings in terms of their relation to previous art was Thoré himself, and even he missed seeing the Déjeuner-Raphael and Olympia-Titian connections. “Je ne devine pas ce qui a pu faire choisir à un artiste intelligent et distingué une composition si absurde,”244 he wrote of the Déjeuner in 1863. But the next year he noted the dependence of the dead torero in Manet’s Episode in a Bull-Fight on the Orlando Muerto:
Voici une autre victime de la férocité des moeurs, victime volontaire, éntendue roide dans le cirque d’un combat de taureaux, qui continue à l’extrémité de la vaste arène. Ce toréador, éventré pour le plaisir de quelques milliers de spectateurs affolés, est une figure de grandeur naturelle, audacieusement copiée d’après un chef-d’oeuvre de la galerie Pourtalès . . . peint par Velazquez tout simplement. M. Manet ne se gêne pas plus pour «prendre son bien ou it le trouve,» que pour jeter sur la toile son coloris splendide et bizarre, qui irrite les «bourgeois» jusqu’à l’injure. Sa peinture est une espèce de défi, et il semble vouloir agacer le public comme les picadores de son cirque espagnol, piquant des flèches de rubans multicolores dans la nuque d’un adversaire sauvage.—II n’a pas encore saisi le taureau par les cornes.
M. Manet a les qualités d’un magicien, des effets lumineux, des tons flamboyants, qui pastichent Velazquez et Goya, ses maîtres de prédilection. C’est à eux deux qu’il a songé en composant et en exécutant son Cirque.245
Thoré went on to say that in Manet’s second painting in the Salon of 1864, the Dead Christ with Angels, “c’est un autre maître espagnol, le Greco, qu’il a pastiché avec une égale furie, sans doute en manière de sarcasme contre les amoureux transis de la peinture discrète et proprette.”246 The painting as a whole, in particular the angels with intense blue wings, seemed to Thoré a further act of defiance or deliberate mockery of the public’s expectations. But he observed that the modeling of the arms and the foreshortening of the legs recalled Rubens and Annibale Carracci, and closed his remarks on Manet with high praise: “Assez maintenant sur ces excentricités qui cachent un vrai peintre, dont, quelque jour, les oeuvres seront peut-être applaudies. Rappelons-nous les débuts d’Eugène Delacroix, son triomphe à l’exposition universelle de 1855 et sa vente—après décès!”247
Baudelaire, then in Brussels, wrote Thoré at once objecting that the word “pastiche” was unfair and denying that Manet had ever seen paintings by Goya or El Greco or that he had ever visited the Pourtalès Collection.248 Thoré responded generously. He was willing to take Baudelaire’s word that Manet had never seen Goya’s work and that he was “tout naturellement coloriste à la façon de ce peintre exquis et fantasque.”249 But Thoré rightly insisted that Manet must have seen the Pourtalès Orlando Muerto one way or another,250 and concluded: “Nous consignons toujours en passant que la peinture de Manet n’est pas un pastiche de Goya, et nous avons plaisir à répéter que ce jeune peintre est un vrai peintre, plus peintre à lui tout seul que la bande entière des grands prix de Rome.”251
In his Salon de 1865 Thoré praised another young painter, Théodule Ribot, almost exactly in these terms: “Peintre, it l’est plus que tous les grands prix de Rome ensemble.”252 Ribot’s Saint Sebastian was one of the solid successes of that year; but while Thoré granted that it was well painted, he found Ribot’s subject matter painfully anachronistic:
Pour exprimer l’idée ou l’image de la persécution et de la piété qu’elle suscite, si vous continuez à adopter un symbole catholique stéréotypé, il n’y a pas de raison pour ne pas continuer aussi à exprimer la force et la beauté modernes par des symboles païens, par Hercule et Vénus. Or la mission de l’art—et son instinct—sont justement de créer des formes plastiques, adequates aux idées et aux moeurs de chaque époque, sans déserter le caractère permanent, typique, de la vie universelle.
II arrive aussi que pastichant une vieille idée vous êtes entraînés à imiter de vieilles formes et de vieilles pratiques. Si vous peignez Vénus, Diane, Galatée, des nymphes ou des naïades, comment ne pas songer à la statuaire grecque et à la renaissance italienne qui en ressuscitait le style? Si vous peignez des martyrs chrétiens, qui done a plus cruellement dramatisé la torture et la douleur que les Espagnols mystiques et surtout que Ribera? Voilà Ribot tombant avec son Saint Sebastien dans les noirceurs de Ribera!253
The relevance of these remarks to Manet is evident, and in fact Thoré went on at once to speak of him:
C’est fatal, irrésistible: it ne paraît pas que Manet veuille être pris pour un routinier de l’art pensif; neanmoins, ayant eu la malheureuse idée de peindre un Christ dans le prétoire, bon! voilà que cet original copie presque la célèbre composition de van Dyck! L’autre année, faisant un sujet espagnol qu’il n’avait jamais vu, bon! voila qu’il copiait le Velazquez de la galerie Pourtalès!254
Thoré barely mentioned the Olympia and seems not to have noticed its relation to the Venus d’Urbino. But there can be no doubt as to what his response to that relation would have been. Having just warned against the use of pagan symbols like Venus, partly on the grounds that it would lead to dependence on the defunct forms of the Italian Renaissance, it seems inevitable that he would have seen the Olympia as confirming the truth of his worst fears. Towards the end of the Salon de 1865 Thoré summed up his attitude towards the use of Italian (and Spanish!) art by contemporary French painters:
Suivant nous et quelques esprits aventureux, l’art du Midi n’est plus qu’une tradition, très-glorieuse, mais morte. Il a vécu— vixit, et it ne paraît pas qu’il compte désormais comme vivant, au milieu de la civilisation toute moderne qui se prépare. Aux expositions universelles de Paris, de Manchester, de Londres, est ce qu’on a remarqué la peinture des Italiens et des Espagnols? O les grands et nobles peuples—dans l’histoire! Quand la peinture française se tourne vers l’Italie, elle se tourne vers le passé. L’archéologie sans doute est fort intéressante, mais ce n’est pas l’affaire des artistes, qui doivent être inventeurs et non compilateurs. L’instinct de la nouveauté périt chez qui s’enferme au milieu de ruines. Et la vie, n’est-ce pas le renouveau?255
This could, one feels, have been addressed to Manet; and perhaps it partly was.
Manet’s two submissions to the Salon of 1866, the Tragic Actor (Rouvière as Hamlet) and the Fifer, were rejected by the jury. In his Salon of that year Thoré praised Courbet at length, in terms that at least implicitly contrasted him with Manet:
Ce que Courbet représente dans l’école contemporaine, c’est un franc naturalisme, absolument antipodique aux manières prétentieuses et fausses des peintres récemment adoptées par un monde frivole. Sa peinture pose deux questions à ceux qui étudient les tendances de l’art et les moyens de rénovation.
Il s’agit de savoir si l’art doit se traîner toujours sur les traces du passé: idées, symboles, images de ce qui n’est plus, pastiches rétrospectifs, étrangers désormais à la conscience, aux moeurs, aux faits d’une société nouvelle.
Que l’inspiration de l’artiste n’ait plus sa source dans l’antiquité païenne ni dans le moyen âge catholique, et la forme serait émancipée en même temps que l’invention.
Car le sujet comporte la plastique. Un sujet absurde et contre nature, tel qu’un centaure ou un ange, entraine une plastique de fantaisie, puisque l’artiste ne peut pas consulter la réalité naturelle. Où trouver le modèle d’un chérubin avec deux ailes aux temper, ou d’un faune à pieds de bouc.256
No older critic was as consistent or as warm in his praise of Manet’s pictorial gifts as Thoré. But the forces of mind that made Thoré’s writings enabling for Manet also compelled Thoré to see Manet’s involvement with the art of the past and his use of religious subject matter as artistically and socially retrograde. His respect emerges, however, in the account in his Salon de 1866 of a visit that he made to Manet’s studio:
J’aime mieux les folles ébauches de Manet que les Hercules académiques. Et donc, j’ai été revoir son atelier, où j’ai trouvé un grand portrait d’homme en noir, dans le sentiment des portraits de Velazquez, et que le jury lui a refusé. Il y avait là aussi, outre un «paysage de mer», comme dit Courbet, et des fleurs exquises, une étude de jeune fille en robe rose, qui sera peut-être refusée au prochain Salon. Ces tons rosés sur fond gris défieraient les plus fins coloristes. Ebauche, c’est vrai, comme est, au Louvre, I’lle de Cythère, par Watteau. Watteau aurait pu pousser son ébauche à la perfection. Manet se débat encore contre cette difficulté extrême de la peinture, qui est de finir certaines parties d’une tableau pour donner à l’ensemble sa valeur effective. Mais on peut prédire qu’il aura son tour de succès comme tous les persécutés du Salon.257
Whatever Thoré’s reservations, Manet must have been pleased to have elicited a comparison between his art and that of Watteau from the critic who more than any other had formulated the issues and distinctions with which his paintings of the first half of the sixties had explicitly engaged. But Manet must have wished that he had been seen in relation to Watteau years earlier, and that the meaning of that relationship for his enterprise as a whole had been grasped as well.
No other critic in Manet’s lifetime came close to understanding his involvement with the art of the past, or even to taking that involvement fully seriously. And with the rise of Impressionism and the general simplification of painting that came about largely as a result of his own early work (with which Matisse will credit him), Manet himself may have become uncertain exactly what to make of that aspect of his art before 1865. In any case, he seems to have been content to let his critics, and his historians, work it out for themselves.258
Michael Fried
1. Ernest Chesneau and Théophile Thoré. Their observations are discussed in the last section of this study.
2. For example: Edmond Bazire, Edouard Manet, Paris, 1884; Jacques De Biez, Edouard Manet, Paris, 1884; Louis Gonse, “Manet,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XXIX, 1884, pp. 133–152. Gonse is not exactly an admirer of Manet’s work but argues that its importance is incontestable.
3. Jacques-Emile Blanche, Essais et portraits, Paris, 1912, p. 162.
4. I discuss the articles and books that most importantly contributed to this realization in the text and notes that follow. I might remark, however, that Manet’s use of the art of the past began to be a historical problem shortly before the exhibition of 1932. See: Paul Jamot, “Etudes sur Manet, I,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XV, 1927, pp. 27–50.
5. Quoted from: Manet raconté par lui-même et par ses amis, edited by Pierre Cailler and Pierre Courthion, Geneva, 1945, p. 140.
6. For example: Germain Bazin, “Manet et la tradition,” L’Amour de l’art, XIII, 1932, pp. 152–163; René Huyghe, “Manet, peintre,” L’Amour de l’art, XIII, 1932, pp. 165–184; Paul Colin, Manet, Paris, 1937. Bazin’s and Huyghe’s essays were instrumental in promoting the investigation of Manet’s sources.
7. Michel Florisoone, Manet, Monaco, 1947, p. XVII.
8. Meyer Schapiro, review of Joseph C. Sloane, French Painting Between the Past and the Present, Art Bulletin, XXXVI, 1954, pp. 163–165.
9. Bazin, Huyghe, and Florisoone are among those who have expressed this view. See also: John Richardson, Manet, London and New York, 1958, new edition 1967. Alan Bowness (“A Note on Manet’s ‘Compositional Difficulties,’” Burlington Magazine, CIII, 1961, pp. 276–277) takes issue with Richardson.
10. Alain De Leiris, “Manet, Guéroult and Chrysippos,” Art Bulletin, XLVI, 1964, p. 402. But De Leiris says nothing about why it is wrong to postulate such an element.
11. I hope that something at least of what it means to say this will become clear by the end of the present study. I am not suggesting that the history of the concept of composition in the 19th century should be investigated apart from the history of 19th-century painting. On the contrary, I believe that it is only in the context of the painting of a given moment that the meaning of the notion of composition for that painting can be understood. In discussing the painting of the past two hundred years—since Lessing, Diderot, Greuze, Chardin, David—the concept of composition must be used with extreme care: it had meanings for these men which have been lost, and which as historians we must try to recover, if we are to understand their thought. One of the points that will emerge is that the concept of composition cannot be understood apart from other concepts, which at different moments were equally if not more crucial to the structure of the paintings in question, and which do not at first seem to bear any direct relation to what we (unhistorically) tend to think of as compositional concerns. The art of David, for example, must eventually be seen in relation to the work of Lessing and Diderot—not just their writings on painting and sculpture but their discussions of drama as well—and in terms of concepts like action (in particular an action and a moment in an action), grimace, theatricality (both used as pejoratives), tableau (in as much of its complexity as we can encompass) . . . This at least must be done if we are even to approach an adequate sense of what David’s enterprise actually was.
12. In his article cited above De Leiris remarks of the Old Musician: “Manet did not ‘borrow’ the composition of Velasquez’s Drinkers but transposed fragments of it” (p. 403). This is an important distinction. Manet did both throughout the first half of the sixties, often in the same painting.
13. It was thought that Velasquez had depicted both himself and Murillo in the Petits cavaliers. See: Nils Gösta Sandblad, Manet: Three Studies in Artistic Conception, Lund, 1954, pp. 37–39, 42–45. Most of my references to Sandblad’s book will be in connection with disagreements over various points. So I want to express at the outset my deep sense of indebtedness to his work. More than any other modern historian, Sandblad demonstrates that it is possible to investigate Manet’s specific intentions and the development of his thought through careful analysis of individual works and of the context in which each was painted.
Throughout this study I refer to paintings by French artists either by their original (i.e. French) titles or by their English equivalents, whichever seems to me more natural. In this general procedure I follow George Heard Hamilton, Manet and His Critics, New Haven, 1954.
14. Theodore Reff, “The Meaning of Manet’s Olympia,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXIII, 1964, p. 116.
15. Sandblad, Manet, p. 45.
16. Ibid., p. 91.
17. Ibid.
18. De Leiris, “Manet, Guéroult and Chrysippos,” p. 404.
19. For example, the Gypsies, the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, the Olympia, the Episode in a Bull Fight, the Dead Christ with Angels, the Christ Scourged. Of course, Manet also painted a number of pictures of single figures. But in four of the most important of these—the Street Singer, Lola de Valence, Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada, and the Portrait of Zacharie Astruc— Manet seems to have made a deliberate effort to activate and even to people the backgrounds in various ways. (See note 27 for more on this.) After his visit in the summer of 1865 to Madrid, where he was enormously impressed by Velasquez’s Pabillos de Valladolid, the weight of his art fell predominantly on the single full-length figure, as in the Tragic Actor, the Monk in Prayer, the three Beggar-Philosophers of 1865, the Torero Saluting, the Fifer. But by the late 1860s, in paintings like the Munich Déjeuner, the Balcony, and the Reading, the large multi-figure painting again became a major vehicle for, him.
20. Sandblad, Manet, p. 33.
21. De Leiris, “Manet, Guéroult and Chrysippos,” p. 403.
22. Richardson (Manet, p. 13) connects the boy nearest the seated musician with the boy in Velasquez’s Water-Carrier, Apsley House, London, which Manet could have known from an engraving by Ametler.
23. Florisoone, Manet, p. XXXII.
24. The first writer to spot the relationship seems to have been Paul Fierens, Les LeNain, Paris, 1933, p. 29. There are several versions of LeNain’s painting, the best known of which is in the Ionides Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is not clear how Manet came to see any of the known versions, but the visual evidence alone suggests overwhelmingly that he did. For a discussion of the different versions see: Basil S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, Vol. I, London, 1925, pp. 36-37. I might add that the generally accepted orthography is “Le Nain.” Its enjambment as LeNain in this study is unfortunate.
25. Florisoone (Manet, pp. XVI-XVII) seems to have been the first to connect the Old Musician with the Gilles.
26. Les Moissonneurs, then in the collection of M. Philippe de Saint-Albin who subsequently willed it to the Louvre, was discussed by Champfleury in “Nouvelles recherches sur la vie et l’oeuvre des frères LeNain,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIII, 1860, pp. 173-185, 266277, 321-332. An engraving of the painting by Sotain, after Parent’s drawing, appears on p. 273.
27. One important difference between the Halte du cavalier and the Old Musician (it is also a difference between the Drinkers and the Old Musician) might be mentioned here. In Le Nain’s (and Velasquez’s) paintings several of the figures stare directly at the beholder—or if we think of them as posing to be painted, at the painter himself—whereas in Manet’s canvas only a single figure, the Old Musician, actually meets one’s gaze with his own. In fact, there is not a single large multi-figure painting in Manet’s oeuvre in which more than one of those figures looks out at us. (The closest thing to an exception occurs in the Olympia, in which both Victorine Meurend and the black cat at the foot of her bed confront us directly.) This may not strike the reader as important—it has gone unremarked until now — but I believe that Manet seems consciously or otherwise to have felt that to have more than a single figure look directly at the beholder would in effect be to establish a number of individual, and so to speak merely psychological, relationships between the beholder on the one hand and the figures in question on the other. Whereas Manet seems to have wanted to establish a particular kind of relationship between the beholder and the painting as a whole, in its essential unity as a painting. In this sense it is as though the painting itself looks or gazes or stares at one— it is as though it confronts, fixes, even freezes one—through the eyes of the Old Musician, or through those of Victorine Meurend in the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, or through those of the soldier holding a cloak in the Christ Scourged . . . and as though this was an essential source of Manet’s conviction, insofar as he achieved that conviction, that the pictures in question really were paintings. (The claim that Manet was explicitly concerned with the concept of a painting — le tableau — is not based only on the character of his pictures themselves. It is also grounded in the criticism of the time, in particular that of Zacharie Astruc, who more than any other writer spoke for Manet’s generation. See footnote 99 for more on Manet’s search for the tableau.)
If there is truth in this, Manet’s preference for arrangements of more than one figure becomes at least partly intelligible: in his paintings of a single figure, the latter inevitably tended to detach or anyway to distinguish itself—if only “psychologically”—from the rest of the painting. Hence his decision to activate the backgrounds of pictures like the Street Singer, the Lola de Valence, the Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada. Hence also his indecision whether or not to include a maid and/or a peeping figure in the shrubbery in the Nymph Surprised of 1861.
28. Bazin, “Manet et la tradition,” p. 155. George Heard Hamilton (Manet and His Critics, p. 23, note 7) remarks that “in costume, if not in mood, the Absinthe Drinker appears not unrelated to Daumier’s sculpture . . . Ratapoil (1850)”; see also Anne Coffin Hanson, Manet, 1832-1883, Philadelphia, 1966, pp. 43-44.
29. Paul Jamot and Georges Wildenstein, Manet, 2 vols., Paris, 1932, I, p. 89.
30. Antonin Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” Le Studio, XXI, 1901, pp. 71-77, p. 72. (Le Studio was the French edition of the English magazine The Studio, in which Proust’s essay appeared in a grossly inadequate translation [pp. 227-236].) Proust was Manet’s friend from childhood and his witness is invaluable. The essay cited here contains information not in Proust’s Souvenirs. It is not exactly unknown since it appears in several Manet bibliographies, and since one brief excerpt from it is anthologized in Cailler’s and Courthion’s Manet raconté par lui-même et par ses amis. But it has been neglected by historians of Manet. I intend to republish the original essay along with a new translation in the near future.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. Some exception must be made for Florisoone, who in his book of 1947 insists on the importance of seeing Manet (in particular his eye) in relation to French artists of the 18th century like Watteau; Desportes, d’Oudry, Louis Moreau l’aine, etc. He does not emphasize the importance of Watteau, however, and seems to have had in mind the aspect of French 18th-century art that Sandblad characterized by the words “flaneur realism” and associated with La Musique aux Tuileries.
34. The Joueuse de guitare (Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut) is placed in 1867 by Jamot and Wildenstein. But Tabarant (Manet et ses oeuvres, Paris, 1947, pp. 119, 124, 134) is certain that it was painted in 1866.
35. Bazin, “Manet et la tradition,” pp. 154-155. Previously, Jamot (“Etudes sur Manet, I,” pp. 38-39) had connected La Pêche with the painting of the same title by Annibale Carracci in the Louvre. Bazin argues that Manet’s work is based on two paintings by Rubens, the Landscape with Rainbow in the Louvre and the Castle Garden in Vienna. Sandblad (Manet, pp. 42-44) believes that Manet had both Carracci and Rubens in mind. (He also observes that Manet probably relied on Bolswert’s engravings after both Rubens paintings: thus the reversal, in relation to the paintings, of the borrowed motifs.) In any case, Manet’s references to Rubens are far more precise than his rather general allusion, if it is as much as that, to Carracci.
36. Hélène Adhémar, Watteau, sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1950, cat. no. 207.
36a. Ibid., cat. no. 186. Engraved by de Favannes.
36b. Ibid., cat. no. 188. Engraved by Le Bas.
36c. Ibid., cat. no. 198. Engraved by Aubert.
36d. Ibid., cat. no. 159. Engraved by Caylus; the original has been lost. There is a striking resemblance between the weed-like plant that dominates the leftmost portion of Manet’s canvas and the device or piece of equipment, itself suggestively like a child’s fishing rod, to the right of center in the Caylus engraving. The resemblance between the half-submerged bit of fence in the middle distance of La Pêche and the similar construction in La Chasse aux oiseaux might also be remarked. (The same kind of fence appears in Rubens’ Landscape with Rainbow sited firmly on dry land.)
L’Amour paisible and Le Rendez-vous de chasse, then in the Morny Collection, were exhibited on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1860. L’Assemblée dans un parc belonged to La Caze with whose collection Manet was familiar.
The possibility that La Pêche might be closely related to Watteau as well as to Rubens was independently remarked, at the Philadelphia Manet exhibition of 1966–67, by Kermit Champa.
37. Jean Collins Harris,“The Graphic Work of Edouard Manet,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Radcliffe College, 1961, p. 242. Harris relates Les Voyageurs to Ruisdael.
38. See: Adhémar, Watteau, cat. no. 34 for a discussion of the different versions of Recrue allant joindre le régiment.
39. Ibid., cat. no. 155. Engraved by Watteau and Simonneau l’aîné. A version of this painting was exhibited on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1860.
40. Ibid., cat. no. 92. Engraved by Thomassin le fill.
41. Ibid., cat. no. 204. Engraved by C.-N. Cochin.
42. Other possible sources include Les jaloux (Ibid., cat, no. 64, engraved by G. Scotin); Le Rendez-vous (Ibid., cat. no. 85, engraved by Audran); La Game d’Amour (Ibid., cat. no. 169, engraved by J.-P. Le Bas); Le Lorgneur (Ibid., cat. no. 171, engraved by G. Scotin); Fêtes Vénitiennes (Ibid., cat. no. 197, engraved by Laurent Cars).
43. Ibid., cat. no. 211. Engraved by Baron in the 18th century, and by W. Marks in L’Artiste, XVI, 1856.
44. Also, the pose of the male dancer in Fêtes Vénitiennes is close to that of Manet’s Absinthe Drinker.
45. Cf. in particular Watteau’s Les Champs-Elysées (Ibid., cat. no. 184, engraved by N. Tardieu). This connection is suggested by Ellen Phoebe Wiese, “Source Problems in Manet’s Early Painting,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Radcliffe College, 1959, p. 154.
46. Meyer Schapiro, in his review of Sloane’s French Painting Between the Past and the Present cited earlier, calls attention to Manet’s “positive interest in the refractory, the independent, the marginal, and the artistic in life itself (the world of performers and spectacle)” (p. 164). This interest was consistent with an important facet of the generation of young painters to which Manet belonged: their belief in the value of art as an independent activity which did not require social justification. Delacroix and Baudelaire epitomized this point of view for them, and Fantin-Latour’s Homage to Delacroix is perhaps its most explicit monument. Not that Manet’s involvement with theatricality was simply an aspect of his interest in the artistic. The kind of relationship (roughly, of a particular mode of confrontation) between the beholder and the work itself which I suggest in note 27 Manet wanted to establish—and on the establishing of which his conviction in his work as paintings partly depended—may be thought of as essentially theatrical. And in note 114 I suggest that Manet’s involvement with theatricality was a function of his realism as well.
In any case, its ubiquitousness in his art is beyond question. Even Manet’s subjects from contemporary “history”—the Kearsarge and the Alabama and the Execution of Maximilian—are essentially theatrical. In both cases the events were witnessed by an audience, some of whom are depicted in the actual paintings. Maximilian himself is shown as a kind of Gilles-figure, a large sombrero on his head, companions at his side, like the boy in white in the Old Musician. Often, however, what one experiences as the theatricality of Manet’s subject matter seems to be a function of nothing more than the fact that he depicted it: as though in Manet’s art the very act of posing, or fact of being represented, was for the first time revealed as ineluctably theatrical—as inescapably, even when inadvertently, a performance.
47. One might say that for Manet the concept of sanction takes the place, or assumes the importance, that the concept of influence traditionally has. Moreover, the differences between the two concepts are rooted in what I see as the historical uniqueness of Manet’s situation. His problem was not how to overcome the power of the past to determine the present; but what to make of a past that had lost the power to do just that constructively.
48. Philippe Burty quoted these lines in his Catalogue de tableaux tirés de collections d’amateurs . . ., Paris, 1860. This was the catalogue for the exhibition on the Boulevard des Italiens in which a version of Une Mascarade was shown.
Manet’s painting of 1859–60, the Students of Salamanca, may also be relevant here: Le Sage’s Gil Blas, on which it is based, is a French classic in Spanish dress. Moreover, the incident depicted, which occurs in the prologue, has for its theme the need to pursue the meaning of what in the work itself may appear at first arbitrary or meaningless.
49. Theodore Reff, “The Symbolism of Manet’s Frontispiece Etchings,” Burlington Magazine, CIV, 1962, pp. 182–186.
50. Ibid., p. 184.
51. Ibid.
52. Ibid., p. 183.
53. Ibid., p. 185.
54. See note 13.
55. Reff, “The Symbolism of Manet’s Frontispiece Etchings,” p. 185.
56. Ibid., p. 182.
57. Ibid.
58. Ibid.
59. Fernand Desnoyers, Le Théâtre de Polichinelle, prologue en vers par F. Desnoyers pour l’ouverture du théâtre de marionnettes dans le jardin des tuileries, Paris, 1861. Reff mentions Duranty’s theater and Desnoyer’s prologue in a footnote (p. 185, note 39), to show the topicality of Manet’s reference to Pulcinella in the Deuxième essai. He does not connect the Premier essai with the théâtre de Polichinelle.
60. Edmond Duranty, Théâtre des marionnettes du jardin des Tuileries, Paris, 1862. Marcel Crouzet (Un Méconnu du Réalisme: Duranty, Paris, 1964, p. 179) says Duranty’s book was published during the last weeks of 1862. This means that Manet could not have based the cat in the Premier essai on the published book itself. Crouzet also notes that Nadar’s vignette had already been used by Jules Viard’s journal, Polichinelle à Paris; so there is no question but that Manet, who was Nadar’s friend, could have known it.
Moreover, the Polichinelle-cat connection suggests that the Deuxième essai was in fact executed first and that the Premier essai came second, the cat alone now standing for Polichinelle, and the Commedia dell’Arte generally, in a simplified and highly symbolic image.
60a. Reff, “The Symbolism of Manet’s Frontispiece Etchings,” p. 185.
61. Victor Luciennes, “Théâtre de Polichinelle aux Tuileries,” L’Artiste, XII, 1861, pp. 185-186.
62. Henri Beraldi, Les Graveurs du XIXe siècle, Vol. IX, Paris, 1885-1892, cat. no. 159. See: A Catalogue of the Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros in the Collection of Frank E. Bliss, London, 1923, plate XLVI. Jean Collins Harris (“The Graphic Work of Edouard Manet,” p. 144) sees a stylistic relation between Legros’ lithograph and Manet’s The Balloon.
63. See: Seymour O. Simches, Le Romantisme et le goût esthétique du XVIlle siècle, Paris, 1964. Also Crouzet, Duranty, who discusses the relation of the puppet theater to the Realist esthetic of its creator (pp. 149–166).
64. Fernand Desnoyers, “Du Réalisme,” L’Artiste, XVI, 1855–56, pp. 197–200.
65. Crouzet, Duranty, pp. 133–166, passim.
66. That announcement is reproduced in Gerstle Mack, Courbet, New York, 1951, plate 35.
67. Crouzet does not give a date for their first meeting. By 1862, though, Champfleury was well enough known to Manet for the painter to depict him in La Musique aux Tuileries, and Duranty was Champfleury’s protégé. (I suspect, in fact, that Duranty himself may be represented in Manet’s painting, just to the right of Baron Taylor and further back, in a light or perhaps a straw hat. Cf. the portrait drawing of Duranty by Evariste de Valernes, plate V in Crouzet’s study.) Both Duranty and Manet appear in Fantin-Latour’s Homage to Delacroix, which was begun in 1863.
68. Fernand Desnoyers (Salon des Refusés: La Peinture en 1863, Paris, 1863, pp. 40–42) claims that Legros, Fantin-Latour, Carolus-Duran, Bracquemond and other unnamed painters, stunned by Manet’s Guitarrero in the Salon of 1861, visited him to pay their respects, and later brought to his studio several critics and at least one poet. If the story is true, Desnoyers and Gautier were probably among the visitors. This may be when and how Duranty and Zacharie Astruc met Manet as well. Both Crouzet (Duranty, p. 198) and John Rewald (The History of Impressionism, New York, 1962, pp. 51–52) think that it was.
69. It is, I think, not inconceivable that Manet’s experience of the puppet theater encouraged him in the direction of the willed, intense naïveté—the deliberate, almost painful crudeness—with which La Musique was painted and which sets it somewhat apart from the rest of his ambitious pictures of the first half of the sixties. “J’ai done composer un théâtre êcrit de Marionnettes,” Duranty wrote in the Introduction to his collection of plays, “tentative sans précédents en Europe, et je livre cette tentative à la méditation et à la critique des esprits naïfs et savants.” And in the Petit Discours which ends the book he wrote (in the person of Polichinelle):
Le livre n’est nullement fait pour les enfants, je veux dire fait d’une manière spéciale. II est destiné, comme il a été dit dans l’Introduction, aux esprits très naïfs et aux esprits très savants. Les enfants appartiennent à la première catégorie, voilà pourquoi le livre conviendra parfaitement, même dans les parties qu’ils ne comprendront pas . . .
Certaines choses échapperont aux enfants, de même que certaines autres échapperont aux esprits très savants. Cela n’empêche cette collection de Comédies d’être le monument comique le plus complet qui ait été élevé aux dix-neuvième siècle, embrassant à la fois le mystère et la réalité (pp. 385–386).
The same deliberate, extreme naïveté characterizes two other works of roughly this moment, both of which can be connected with La Musique and The Balloon, viz., the etching known as the Street Singer (which Jean Collins Harris was the first to place in 1862) and the small oil painting Children in the Tuileries in the museum of the Rhode Island School of Design. Each contains figures seen from the rear, a motif that occurs only very rarely in Manet’s oeuvre. But that motif is common to representations of the marionette theater in operation, for example those by Legros already cited, and it seems likely that Manet had such representations in mind.
Two further analogies between the marionettes and Manet’s paintings of the early sixties might be mentioned. In “The Symbolism of Manet’s Frontispiece Etchings” (p. 183) Reff remarks that the Deuxième essai de frontispice contains discrepancies of scale, e.g. between the actor and the sword, and that similar discrepancies also occur in Manet’s paintings of the time. While in the Introduction quoted above Duranty includes among the sources of the special charm of the marionettes: “. . . disproportion de l’être animé avec les objets qui l’entourent; grandes choses rapetissées, petits objets suragrandis, maisons inhabitables, arbres nains, lits de Procruste, montagnes microscopiques, mais bouteilles géantes, marmites colossales, casseroles, fusils, sabres, parapluies monumentaux . . .” (p. II). I do not say that Duranty’s marionettes influenced Manet’s paintings in this respect. The significance of the analogy is rather that it helps specify what may have been a further tract of common sensibility. At the very least, it suggests that if Manet recognized discrepancies of scale in some of his pictures, as he almost certainly did—which is not to say that he explicitly intended those discrepancies in the first place—there was a point of view, associated with the concept of naïveté, from which they could be not just tolerated but welcomed. (The spatial inconsistencies in paintings by the LeNain, which Champfleury regards as characteristic and which seem to anticipate the problematic spatial relationships of pictures like the Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada, the Dèjeuner sur l’herbe and the Episode in a Bull-Fight, may have a similar significance for Manet.)
Finally, there is a sense in which Manet may perhaps be said to have identified with Polichinelie: not with his character but with his relation to the marionette theater as a whole. Roughly, the theater belonged to Polichinelle; he was not only its chief protagonist but, according to the plays themselves, its director, author and creator. In effect, he put himself in his productions—much as Courbet had put himself at the center of his Atelier, or in numerous other paintings, or as Manet put himself in La Pêche and La Musique. Unlike Courbet, Manet quickly came to remove all overt evidence of himself from within his paintings; though the relation of his pictures to the beholder, who of course was in the first place the painter himself, implies that there may be a sense in which it simply was not possible for Manet to take himself out of his pictures entirely. (Here I might mention that Legros too depicts himself in his lithograph Le Théâtre de Polichinelle des Tuileries, which further suggests that self-awareness of some more or less explicit sort was associated with Duranty’s marionettes.)
70. This was first observed by Ernest Chesneau, “Le Salon des Refusés,” L’Art et les artists modernes en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1864, p. 190, footnote. More than forty years later it was rediscovered by Gustave Pauli, “Raffael and Manet,” Monatsheften für Kunstwissenschaft, I, 1908, p. 53–55.
71. Zacharie Astruc (Le Salon, Feuilleton quotidien . . ., No.16, May 20, 1863, p. 5) was the first to connect the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, then called Le Bain, with Giorgione. Astruc was close to Manet and must have spoken from definite knowledge. See also Antonin Proust, Edouard Manet: Souvenirs, Paris, 1913, p. 43.
72. Florisoone, Manet, p. XVII.
73. Adhémar, Watteau, cat. no. 15. Engraved by Aveline. Mme. Adhémar wonders (p. 203) whether a painting designated only as Jeune fille passant un gué, which was part of an anonymous sale in Paris on February 6, 1862, was a replica of La Villageoise.
74. Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, RF 30510.
75. Theodore Reff, “The Meaning of Manet’s Olympia,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXIII, 1964, pp. 111–122.
76. Sandblad, Manet, pp. 69–107, passim.
77. It should be noted, however, that the maid bearing flowers is not unlike figures in paintings by Watteau who carry, flowers in their raised aprons in much the same way. I am thinking of figures such as that of the woman in L’Amante inquiète (Adhémar, Watteau, cat. no. 127, engraved by Aveline); of the child in L’Automne (Ibid., cat. no. 179, not engraved but in 1863 in the La Caze Collection, Paris); of the woman at the right of the Berlin L’Embarquement pour Cythère (Ibid., cat. no. 195, engraved by N.-H. Tardieu).
78. Marcel Guérin, L’Oeuvre gravé de Manet, Paris, 1944, plate 87.
79. Julius Meier-Graefe, Edouard Manet, Munich, 1912, p. 141, plate 67.
80. Maximilien Gauthier, Achille et Eugène Devéria, Paris, 1925, opposite p. 80.
81. Gauthier, Achille et Eugene Devéria. Also Stanley Meltzoff; “Nineteenth-Century Revivals,” unpublished master’s thesis, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1941. The first section of his thesis, “Revival of the Rococo,” discusses the Devéria. For Schall see: A. Girodie, Un Peintre des Fêtes Galantes: J.F. Schall, Strasbourg, 1927.
82. Antonin Proust, Edouard Manet: Souvenirs, p. 23. This is just one instance of the great richness of relevant detail in Proust’s reminiscences of Manet.
83. Charles Baudelaire, “Salon de 1845,” Oeuvres complètes, Paris, Pléiade, 1954, pp. 569–570. The translation given here comes from: Baudelaire, “Salon of 1845,” Art in Paris, 1845–62, translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne, London, 1965, pp. 11–12.
84. Baudelaire, “Le Peintre de la vie moderne,” Oeuvres complètes, p. 885. The translation comes from: Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne, London, 1964, p. 5.
85. Baudelaire, “Le Salon de 1859,” Oeuvres complètes, p. 797. “Salon of 1859,” Art in Paris, p. 180.
86. Proust in his Souvenirs writes that while he and Manet were students in Couture’s atelier, i.e. before 1856, they ate lunch “chez le rôtisseur Pavard, rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette,” often in the company of Murger, Barbey d’Aurevilly (who later praised the Kearsarge and the Alabama), Baudelaire and others (p. 22). He also gives a long account of a conversation among Manet, Baudelaire and Proust himself just after Manet learned that the Absinthe Drinker had been rejected by the jury for the Salon of 1859 (pp. 33–35).
87. Sandblad sees this grouping in different terms. He feels that the conjunction of Gautier, Taylor and Baudelaire “was not a matter of accidental choice” (Manet, p. 57). “For if Gautier was the representative of conservative criticism and Lord Taylor the habitué of the museums and a connoisseur of Spanish art, Baudelaire’s position in the circle was that of spokesman for the realism of the flâneur” (Ibid.). But Gautier was not a representative of conservative criticism, and Taylor was far more than just a connoisseur. Both were heroes of Romanticism, and Gautier was a consummate artist, to whom Baudelaire had dedicated both the 1857 and 1861 editions of the Fleurs du mal. (For these dedications see Baudelaire, oeuvres complètes, pp. 79, 1379. See also his essay “Théophile Gautier,” Oeuvres complètes, pp. 1021–1045.) For Baron Taylor see Philippe de Chennevières, “Le Baron Taylor,” Souvenirs d’un Directeur des Beaux-Arts, III, Paris, 1886, pp. 30–51, from which I quote the following:
Nul, je le répète, n’a plus été de son temps, mais comme on doit en être, c’est-à-dire qu’observateur délié de ses besoins, devinant à demi-mot ses aspirations, il servit son temps sans hésitation et d’un coeur brave et élevé dans tout ce qui pouvait lui être honnêtement profitable. II fut des premiers qui comprirent qu’au milieu des tiraillements contemporains, l’art était peut-être le plus grave des intérêts de la France. Il ne connut guère l’autre parti que celui de l’art; par là, it se montra indifférent et supérieur aux partis politiques; par là il mérita le respect et la faveur de tous les gouvernements (p. 31).
De Chennevières adds that Taylor was “le mieux armé, le premier en date et le moins hésitant de nos plus violents romantiques” (p. 32). By placing Baudelaire in conversation with Gautier and Taylor, Manet was asserting his friend’s relation to early Romanticism.
88. Jean Collins Harris (“The Graphic Work of Edouard Manet,” p. 86, note 54) connects the cat in the Olympia with the one in Legros’ etching Le Chat noir Beraldi, cat. no. 148 (reproduced in Etchings, Dry-points and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros in the Collection of Frank E. Bliss, plate XLIII). Possibly both connections were at work.
Olympia’s cat is, I think, also related to the cat in Chardin’s great still life of 1728, La Raie dèpouillée. The connection is perhaps even more explicit between Chardin’s cat and the one in Manet’s Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume of 1862.
89. The exhibition took place at Martinet’s (where Manet was to exhibit paintings throughout the first half of the sixties), 26 Boulevard des Italiens. The catalogue, cited in note 48, was by Philippe Burty. The importance of this exhibition for Manet’s development can scarcely be exaggerated.
90. Perhaps it is relevant that Champfleury thought that The Forge might be a portrait of LeNain and his parents (Les Frères LeNain, Paris, 1862, p. 45).
91. The mood of Manet’s painting is largely a function of the way in which his parents, like most of the figures in LeNain’s Repas de paysans for example, do not look at the beholder. This seems to conflict with the claims made in note 27, which discusses the role played in Manet’s art by figures who gaze directly at the beholder. But Manet had special problems with the portrait as a genre, precisely because direct confrontation of the beholder was built into it as one of its conventions; as a result, the special mode of confrontation which Manet wanted his paintings to compel tended to be undercut, neutralized. Moreover, a portrait traditionally depicted the character or personality of its subject; and this too led to the wrong kind of confrontation as far as Manet was concerned—with the subject instead of with the painting as a whole (the painting as a painting, not as a portrait). This is not to say that Manet was not interested in the personalities of his sitters, or that he saw in them simply pretexts for paintings. His problem was how to make a portrait a painting: and his resourcefulness in this effort is no less remarkable than in any other. In the Portrait of the Artist’s Parents Manet seems to have tried to counter the portrait’s traditional or conventional aspect as confrontation by having his parents direct their gazes away from the beholder; and LeNain was, I suggest, instrumental in enabling him to do this. (The picture of the early sixties which perhaps more lucidly than any other exemplifies Manet’s effort to make the portrait bear full conviction as a painting is the intensely interesting Portrait of Zacharie Astruc of 1863 in Bremen. This is the significance of that painting’s close relationship to the Olympia.)
Here as elsewhere Manet emerges as Courbet’s antithesis. Far from being problematic for Courbet, the portrait in fact helped him confront reality as something outside himself (instead of experiencing it as essentially continuous with himself, as an extension of his own body or person).
92. Léon Lagrange, “Salon de 1861,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XI, 1861, pp. 49–73, p. 52.
93. Jean Collins Harris (“The Graphic Work of Edouand Manet,” pp. 256–257) argues convincingly that the etching does not exactly reproduce the painting. Almost certainly, however, it does not depart from the painting in ways that call into question the conclusions I draw from it.
94. See note 26.
95. See Stanley Meltzoff, “The Revival of the Le Nains,” Art Bulletin, XXIV, 1942, pp. 259–286. This is one section of Meltzoff’s thesis, “Nineteenth-Century Revivals,” cited earlier. I want to express my admiration for Meltzoff’s work, which I found consistently illuminating. His article on the LeNain contains one mistake which I call attention to because it bears on the argument of the present study. Meltzoff writes: “In 1857 Thoré praised the LeNains in a discussion of the Bénédicité [the Repas de paysans], and called for a new French school to be based on Clouet, Poussin, Champaigne, and the LeNains in opposition to the petty futility of the Rococo” (p. 266). The call for a new French school based on those masters was by Champfleury (Les Frères LeNain, Paris, 1862, p. 57). The confusion evidently arose because Champfleury had just quoted Thoré’s account—of 1860, not 1857—of the Repas de paysans, which indeed Thoré admired intensely. But for Thoré the LeNain and Watteau were similar rather than opposite, as I shall try to show.
96. Champfleury, “Nouvelles recherches sur la vie et l’oeuvre des frères LeNain,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIII, 1860, pp. 173–185, 266–277, 321–332, p. 332. Reprinted in Champfleury, Les Frères LeNain, Paris, 1862, pp. 138–139.
97. For example, Sainte-Beuve discussed Champfleury’s study of the LeNain, and his realism generally, in the lundi of January 5, 1863; reprinted in Nouveaux lundis, Paris, 1865, IV.
98. I am convinced that Manet took the figure of the girl who stands facing us in La Halte du cavalier; turned her sideways on the basis of the two girls in profile in Les Moissonneurs; turned her face somewhat further away from us, until it was a Watteau-like profile perdu; and based some of the details of that profile perdu on the kneeling figure in Velasquez’s Drinkers.
Manet’s decision to depict the girl in the Old Musician in profile must be seen in connection with the problems of confrontation discussed in notes 27, 46 and 91. One might say that Manet wanted to make the painting itself turn toward and face the beholder, and that he sought this partly through the use of figures in profile, whose character and the nature of whose conjunction with other more or less frontal figures underscored the fact that one was not being offered psychological intimacy with distinct individuals. At the same time, the use of figures in profile did not fundamentally defy the frontality or facing-ness of the painting as a whole (as the use of figures seen from the rear almost certainly would have done). It is as though the frontality, the problematic spatial relationships, and finally what has been seen as the flatness of Manet’s paintings are at bottom just this facing-ness, this turning-toward.
The Nymph Surprised of 1861 seems to represent an earlier and still incomplete stage in this development (I have not seen the painting itself so these remarks are especially tentative). Despite her gaze, which is trained directly at the beholder, the fact that she is in profile, together with other facts—that there is no other figure in the final version of the painting to make the meaning of that profile equivalent to that of the girl in the Old Musician or Victorine Meurend in the Déjeuner sur l’herbe, that the background too is shown in profile as it were, that the Nymph herself seems to turn away from the beholder in an attempt to conceal her nakedness (even her crossed leg matters here)—keep the painting as a whole from turning toward or facing us, as the Old Musician or Déjeuner sur l’herbe may, I suggest, be said to do. It is almost as though the Nymph Surprised turns its side to us. (For another view of that painting see: Rosalind E. Krauss, “Manet’s Nymph Surprised,” Burlington Magazine, CIX, 1967, pp. 622–627.)
99. Among other things this will entail trying to place Manet alongside a number of the most gifted and interesting of his contemporaries, including Whistler, Fantin-Latour and Alphonse Legros, all of whom, like Manet himself, came to maturity in the mid- and late 1850s, and who together with Manet may be said to have constituted a definite artistic generation—one with its own critics, notably Zacharie Astruc, its own common imperatives, such as the demand that the artist be of his time, and finally its own climactic moment, the Salon des Refusés of 1863, after which its coherence, never very great, progressively diminished. (Between 1859 and 1863 the young Astruc may have been the best critic of new art in France, largely because he seems to have spoken for that generation.) It was above all the shared need to come to grips with, and if possible to go on from, what Courbet had done that appears in retrospect to have given that generation the brief coherence it possessed. In 1859 Astruc visited Courbet and reported: “II se plain fort doucement des malveillances dont il est l’objet, et compte sur la jeune et libre génération qui lui est toute dévouée et l’acclame avec une sorte de vénération, que lui-même n’accepte qu’en manière de sympathique coreligion” (Les 14 Stations du Salon, 1859, Paris, 1859, p. 387). When Astruc wrote these words he had not yet made the acquaintance of Manet, whose friend and champion he soon became. If he had, his description of the young generation’s attitude towards Courbet might have been slightly but significantly qualified: Proust tells us that while the young Manet admired Courbet enormously, he found his paintings too black (Souvenirs, p. 30); and in general Manet seems to have resisted from the start being drawn into Courbet’s orbit.
To my mind, probably the most important single difference between Manet and Courbet involves the concepts of tableau and morceau as they were used in much of the most important art writing of the fifties and sixties. Roughly, Courbet’s paintings tended to be seen by his admirers and his detractors alike either as agglomerations of superbly painted pieces of reality—e.g. a head, a hand, a dog, a woman’s body, a stone outcropping, a breaking wave—or as entire large morceaux in their own right. This aspect of Courbet’s art was often criticized as a failure of composition: for example by Planche, who disapproved of Courbet, and for whom the concept of composition was intimately related to the concept of a tableau, as contrasted explicitly with that of a morceau. (This is one instance of what it means to say that the concept of composition has its own history in 19th-century painting and criticism.) Champfleury countered by making a supreme virtue of the avoidance of composition, as in the work of the LeNain. But this did not, it seems, wholly satisfy the younger generation, though it does seem to have forced them to avoid the notion of composition wherever possible. Here for example is Astruc, who admired Courbet greatly:
M. Courbet n’apporte pas, dans l’ordonnance de ses oeuvres, tout le soin désirable. Il n’est point brulé de cette flamme d’art qui s’attache désespérément et sans relâche à chaque détail. Il y a du laisser-aller négligent et quelque incurie dans la conception de l’ensemble. Mais il est primesautier, et sa vaillance hardie fait oublier des paresses regrettables. A l’inverse de Delacroix, qui ne voit plus qu’un ensemble où résonne l’idée, lui se plaît au morceau spécial qui l’éloigne. Du morceau on monte à l’ensemble, au tableau: de là des erreurs et des contradictions d’accord. II ne se préoccupe pas assez à l’avance de la disposition du tableau. Son premiere jet est toujours le supérieur. (Le Salon intime, Paris, 1860, p. 65.)
Astruc’s remarks suggest that Delacroix may have been important to the younger painters for his conception of the picture in terms of its overall coherence as well as for his exemplary dedication to art. In any case, Astruc’s admiration for Courbet’s art did not prevent him from having strong reservations about it, reservations which I believe were held by Manet as well.
It is in the context of this view of Courbet, and of the aspirations for a new kind of painting that such a view implies, that Thoré’s characterization of the (best) pictures in the Salon des Refusés is to be understood:
L’art français, tel qu’on le volt dans ses oeuvres proscrites, semble commencer ou recommencer. II est baroque et sauvage, quelquefois très-juste et même profond. Les sujets ne sont plus les mêmes que dans les salles officielles: peu de mythologie ou d’histoire; la vie présente, et surtout dans les types populaires; peu de recherche et point du goût: ce qui se manifeste tel quel, beau ou laid, distingué ou vulgaire. Et une pratique toute différente des pratiques consacrées par la longue domination de l’art italien. Au lieu de chercher les contours, ce que l’Académie appelle le dessin, au lieu de s’archarner au détail, ce que les amateurs classiques appellent le fini, on aspire à rendre l’effet dans son unité frappante, sans souci de la correction des lignes ni de la minutie des accessoires. (“Salon de 1863,”Salons de W. Bürger [Thoré’s pseudonym], I, p. 414.)
The scandal of the Salon des Refusés was, of course, Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe (then called Le Bain); and Astruc’s description, in his feuilleton on the Salon des Refusés, of what seemed to him a crucial aspect of Manet’s art complements Thoré’s account in an informative way:
Une chose digne de remarque, c’est qu’à l’inverse des grands talents naturels qui nous portent d’abord à étudier leur art dans sa pratique matérielle, lui n’impose et ne montre pour ainsi dire que son accent vital. C’est l’âme qui frappe, c’est le mouvement, le jeu des physionomies qui respirent la vie, l’action; le sentiment qu’exprime leur regard, la singularité expressive de leur rôle. Il plaît ou déplaît aussitôt; il charme, attire, ou repousse vite. L’individualité est si forte qu’elle échappe au mécanisme de construction. Le rôle de la peinture s’efface pour laisser à la création toute sa valeur métaphysique et corporelle. Long-temps après, seulement, le regard découvre les formes de l’exécution, les éléments qui constituent le sens de la couleur, la valeur du relief, la vérité du modelé. (Le Salon, Feuilleton quotidien, No. 16, May 20, 1863, p. 5._)
The ability to paint wonderfully—to paint wonderful morceaux—was something which even Courbet’s detractors granted him without stint. What they refused to grant was that the final result amounted to a painting, un tableau; and it seems that Astruc, and presumably Manet, would have concurred (though of course what Courbet’s detractors meant by a tableau was not likely to have appealed to them). In this sense, Astruc saw Manet’s paintings as exactly opposite to Courbet’s: that is, he claimed that how Manet’s pictures were painted was far less important in one’s experience of them than their sheer individuality, their vitality, their immediate, instantaneous power to attract or repel. Later it might turn out that the forms were put together in special ways, that the drawing had a particular character, that half-tones were suppressed and value-contrasts intensified, that the pigment itself was manifest in a new way — but in the moment, in the grip of the work, none of these, Astruc claimed, were felt to matter or even were experienced as such. All that was experienced, for good or ill, was the total result, the painting as a whole, in its essential unity. Even the reservations of the young painter Gonzague Privat in his only known Salon support this reading of Manet’s art: “M. Manet a cherché le tableau sans se préoccuper assez de la forme et des détails.” (Place aux jeunes! Causeries critiques sur le Salon de 1865, Paris, 1865, p. 136.) (Privat’s italicizing of tableau suggests that he meant it in a technical or at least special sense, as a painter’s term and not just as a common noun.) The above helps relate Manet to his generation on the one hand and to distinguish his superiority within that generation on the other. One way of describing both that superiority and Manet’s liberating importance for the succeeding generation, that of the Impressionists, might be to say that in his great pictures of the first half of the sixties—the Déjeuner, for example, or the Olympia—he not only sought the tableau but in effect found it. At any rate, those pictures seem to have put an end to the search—for everyone but Manet, perhaps.
One might sum this up by saying that during the first half of the sixties Manet was in search of a new paradigm of what a painting was. (For a related though not identical use of the concept of a paradigm, to which I am indebted, see: Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago, 1962.) In part that search was the result of certain dissatisfactions with the art of Courbet. For Manet and Astruc, and presumably for other members of their generation as well, Courbet was a magnificent painter who had produced pictures of permanent value which nevertheless were not paintings, not tableaux in the full sense of the word. At the same time, Courbet had done more than any other artist to determine the conditions within which the tableau would be found—if indeed it was to be found. (For example, it would have to be essentially realistic.) All this is to say nothing of why Courbet’s paintings are the way they are, which will eventually have to be done if Manet’s relation to Courbet is to be understood in depth.
Those aspects of Manet’s art which I have characterized as theatrical were instrumental in his search for the tableau. I mean to discuss them at length in the future study of Manet’s realism mentioned above. By the close of the present study, I hope it is clear that Manet’s involvement with the art of the past must be understood in the context of that search as well. The question of finish, to which Thoré adverts in the passage quoted above, must alsp be seen in these terms. Manet’s problem, one might say, was not so much to know when a given picture was finished as to discover in himself the conviction that it was now a painting.
Nothing more sharply underscores the young Zola’s distance from Manet’s art than the claim: “Ce que je cherche avant tout dans un tableau, c’est un homme et non pas un tableau” (Emile Zola, Salons, edited by F. W. J. Hemmings and Robert J. Niess, Paris and Geneva, 1959, p. 61).
100. Champfleury, “Nouvelles recherches sur la vie et l’oeuvre des frères LeNain,” p. 184; Les Frères LeNain, p. 22.
101. Ibid.
102. Thoré adopted the pseudonym Willem Bürger while exiled from France during the 1850s and retained it in his writings after his return to France around 1860. As a result, many writers refer to him as Thoré-Bürger. I prefer to call him Thoré throughout and to cite his pseudonym in the references to his writings which appeared under that name.
103. Champfleury, Les Frères LeNain, pp. 54–55.
104. Ibid., p. 56.
105. Ibid., pp. 56–57.
106. See note 11. This use of theatrical, as a pejorative term roughly synonymous with rhetorical and grimacing, has its roots in the art and thought of Jacques-Louis David. The important critic M.E.J. Delécluze, who had been David’s student, relates several instances of David’s use of these terms in Louis David, son école et son temps, Paris, 1855. For example, Delécluze writes: “Cependant vers les années 1796–1800, lorsqu’il était tout préoccupé de retrouver les doctrines grecques, David jugeait ses Horaces avec une équité sévère hien remarquable. Il tranchait la difficulté relativement à la composition, en disant qu elle est théâtrale . . .” (p. 120). David’s development from the Horatii to the Sabines has generally been discussed in narrowly stylistic terms. But Delécluze’s remarks make clear that for David, as for Delécluze, style and dramaturgy were a complex unity; and that major shifts in David’s art have at least as much to do with changes in his conception of the modes of action which it is proper for painting to depict, as with changes in his conception of the kind of drawing, modeling and coloring with which they ought to be depicted.
107. Meltzoff, “Revival of the Rococo,” p. 46, note 133. Watteau’s fidelity to nature had previously been a major theme of 18th-century accounts of his life and art.
108. Thoré (1807–1869) was a staunch and lifelong republican. He began writing art criticism in the 1830s and continued until the Revolution of 1848, which naturally he welcomed. Throughout the thirties and forties he contributed political journalism to left-wing publications; in 1840 his brochure La Vérité sur le parti démocratique led to a lawsuit and finally imprisonment for about a year at Sainte-Pélagie. Thoré’s political activities both before and after the Revolution of 1848 are described briefly by Marguéry in the articles cited below. After the failed insurrection of June 1849, in which he was implicated, he was compelled to flee the country, not to return again until the amnesty of 1860. Thoré spent the 1850s in Switzerland, England and Holland. By 1857, when the Manchester Exhibition was held, he was one of the leading connoisseurs in Europe. During the late fifties and early sixties, using the pseudonym Willem Bürger, he wrote a series of catalogues of major collections in Holland and Belgium. He returned to France around 1860 and from then until his death in 1869 wrote both criticism and history (or studies in connoisseurship) under the name of Bürger. His later work is discussed at length in the present study. See also: P. Petroz, Un Critique d’art au XIXe siècle: Théophile Thoré, Paris, 1884; H. Marguéry, “Un pionnier de l’histoire de l’art, Thoré-Bürger,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XI, 1925, pp. 229–245, 295–331, 367–380; Stanley Meltzoff, “The Rediscovery of Vermeer,” Marsyas, 1942, pp. 145–166 (from which the above is largely adapted); André Blum, Vermeer and Thoré-Bürger, Geneva, 1946; Philippe Rebeyrol, “Art Historians and Art Critics: I. Théophile Thoré,” Burlington Magazine, XCIV, 1952, pp. 196–200; Pontus Arate, Deux critiques d’art de l’époque romantique, Stockholm, 1959.
109. W. Bürger [Théophile Thoré], “Exposition de tableaux de l’école française ancienne tirés de collections d’amateurs,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VII, 1860, pp. 258–277, 333–358; VIII, 1860, pp. 228–240; p. 268.
110. Ibid., p. 268.
111. Ibid., p. 266.
112. Champfleury, Les Frères LeNain, p. 14. In his “Nouvelles recherches sur la vie et l’oeuvre des frères LeNain” of 1860 Champfleury wrote: “Ce sont des acteurs qui viennent sur le devant de la toile chanter un couplet final au public, et qui appartiennent autant à la nature que le comédien devant le trou du souffleur . . .” (p. 179).
113. Ernest Chesneau, “Le Réalisme et l’esprit français dans I’art,” L’Art et les artistes modernes en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1864, pp. 3–41, pp. 14–15. Originally published in the Revue des Deux Mondes, XLVI, 1863, pp. 218–237. Chesneau’s essay was written in response to Champfleury’s work on the LeNain. While Chesneau admired the LeNain, he felt that Champfleury overvalued them; and while he argued that French painting was naturally realistic, what he meant by realism excluded Courbet and the young artists influenced by him. For a brief discussion of Chesneau’s article in the context of the traditional policy of the Revue des Deux Mondes see: Thaddeus Ernest Du Val, Jr., The Subject of Realism in the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’, 1831–1865, Philadelphia, 1936, pp. 142–144. Du Val quotes Jules Troubat (Sainte-Beuve et Champfleury, Paris, 1908, p. 216) to the effect that Chesneau was a follower of the conservative critic Gustave Planche. This is partly true; it is also true that Chesneau was strongly influenced by a view of the history of French painting that ran counter to Planche’s, and which he tried to reconcile with his native conservatism.
114. By the early 1860s aspects of LeNain’s and Watteau’s art that I have described as essentially theatrical—that the figures are grouped, that they either confront the beholder or in effect pose for him, that they participate only in the most formal or conventionalized of actions—were experienced not just as compatible with realism but as intensely, even uniquely realistic in their own right. The crucial notion, here as elsewhere, was that of naïveté: what I have been calling “theatrical” seems, for the historical moment in question, to have been seen and felt as the natural concomitant of a kind of radical fidelity to one’s sensations. The LeNain, Champfleury wrote in the first passage quoted above, “ont fui I’enseignement académique pour mieux passer sur la toile leurs sensations . . .” That is, the very conventions of their art were seen, at least by some critics and historians, as indices of verism and naturalness.
Manet was, of course, also interested in the overtly theatrical, the theatrical for its own sake. But it must be emphasized that that interest itself was more than just compatible with his commitment to realism. The two reinforced each other completely: both because Watteau had come to be seen as realistic, and because various conventions in the art of Watteau and other painters like the LeNain which can be described as theatrical, and which in Watteau’s paintings are so to speak disclosed as overtly theatrical, were themselves experienced as paradigmatically realistic, natural.
I have already suggested that Manet’s adaptation of those conventions was crucial to the securing of his work’s identity as painting. The implication is that Manet’s predilection for theatrical subject matter, his fundamentally realist aspirations, and his search for the tableau, far from being disparate or conflicting, formed a single intuitive unity of vision and aspiration.
115. Bürger [Thoré], Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre, here quoted from the third edition, Paris, 1865, p. 327.
116. Chesneau, “Le Réalisme et l’esprit français dans l’art,” pp. 5–6.
117. Another influence seems to have been Vitet’s study of Eustache Le Sueur (Ibid., p. 11).
118. Bürger [Thoré], Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre, pp. 326–327.
119. Bürger [Thoré], “Exposition de tableaux de l’école française ancienne,” pp. 257–258.
120. Ibid., p. 268.
121. Jules Antoine Castagnary, “Salon de 1866,” Salons, 2 vols., 1892, I, pp. 231–232.
122. It seems clear, however, that the development of art history in France deserves further study, both in its own right and in relation to the painting and criticism of the time. The work of Louis Dimier, who directly opposed the view of French painting that I have associated here chiefly with Thoré, would make an appropriate terminus for such a study.
123. De Chennevières, “Le Vicomte Both de Tauzia,” Souvenirs d’un Directeur des Beaux-Arts, V, 1889, p. 67.
124. Oysters, National Gallery, Washington, D.C. Jamot-Wildenstein, Manet, cat. no. 57.
125. For another view see: John W. McCoubrey, “The Revival of Chardin in French Still-Life Painting, 1850–1870,” Art Bulletin, XLVI, 1964, pp. 39–53. McCoubrey seems to doubt that Chardin’s still lifes really were important for Manet. He writes:
Chardin’s influence on Manet’s still life cannot be traced with any certainty. Only two of them seem to have been inspired directly by available Chardin still lifes: a dead rabbit (Paris, Doucet Collection) that seems related to Chardin’s Lièvre morte in the Louvre, and Brioche fleurie (Berlin, Private Collection), which may relate to a Chardin of the same subject that came to the Louvre in the La Caze Collection. Neither the small flower studies which Zola particularly admired nor the more ambitious table pieces of fish owe anything to Chardin. Among his fruit pictures are a few which resemble Chardin in their symmetrical arrangements, but in them the fruit is frequently isolated on a strongly receding table top, smaller in relation to the size of the canvas, and brushed in more quickly and loosely than in comparable subjects by Chardin (pp. 49–50).
Chardin’s influence on Manet is not the point. Besides, influence is not what one finds in the two paintings by Manet which McCoubrey cites. The flower pieces and the larger paintings of fish may not owe anything to Chardin in a narrow sense; but they seem to me inconceivable without his prior example.
In addition, there are the connections remarked in note 88 between the cat in Chardin’s La Raie dépouillée and those in Manet’s Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume and Olympia.
126. Proust, Souvenirs, pp. 43–44. Proust says the conversation took place “à la veille du jour où il peignit le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” (p. 43).
127. Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” pp. 73–74.
128. Proust, Souvenirs, p. 19.
129. Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” p. 73.
130. The relation of Manet’s La Pêche to the painting of the same title by Carracci in the Louvre has already been discussed. It is striking, however, that while Manet may have had Carracci’s painting in mind, it was to two paintings by Rubens that he chose to refer specifically.
131. Though not necessarily to Raphael. In “L’Art d’Edouard Manet” (p. 74) Proust remarks that Manet regarded Leonardo as much superior to Raphael. And in his Souvenirs (p. 36) Proust writes: “En Italie, il se montra tres épris de Titien, des Tintoret, peu séduit par les Raphael et les Michel-Ange.” Paul Jamot (“Etudes sur Manet, I,” pp. 47–48) observes that Manet sometimes borrowed from masters he did not cherish; his use of Raphael in the Déjeuner sur l’herbe seems to be a case in point.
132. See the passages already quoted from Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre. Also his remarks about Watteau in Galerie d’Arenburg à Bruxelles, Paris, 1859, p. 103: “Son maître, son initiateur,—s’il avait en d’autre maître que son propre génie,—serait Rubens. Comme practicien, il tient plus à Rubens qu’à personne . . .”
133. The Goncourts played a role in this. Their “Philosophie de Watteau” (L’Artiste, II, 1856, pp. 127129) connected Watteau and Rubens, though only casually. More important, they published in 1857 and again in 1860 the Comte de Caylus’ previously lost account of Watteau’s life, in which Watteau’s interest in Rubens is documented. (See: Adhémar, Watteau, pp. 155–156 for a brief discussion of the Goncourts’ publications; Ibid., pp. 175–183 for Caylus’ “Vie de Watteau”; and the Introduction by J.-P. Bouillon to Edmond and Jules De Goncourt, L’art du dix-huitième siècle et autres textes sur l’art, Paris, 1967, pp. 9–32 for an annotated discussion of their views on art.)
134. Bürger [Thoré], “Nouvelles tendances de I’art,” Salons de T. Thoré, 1844–48, Paris, 1868, pp. XIII–XLIV, p. XXIX. The essay was written in Brussels in 1857 (p. XLIII). In his 1860 article “Exposition de tableaux de l’école française ancienne,” Thoré wrote: “II y a quelque chose d’espagnol dans le superbe tableau intitulé La Crèche au museé du Louvre . . .” (p. 263).
135. Champfleury, “Nouvelles recherches sur la vie et l’oeuvre des frères LeNain,” p. 179; Les Frères LeNain, p. 13.
136. Champfleury, Les Freres LeNain, pp. 97–98.
137. Henri de La Borde, “De Quelques traditions de l’art français à propos du tableau de M. Ingres, Jésus au milieu des docteurs,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XIII, 1862, pp. 385–400, p.389.
138. Ibid.
139. Castagnary, “Salon de 1866,” I, pp. 232–233.
140. Ibid., p. 233.
141. Castagnary wrote in his “Salon de 1864”: “Notre peintre oubliera la peinture antérieure à lui, et les sociétés écoulées, et les interprétations auxquelles elles auront donné lieu. On ne fait pas de livre avec des livres, on ne fait pas de tableau avec des tableaux” (I, p. 188). The importance of the French landscapists of the preceding decades was partly to be understood in terms of the gradual emergence of a truly national art: “. . . par le paysage I’art devient indigène et retrouve son essentiel caractère. Il prend posession de la France, du sol, de l’air, du ciel, du paysage français” (“Salon de 1866,” I, p. 235). And in general for Castagnary, as for Thoré, naturalism and nationalism go together. But Castagnary was much less open than Thoré to art that did not exactly fit his prior conception of what naturalism entailed. For example, his responses to Manet were stereotyped, locked into an esthetic based on the Realism of the 1850s, in a way that those of the older man remarkably were not. Still, Castagnary’s criticisms throughout the sixties must have particularly dismayed Manet, since the terms in which his art was judged nugatory—Frenchness and truthfulness to reality—were in fact central to his intentions.
142. The classic discussion of eclecticism in 19th-century painting is by Baudelaire, in his “Salon de 1846,” where it is seen in terms that are at once metaphysical and political. Roughly, Baudelaire contrasts eclecticism with conviction, faith and naïveté, by which he means the spontaneous expression of one’s individuality within a more comprehensive style or manner. In previous ages, faith, or at any rate the absence of doubt, was provided by viable traditions or schools of painting. Whereas Baudelaire felt that by his own time tradition as such had lapsed, and artists were compelled to seek conviction in themselves alone. Few artists in any age would have been equal to this task; and in 1846 Baudelaire felt that only Delacroix was. I don’t want to discuss Baudelaire’s concept of eclecticism here, except to say that unlike Castagnary twenty years later, he did not contrast eclecticism with Frenchness. On the contrary, Baudelaire tended from the outset to identify French nationalism with its grosser manifestations, as in his remarks in the “Salon de 1846” on Horace Vernet, and to contrast nationalism as such with his own ideal of cosmopolitanism and universality, of being a man of the whole world, a citizen of the universe, like Constantin Guys. (One might say that for Baudelaire universality precluded, or entailed the shedding of, nationality.)
The above suggests that modern historians ought not to apply the term “eclecticism” to 19th-century artists, either by stating that a particular artist—say Couture—was eclectic, or by insisting that another artist—often Manet—was not. What is needed is careful analysis of what the concept of eclecticism meant to the 19th century itself: how it was used and understood by the leading artists and critics before the triumph of Impressionism. The picture that results will be extremely complicated. For example, Théophile Gautier, in Les Beaux-Arts en Europe, 1855 (2 vols., Paris, 1856), both associated French art with eclecticism and asserted that the modern French school was the best in the world.
143. Max Rooses, L’oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, 5 vols., Antwerp, 1886–1892, III, pp. 60–61, cat. no. 574. Rooses reproduces the engraving by Jac. Schmuzer, 1793.
144. There is, however, at least the possibility of a specific connection between the Gypsies and Watteau: the head of the female gypsy is virtually identical to that of the woman sitting on the ground in the version of Watteau’s painting L’Amour paisible which was exhibited on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1860. The distant mountain in L’Amour paisible resembles the one in the Gypsies. The motif of a guitar on a performer’s back in the Gypsies is also found in Watteau, e.g., in Moyreau’s engraving after the lost Partie quarrée (Adhémar, Watteau, cat. no. 66).
145. Charles Sterling, “Manet et Rubens,” L’Amour de l’art, XIII, 1932, p. 290. Here the question arises whether any French painting mediated between the Rubens source and Manet’s final picture. While it is impossible to be sure, I suggest that such a role may have been played by Fragonard’s Le Billet doux (Georges Wildenstein, The Paintings of Fragonard, New York, 1960, cat. no. 388), which in 1860 also hung in the exhibition of French paintings on the Boulevard des Italiens. The bouquet and the small dog have their equivalents in other paintings by Manet as well. Moreover, Fragonard’s Le Chant (Wildenstein, Fragonard, cat. no. 244), which was also in that exhibition, may bear relation to Manet’s painting The Reader of 1861. At the very least, Manet must have been struck by the extraordinary persistence in French painting of certain conventions—roughly, of direct but restrained, relatively undramatic confrontation of the beholder — which Chesneau’s essay of 1863 suggests was then one of the most salient facts about the French painting of the past, but which subsequent histories have tended not to discuss.
146. This is registered by the critics. For example, Thoré describes Manet’s painting as “une demoiselle de Paris en costume d’Espada, agitant son manteau pourpre dans le cirque d’un combat de taureaux,” and as “la jeune Parisienne deguisee en Espada” (Bürger [Thoré], “Salon de 1863,” Salons de W. Bürger, 2 vols., Paris, 1870, I, p. 424).
There is at least a family resemblance between Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada and specific figures in paintings by Watteau which Manet knew, e.g. the same woman in Une Mascarade that I have connected with Manet’s Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume.
147. Thoré (Ibid.) connected Manet’s painting with Goya at the time. Jean Collins Harris relates the group of men standing near the wall with the similar group in Tauromaquia No. 19; and the bull and picador with the virtually identical motif in Tauromaquia No. 5. In addition, the man climbing over the wall in Manet’s painting was clearly taken from Tauromaquia No. 30. Moreover, the upper portion of Victorine’s body, in particular the pose of the head and right arm, may have been based on Velasquez’s equestrian portrait of Don Gaspar de Guzman, Conde de Olivares, with which Manet would have been familiar through Goya’s etching.
148. Rooses, L’oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, Ill, p. 18, Cat. No. 522.
149. Emile Galichon, review of W. Bürger [Thoré], Galerie Suermondt, à Aix-la-Chapelle, [Paris, 18601, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIII, 1860, pp. 186-190. The small illustration is on p. 186. Galichon refers to Rubens’ painting as “une Fortune ou une Venus, étude vive et charmante faite pour une figure de grandeur naturelle.” Thoré himself describes the painting as probably having been made for some Triumph of Venus (Galerie Suermondt, p. 124). Zacharie Astruc, who by 1862 was close to Manet, described the Mlle. V. in the Costume of an Espada as depicting “une femme victorieuse dans une cirque” (Le Salon, Feuilleton quotidien, No. 16, May 20, 1863, p. 5). Is it possible that Manet not only used Rubens’ painting as one of the sources for his own picture, but was deliberately playing on Victorine Meurend’s name (or initial) as well? At any rate, his painting represents the triumph of Victorine, his (future) Venus.
150. Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” p. 74.
151. But Manet seems never to have come to admire the Italian painters brought to France by Francis I. In his Souvenirs Proust quotes Manet as admiring the portraits of Velasquez, Goya, Hals, “et chez nous les Largillière, les Nattier . . . C’étaient des bonshommes, ces mâtins-là. Trop d’arrangement, mais ne perdaient pas de vue la nature. Et les Clouet! Quand on pense qu’on a préféré à Clouet le Rosso et le Primatice!” (p. 79). Manet’s remarks seem to have been made around 1876, if Proust’s recollection is accurate.
152. Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” p. 74. One wonders how much Proust knew. Is it possible that he was privy to Manet’s intentions as regards Frenchness but felt constrained (by Manet himself?) to no more than hint at them?
152a. My account of the significance of Manet’s references to Italian art in the Déjeuner and the Olympia does not explain why it was at this particular moment that (if I am right) he arrived at a canon of authentically French painting that included the Italianate French masters.
153. Thoré’s belief in the exemplary character of 17th-century Dutch painting, which he saw as national, realistic and humanitarian in impulse, was complemented by his view of the Italian painting of the Renaissance as essentially Catholic, symbolic and politically reactionary. These views recur continually in his later writings. In the Conclusion to his study of the museums of Amsterdam and the Hague, Thoré said of Dutch painting:
Ah! ce n’est plus l’art mystique, enveloppant de vieilles superstitions, l’art mythologique, ressuscitant de vieux symboles, l’art princier, aristocratique, exceptionnel par conséquent, et consacré uniquement à la glorification des dominateurs de l’espèce humaine. Ce n’est plus l’art des papes et des rois, des dieux et des héros. Raphaël avait travaillé pour Jules II et Léon X; Tiziano, pour Charles-Quint et Francois Ier; Rubens encore travaillait pour I’archiduc Albert et les rois Espagne, pour les Médicis de France et Charles Ier d’Angleterre. Mais Rembrandt et les Hollandais n’ont travaillé que pour la Hollande et l’humanité. (Bürger [Thoré], Musées de la Hollande, Amsterdam et La Haye_, Paris, 1858, pp. 323–324.)
For an explicit comparison between Raphael and Rembrandt see Bürger [Thoré], Musées de la Hollande Musée van der Hoop à Amsterdam, Paris, 1860, p. X. See also the passages from his Salons of the 1860s cited in the last section of this study.
154. Michel Florisoone, “Manet inspiré de Venise,” L’Amour de l’art, XIX, 1937, pp. 26–27. Tintoretto’s painting is in the Louvre, Veronese’s in the Hermitage, but Manet could easily have known it through various engravings such as the one by Gaspard Duchange. The Veronese connection seems the more important of the two. It is interesting to note that in the 18th century Veronese’s painting was in the Crozat Collection, Paris, along with the Rubens Bacchus which I have claimed Manet used in the Gypsies. Now Caylus’ life of Watteau, which the Goncourts published in 1857 and 1860, contains the information that for a time Watteau actually lived at Crozat’s and while there studied the paintings in his collection (Adhémar, Watteau, p. 180). Is it possible that knowing this Manet deliberately turned to the engravings of the Recueil Crozat in search of sources for his own paintings, in order further to secure both the relation of his own work to that of Watteau and its connectedness through the medium of Frenchness with the art of foreign schools? Another painting in the Crozat Collection, Veronese’s Finding of Moses, which Manet could have known through an engraving by E. Jeaurat, perhaps lies behind his attempts to paint such a subject in 1861. At any rate, there is a striking similarity between Jeaurat’s engraving and the painting by Manet in the Oslo National Gallery which has been called both Finding of Moses and Nymph Surprised.
155. Gustave Planche, “Géricault,” Portraits d’artistes, Paris, 1853, pp. 311–357, pp. 352–353. Originally published in the Revue des Deux Mondes, X, 1851, pp. 502–531.
156. Ibid.; p. 320.
157. Ibid., p. 325.
158. Ibid., p. 339.
159. Ibid., p. 354. Planche goes on to say that while Géricault’s concentration on reality was understandable and even salutary as a reaction against David’s emphasis on the antique, it imposed limits on his achievement; that despite his prodigious talent he was not a complete painter, an artist to be ranked alongside Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo. Planche adds that this would not be worth saying if the French public had not been told over and over that Géricault had revived French painting and was a master beyond reproach (Ibid., pp. 354–356).
160. Georges Riat, Gustave Courbet, Paris, 1906, p. 58.
161. Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Du Principe de l’art et de sa destination sociale, Paris, 1865, pp. 133–134.
162. George Heard Hamilton, Manet and His Critics, New Haven, 1954, p. 55: “Here he challenged not only the established academic standards for such subjects but set out to test, as it were, the values of his own esthetic against that of the realist group led by Courbet, for that master had indicated his impatience with all religious painting by declaring that he could not paint an angel because he had never seen one.” Proust in his Souvenirs adverts to Courbet’s having said “«qu’il n’avait jamais vu des hommes avec des ailes»” (p. 34).
163. By the early 1860s Géricault had come to seem an alternative source for realist aspirations. In 1863 Chesneau wrote: “Géricault étant mort trop jeune pour légitimer et assurer la durée du principe auquel il obéissait, le XIXe siècle attend encore son interprète et son école d’interprétation” (“Le Rèalisme et l’esprit français dans l’art,” L’Art et les artistes modernes en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1864, pp. 39–40). Later on in that book he added: “L’homme qui a fait le plus de tort à l’avenir du réalisme français est celui-là même qui en a usurpé le drapeau, c’est M. Courbet” (p. 271).
A parallel view is found in the Goncourts’ novel Manette Salomon, which ostensibly is set in the 1840s and 1850s but which largely reflects the issues and debates of the first half of the 1860s (it was written between December 1864 and August 1866). It is no exaggeration to say that the novel is haunted by the figure of Géricault and the ideal of realism and modernity which he is seen to have embodied. A negative estimate of Courbet’s art is implicit in the book as a whole. Coriolis, the protagonist, was modeled partly on Manet (Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” p. 75).
I am not suggesting that Manet’s circumventing of Courbet in the Dead Christ with Angels relied on these or related developments. At most, it paralleled them.
164. De Chennevières, “Le Comte Clément de Ris,” Souvenirs d’un Directeur des Beaux-Arts, I, 1883, p. 40:
“«Mon cher ami, mon ignorance de votre adresse et aussi une maladie de volonté qui me fait toujours renvoyer mes devoirs indéfiniment, m’ont empêché de vous remercier de vos charmants petits contes. Ne m’en veuillez pas, et croyez que je ne Buis jamais insensible à un bon souvenir.—Voici l’Exposition. Je désire vous recommander vivement deux de mes amis, dont l’un a déjà eu à se louer de votre bienveillance:
_M. Manet et M. Fantin. M. Manet envoie un Episode d’une course de taureaux et un Christ ressuscitant assisté par les anges.—M. Fantin envoie un Hommage à feu Eugène Delacroix et Tannhauser au Venusberg. Vous verrez quelles merveilleuses facultés se rèvèlent dans ces tableaux, et, dans quelque catégorie qu’ils soient jetés, faites votre possible pour les trouver de bonnes places.—Votre ami Bien reconnaissant,—CHARLES BAUDELAIRE. »”
To my knowledge, this letter has never been cited in connection with Manet.
164a. Note, however, the analogy between the wooden block and the large stone, both of which have writing carved into them, in the Marat and the Dead Christ respectively.
165. The battle occurred on June 19th. Manet’s painting was exhibited in Cadart’s window within a month.
166. A possible source for the right-hand portion of Manet’s painting, with the horses coming right at the beholder, is Janet-Lange’s Néron disputant le prix de la course aux chars, a lithograph illustration of which by Hue may be found in L’Artiste, XVI, 1855. A short description of the picture on p. 140 reads: “Ce tableau a été fort remarqué au Salon de 1855. L’effet en est saisissant.” For a wholly convincing reconstruction of the Race Course at Longchamps of 1864 see Jean Collins Harris, “Manet’s Racetrack Paintings,” Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, pp. 77–82.
167. I am not claiming that the Dead Torero is not almost exactly based on the Orlando Muerto; obviously it is. I am suggesting that Manet’s decision to use the Orlando Muerto in the first place may have been motivated by the desire to make his own independent equivalent to Géricault’s figure. Manet would not have been alone in his involvement with it: perhaps more than any single image, Géricault’s youthful corpse haunted the great French painters of the 19th century. One thinks of Delacroix (e.g. the bodies in the Massacre at Scio and Liberty Leading the People), of Géricault’s chief heritor Daumier (e.g. the lithograph Rue Transnonain), of Courbet who admired Géricault more than any modern master (e.g. his early Bacchante among other pictures). It is, I think, relevant that Manet based the dead soldier in his Guerre civile lithograph of 1871 on the Dead Torero, as if to make explicit the latent political or at any rate national connotations of the earlier painting, connotations which then were perhaps wholly a function of its relation to Géricault. (Géricault’s significance in this regard is discussed at length in section XIII.) Moreover, the Guerre civile seems to bear some sort of explicit relation to Daumier’s Rue Transnonain of 1834; and since the latter clearly depends on the figure of the dead man in the Raft of the Medusa, the inference is strong that in his lithograph of 1871 Manet fully intended to align himself with Géricault and Daumier, and that by basing the lithograph on his own Dead Torero he characteristically acknowledged that painting’s involvement with them as well.
168. Alain De Leiris, “Manet’s Christ Scourged and the Problem of his Religious Paintings,” Art Bulletin, XLI, 1959, pp. 198–201. (In fact, Thoré spotted Manet’s use of Van Dyck when the Christ Scourged was exhibited in the Salon of 1865.) De Leiris writes: “In the years 1864 and 1865 Manet seems to turn away from Italian Renaissance sources, apparent in the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia, to the starker naturalism of the Spanish masters, and to come to share and indulge in his contemporaries’ taste for Spanish subject matter. In this shift the Venetians are not forgotten, but a new vigor and starkness come to Manet’s style along with an objectivity in the interpretation of subject matter for which Manet found precedents in Spanish art and . . . in northern Baroque art as well” (p. 199). But as we have seen, Manet; use of Spanish art began much earlier; and his problem was not how to forego Italian sources but whether he was able to use them at all. Anne Coffin Hanson (Edouard Manet: 1832–1883, Philadelphia, 1966, p. 91) suggests that the Christ Scourged’s sources may include paintings by Terbrugghen and Velasquez.
169. An engraving by Flamand of the Nativity of the Virgin accompanied Champfleury’s third and last article on the LeNain (Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIII, 1860, opp. p. 331).
A similar motif is found in the Louvre’s La Crèche, and it is possible that Manet had that painting in mind as well.
170. Proust, Souvenirs, p. 48.
171. Bürger [Thoré], “Van Der Meer de Delft,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XXI, 1866, pp. 297–330; 458–470; 542–575. The basic conception of the Munich Déjeuner—a domestic interior—as well as its lighting, mood, accessories, and something of its mise en scène, seem to me clearly related to pictures by Vermeer such as those reproduced in Thoré’s articles. Note also the similarity between the engraved monogram (an “E’’ and an “M” superimposed?) on the coffeepot which the maid holds in the Déjeuner and the various examples of Vermeer’s monogram which Thoré reproduces. For discussions of Thoré’s work on Vermeer see: Stanley Meltzoff, “The Rediscovery of Vermeer,” Marsyas, 1942, pp. 145–166; and André Blum, Vermeer and Thoré-Bürger, Geneva, 1946.
172. Cf. the helmets and swords in the left foregrounds of the Hector and Andromache and the Munich Déjeuner. Manet borrowed those pieces from a friend (A. Tabarant, Manet et ses oeuvres, Paris, 1947, p. 153), perhaps expressly for this picture; at any rate, he does not use them in any other picture. The similarities between the ways in which Manet’s painting on the one hand and David’s and Guérin’s paintings on the other are put together are striking; of course, this may be the result of coincidence rather than of conscious emulation. If Manet was in fact thinking of David and Guérin, the question arises what the Munich Dèjeuner’s relation is to the theme of domestic tragedy in the Andromache Mourning Hector and the Return of Marcus Sextus. Florisoone, incidentally, feels that the portrait of the young Leon Koëlla in the Déjeuner is close to David in handling and inspiration (Florisoone, Manet, p. XVIII). (Leon Koëlla, almost certainly Manet’s son, was born in 1852, more than ten years before Manet was able to marry the boy’s mother, Suzanne Leenhoff.)
No connection between David and Guérin on the one hand and Vermeer and Dutch painting generally on the other can be found in Thoré or any other writer. If Manet actually intended such a connection, it was based on nothing more than his intuition of analogous qualities in the paintings themselves. “Les grands maîtres se ressemblent souvent dans les créations très-différentes,” Thoré wrote in 1857 (Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre, p. 78). After the Déjeuner sur l’herbe and the Olympia, and more emphatically after his trip to Spain in the summer of 1865, such resemblances, whether or not anyone else had ever noted them, came to play an increasingly important role in Manet’s art.
173. Proust, Souvenirs, p. 95.
174. Proust, “L’Art d’Edouard Manet,” p. 72.
175. Bazin, “Manet et la Tradition,” p. 157.
176. Sterling, “Manet et Rubens,” p. 290.
177. In fact, the Street Singer, the Lola de Valence, and the Portrait of Mme. Brunet, all of 1862, seem related to a single source: Velasquez’s Portrait of the Infant Don Ferdinand of Austria, which Manet would have known through Goya’s engraving. The relation to the pose of the figure in Velasquez’s painting is clearest in the case of the Lola de Valence, which suggests that that picture preceded the Street Singer and the Portrait of Mme. Brunet.
178. Or at least Rembrandt’s infinitely greater relevance to the needs of the 19th century (see Thoré’s Introduction to Musée Van der Hoop à Amsterdam cited above).
179. Ibid. Also his Musèes d’Amsterdam et de la Haye, pp. 323–325; and “Nouvelles tendances de I’art,” pp. XXX–XXXIV. (These are just a few of the numerous references one might cite.)
180. Thoré seems to have connected Chardin more than any other French painter with Dutch art (see “Exposition de tableaux de I’école française ancienne,” pp. 333–334). During the first half of the sixties this seems at most to have helped Manet take advantage of his experience of Dutch still lifes and flower pieces. For example, in 1864 Manet painted a number of pictures in those genres which I have claimed relate generally to Chardin but which almost certainly reflect the experience of Dutch prototypes seen by him in Holland in late 1863 as. well.
181. See also the illustration of Frans Hals’ Portrait of Willem van Heythuijsen accompanying the first of two articles by Thoré on the Dutch painter (Bürger [Thoré], “Frans Hals,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XXIV, 1868, pp. 219–232, 431–448). The illustration is opposite p. 228.
182. Roughly, Sandblad sees the Japanese prints as instrumental in promoting what he regards as having been Manet’s concern with artistic form for its own sake around the time of the Olympia. He argues that the detachment implicit in Manet’s “flâneur realism,” the concept Sandblad uses to describe Manet’s esthetic in La Musique aux Tuileries, enabled the painter to move quickly to a preoccupation with almost purely formal concerns. It is clear, I hope, that I see both La Musique and Olympia in radically different terms.
183. Ernest Chesneau, “Le Japon à Paris,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XVIII, 1878, pp. 385–397, 841–856, p. 387.
184. Ernest Chesneau, “L’Art Japonais,” Les Nations rivales dans l’art, Paris, 1868, p. 424. Chesneau also remarks of Japanese depictions of women: “Le type en ces images a beaucoup de celui de notre classique Pierrot” (p. 424). Sandblad (Manet, pp. 74–77) emphasizes the importance of Chesneau’s articles on Japanese art.
185. Thomas Couture, Méthode et entretiens d’atelier, Paris,1867, pp. 361–362.
186. Ibid., p. 312.
187. Ibid., p. 380.
188. De Chennevières, “Le Louvre en 1848,” Souvenirs d’un Directeur des Beaux-Arts, III, Paris, 1886, p. 57.
189. See: Eleanor Patterson Spencer, “The Academic Point of View in the Second Empire,” Courbet and the Naturalistic Movement, edited by George Boas, Baltimore, 1938; also J. Howe, “Thomas Couture,” unpublished masters thesis, University of Chicago, 1952, pp. 53–54.
190. Couture, Méthode et entretiens, pp. 68–76.
191. These admirations recur throughout Thoré’s Salons of the 1840s. His “Salon de 1845” is dedicated to Béranger. The dedication begins: “Votre nom, monsieur, représent mieux qu’aucun autre le sens direct de notre tradition nationale dans les lettres et dans les arts” (Salons de T. Thoré, Paris, 1868, p. 99). And it ends: “Vous êtes, comme I’a dit Pierre Leroux, le fits de cette grande génération de la fin du dix huitième siècle, qui fit la Révolution. Vous êtes peuple et philosophe, comme Diderot et Voltaire, et, comme eux, vous avez mis votre poésie au service de l’Humanité” (p. 108). The dedication of his “Salon de 1846” to George Sand begins: “Comme Béranger, vous êtes de votre temps et de votre pays; vous êtes à la fois de France de dix-neuvième siècle et de l’Humanité éternelle” (p. 203). There are various admiring references to Michelet as well.
In the present study I do not discuss the relation of Thoré’s earlier criticism to his later writings on art, or his intellectual development generally. Both deserve serious examination, as does the relation of his thought, both early and late, to that of Michelet, Quinet, Leroux, Sand, Proudhon, Taine and others.
192. For more on these sympathies see: Thomas Couture, Thomas Couture (1815–79), sa vie, son oeuvre, son caractère, ses idées, sa méthode, par lui-même et par son petit-fils, Preface by Camille Mauclair, Paris, 1932. In a letter of April 1848, Michelet addressed Couture as “illustre ami” (p. 27). And in his Preface, Camille Mauclair writes: “Dans le cas de Couture, il nous apparait bien que ses intentions philosophiques étaient un peu «quarante-huitardes»: celles d’un brave homme vivant dans l’atmosphère des libéraux, des idéologues, depuis le grandiose Michelet jusqu’au populaire Béranger” (unnumbered pages).
193. See: Jean Seznec, “The Romans of the Decadence and their Historical Significance,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XXIV, 1943, pp. 221–232; and Francine Lifton Klagsbrun, “Thomas Couture and the Romans of the Decadence,” unpublished masters thesis, New York University, 1958.
194. Seznec, Ibid., p. 228.
195. Géricault too seems to have been an important source of inspiration. The physical character and even the actions of some of Couture’s figures imitate the physique and actions of figures in the Raft of the Medusa (and perhaps in other paintings by Géricault as well). Couture also seems to have based individual figures in the Voluntary Enlistments on ones in the Tennis Court Oath. The Romans of the Decadence, too, is involved far more closely with the Raft of the Medusa than may at first appear. Figure after figure can be seen to have its equivalent in Géricault’s painting as well as in David’s.
196. For Couture’s account of Persigny’s visit to his atelier and the revoking of the commission see Thomas Couture, sa vie, son oeuvre, son caractère, pp. 45–46.
197. Proust, Souvenirs, p. 27.
198. Couture, Méthode et entretiens, p. 279.
199. See Thomas Couture, sa vie, son oeuvre, son caractère, p. 46, where it is claimed that Couture’s refusal (if that is what it was) to paint in the head of Louis Napoleon in the Baptism of the Imperial Prince was aimed at extorting permission to finish the Voluntary Enlistments.
200. The correspondence between Michelet’s thought and the program of the Romans of the Decadence concerns far more than the view that contemporary society was corrupt and that the ideals of the French Revolution had been abandoned. For example, Couture’s picture was based on two verses from Juvenal: “We are suffering today from the fatal results of a long peace; more damaging than arms, luxury has rushed upon us, and avenges the enslaved universe” (Seznec, “The Romans of the Decadence and their Historical Significance,” pp. 222–223). While in Michelet’s book Le Peuple of 1846 (here quoted in the edition published by the Société des Textes Français Modernes, Paris, 1946) the thirty years of peace since Waterloo are seen as having worked to France’s ruin (pp. 27–28, note 1); and it is implicit in the book as a whole that the resurrection of the ideals of the French Revolution almost certainly would mean war with England and other hostile powers.
Furthermore, Rome in its decadence was finally overwhelmed by the invasions of the barbarians. And in January 1846, Michelet wrote:
Souvent aujourd’hui l’on compare l’ascension du peuple, son progrès, à l’invasion des Barbares. Le mot me plaît, je l’accepte . . . Barbares! Oui, c’est-à-dire pleins d’une sève nouvelle, vivante et rajeunissante. Barbares, c’est-à-dire voyageurs en marche vers la Rome de l’avenir, allant lentement, sans doute, chaque génération avançant un peu, faisant halte dans la mort, mais d’autres n’en continuent pas moins (“A M. Edgar Quinet,” Le Peuple, p. 24).
It was in November of 1844 that Michelet began to deliver the lectures that led to the writing of Le Peuple.
It should be noted, moreover, that Michelet refers to Couture in Le Peuple, though not by name, as “l’un des plus grands peintres de l’époque” (p. 155; see also p. 303).
201. Only the first three lessons were actually professed at the Collège de France. At that point the course was suspended by the government of Louis-Philippe. But Michelet went on to publish seven more lessons, one per week, up until the Revolution of 1848 broke out. The entire course was published with several related pieces as L’Etudiant, cours de 1847–48, Paris, 1877. The reference here is to the seventh lesson, that of January 27, 1848, called “La Légende de la Révolution.”
202. L’Etudiant, p. 289.
203. Ibid., p. 168.
204. Le Peuple, p. 29.
205. In Le Peuple Michelet wrote that while Thierry saw history as narration and Guizot as analysis, “je l’ai nommée résurrection, et ce nom lui restera” (p. 25).
206. L’Etudiant, p. 301.
207. Ibid., p. 300.
208. Le Peuple, p. 257.
209. Ibid.
210. Ibid., p. 258.
211. Ibid., pp. 259-260.
212. Ibid., pp. 233–234, note 2.
213. L’Etudiant, pp. 119–139.
214. Ibid., p. 129.
215. Ibid., p. 130.
216. Ibid., p. 131.
217. Ibid., pp. 132-133.
218. Ibid., p. 137.
219. Ernest Chesneau, Les Chefs d’école, Paris, 1862, pp. 393–398.
220. Salons de T. Thoré, 1844–48, Paris, 1868, pp. V–XI, pp. X–XI.
221. “Des Tendances de I’art au XIXe siècle,” Introduction to Maurice Chaumelin, L’Art contemporain, Paris, 1873, pp. VII–XV. (Originally published in the Revue universelle des arts, I, 1855, pp. 77–85.)
222. “Nouvelles tendances de l’art,” Ibid., pp. XIII–XLIV.
223. “Nouvelles tendances de l’art,” pp. XIV–XV.
224. “Des Tendances de I’art au XIXe siècle,” p. XIV.
225. Ibid., p. XV.
226. This is obviously a complex question and may not have been clear even to Thoré. At times he seems to believe that the different races and nationalities will eventually coalesce into one race, one people (“Nouvelles tendances de l’art,” pp. XVII–XVIII). But the category of nationality was basic to his thinking; and he certainly does not seem to feel that what he meant by nationality was in basic conflict with what he meant by universality in his own time.
227. Bürger [Thoré], Les Trésors d’art en Angleterre, p. VIII.
228. Once again Manet’s art is fruitfully seen in the context of his generation. In note 99 I discuss the importance of the concept of the tableau (as contrasted with that of the morceau) as it appears in the criticism of Zacharie Astruc. Another theme in Astruc’s writing connects with Manet’s art during the first half of the sixties: his insistence that ambitious painting can no longer circumscribe itself by the traditional genres. Here for example is Astruc in 1860:
J’estime, tout d’abord, que Ion n’est point un peintre, même avec un talent solide de paysagiste . . . La peinture ne se fragmente point—elle est une. Elle voit tout, elle analyse tout; elle est l’expression de l’ensemble coloré qui résume le monde: allant à l’homme, à la maison qu’il habite, aux objets qui l’entourent—à la passion qui le fait agir. Les spécialités n’aboutissent qu’à rapetisser l’art. Je suis fâché de cette tendance nouvelle qui porte tant d’esprits à se refugier dans une voie rendue facile, et même lucrative, désertant les bonnes bases de l’enseignement qui devait leur assurer une autorité incontestable. De là, étroitesse de vues, infériorité d’ordonnance, et sans nul doute, à la longue, négation de force. Ce n’est point avec de tels principes qu’une école importance se forme et qu’un grand exemple est donné, non seulement à l’avenir, mais aux contemporains . . . Les catégories doivent disparaître, pour faire place au résumé. Il est nécessaire que le paysagiste s’efface devant le peintre. Alors seulement la nature sera en progrès (Le Salon intime, Paris, 1860, pp. 100–101).
From the perspective of Impressionism it may seem that landscape painting was artistically progressive throughout the 19th century; and in the sense that previous developments in landscape (e.g. the Barbizon School) contributed to Impressionism, this is not simply mistaken. But it overlooks the historical truth that for Manet and his generation, at any rate in the late fifties and early sixties, landscape as such not only did not seem rich with promise: it actually appears to have been antithetical to their collective intuition as to what the comprehensive, authoritative and exemplary painting of the immediate future would consist in. And, of course, as things turned out, they were not wrong. Near the beginning of this study I remarked that Manet’s most ambitious paintings of the first half of the sixties were large arrangements of two or more figures. Now I want to suggest that those pictures may perhaps be thought of as constituting a new genre of painting which in effect sought to comprehend, and thereby to supersede, all the others. The Dejeuner sur l’herbe represents a kind of culmination of this development, being at once landscape, portrait and still life—to say nothing of the implications of its use of previous art. In other words, Manet’s relation during these years to the traditional genres seems to have been analogous to his relation to the different national schools: his explicit aspiration was to bring them together in a natural and objective unity, the unity that I have called painting altogether.
229. Bürger [Thoré], “Exposition de tableaux de l’école française,” p. 259.
230. Michelet, Le Peuple, pp. 233–234. By concentrating on Michelet I do not mean to imply that other thinkers—his intimate friend Quinet, for example—were not also instrumental in formulating the vision of France that I adumbrate in these pages. I regard Michelet as the most important single figure in that development; and for reasons of conciseness have chosen to discuss his work in isolation from theirs.
231. Ibid., p. 236.
232. Ibid., p. 247.
233. Ibid.
234. Ibid., p. 6.
235. Ibid., p. 267.
236. Ibid., p. 239.
237. Ibid., p. 268.
238. Ibid., p. 243, note 2.
239. Ibid., p. 229.
240. Ibid., p. 271.
241. For Manet’s political sympathies see: Sandblad, Manet, pp. 148–158; Harris, “The Graphic Work of Edouard Manet,” pp. 173–179, in particular p. 174, note 5; Proust, Souvenirs, pp. 57–58. In 1849 the young Manet wrote his father from Rio de Janeiro (where he had gone on a training voyage in an unsuccessful attempt to enter the merchant marine): “Tâchez de nous garder, pour notre retour, une bonne République; car je crains que Louis-Napoléon ne soit pas très républicain“ (quoted by Cailler and Courthion, Manet raconté par lui-même et par ses amis, p. 42).
242. Ernest Chesneau, “Le Salon des Refusés,” L’Art et les artistes modernes en France et en Angleterre, Paris, 1864, p. 190, note 1.
243. Ibid., “Les Sujets modernes,” p. 279: “. . . que deviendriez-vous, jeune monsieur Manet, qui corrigez Raphaël par Courbet?”
244. Bürger [Thoré], Salons de W. Bürger, 2 vols., Paris, 1870, I., p. 425.
245. Ibid., II, pp. 98–99.
246. Ibid., p. 99.
247. Ibid., p. 100.
248. For the text of Baudelaire’s letter see Etienne Moreau-Nélaton, Manet raconté par lui-même, 2 vols., Paris, 1926, I, p. 59.
249. Salons de W. Bürger, II, p. 137.
250. Ibid., pp. 137–138.
251. Ibid., p. 138.
252. Ibid., p. 191.
253. Ibid., pp. 192-193.
254. Ibid., p. 193.
255. Ibid., p. 239.
256. Ibid., pp. 279–280.
257. Ibid., p. 318.
258. This study was written between February 1968 and January 1969. Most of the research for it was done between June 1967 and January 1968, chiefly in London and Paris. My active interest in Manet, and more generally in French painting since David, goes back earlier than that: and I want first of all to thank Professor Wassily Leontief and the Harvard Society of Fellows for their generous support and moral encouragement during the period 1964–68. My debt of gratitude to the Department of Fine Arts of Harvard University, in which I enrolled as a graduate student in September 1962 and in which I am now an Assistant Professor, is at least as great. Professors James Ackerman, Frederick Deknatel and Sidney Freedberg in particular have shown me kindnesses, and given me instruction, for which I shall always be thankful. Professor Deknatel’s reading of an earlier draft of this study led to several changes which I am glad to have made.
I am more than grateful to my wife, the former Ruth Leys, both for various textual suggestions which I have used and for the time and effort which she has spent gathering illustrations. The present study was also read in manuscript by Stanley Cavell, to whom I am indebted for numerous suggestions which I have incorporated without specific acknowledgment in the final text. It goes without saying that I alone am responsible for whatever errors of fact or judgment that text contains.
The staffs of the libraries of the Fogg Art Museum, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as of the Bibliothèque National and the Cabinet des Dessins of the Musée du Louvre, gave me invaluable help in my researches. The idea of publishing Manet’s Sources in Artforum was Philip Leider’s; without his constant support it would not have been possible. He, too, has made suggestions which I have used. I want to thank Tanya Neufeld and Gladys Leider for their respective editorial labors in connection with this issue, and Marie-Hélène Gold for her work on the translations from the French.
Friends besides those mentioned here have backed me in my work on Manet; they know they have my gratitude. Finally, I want to close by mentioning my parents, to whom I owe my first acquaintance with the art of Manet.
Translations From The Text
5. It is sincerity which gives to works of art a character which makes them appear an act of protest, when in fact the painter has only thought of rendering his own impressions.
7. Manet does not deliberately take a subject from a master of the past, but asks of such a master the plastic rendering of his inspiration which itself was stimulated by a natural fact (the bathers at Gennevilliers, a dancer stretched out on the ground, a woman in bed . . .)
48. Their costumes are Italian/Their airs are French, and I warrant/That in these true comedians/Lies a pleasing deception . . .
61. But something is missing: a cat, I haven’t seen the cat. Remember, when we were children and our mothers led us by the hand, remember that handsome cat, the inseparable companion of Polichinelle? He recalled the chorus in Sophocles and Euripides. The cat, mon Dieu! It is tradition, it is the poetry of our childhood . . .
78. A wash drawing in India ink by Manet which was a first idea for the Olympia.
82. He led us straight to the Pilgrims of Emmaus by Rembrandt and to the Cavaliers by Velasquez. and then had us make a long station in front of the drawings of the masters, above all those of Watteau and Chardin.
There we found (Eugène) Devéria, the painter of the Birth of Henry IV, whom he [Raffet] had arranged to meet. Devéria led us to the Veroneses and gave us an enthusiastic speech in praise of the Italians.
“The young men,” Raffet said laughing, “have listened politely to the advocate. The painter can conduct them to his painting at the Luxembourg.”
Our visit there was quick. Raffet addressed to Deveria praises with which we associated ourselves, thereby making Deveria a protector and friend. Later he even gave Manet a small Fête by Fragonard painted on slate, which my friend subsequently passed on to me as a present.
83. For long years, and all for our pleasure, this artist poured forth from the inexhaustible well of his invention a stream of ravishing vignettes, of charming little interior-pieces, of graceful scenes of fashionable life, such as no keepsake—in spite of the pretensions of the new names—has since published. He was skilled at coloring the lithographic stone; all his drawings were distinguished, full of feminine charms, and distilled a strangely pleasing kind of reverie. All those fascinating and sweetly sensual women of his were idealizations of women that one had seen and desired in the evening at the café-concerts, at the Bouffes, at the Opera; or in the great Salons. Those lithographs, which the dealers buy for three sous and sell for a franc, are the faithful representatives of that elegant perfumed society of the Restoration, over which there hovers, like a guardian angel, the blond, romantic ghost of the duchesse de Berry.
84. . . . historians of the more wanton charms of the Restoration.
85. It was a period of such beauty and fruitfulness, that not one spiritual need was forgotten by its artists. While Eugène Delacroix and [Eugène] Devéria were creating a great and picturesque art, others, witty and noble within a little sphere—painters of the boudoir and of a lighter kind of beauty—were adding incessantly to the present-day album of ideal elegance.
96. . . . is that they were full of compassion for the poor, that they would rather have painted them than the mighty, that like La Bruyere they yearned for the fields and the country-people, that they believed in their art and practiced it with conviction, that they were not afraid of low subject matter, that they considered men in tatters more ’nteresting than courtiers in embroidered garments, that they obeyed the inner feeling that moved them, that they spurned academic instruction the better to render their sensations on canvas; finally, because they were simple and natural, they remain after two centuries and will always remain three great painters, the brothers LeNain.
100. The doyen of art critics, M. Delécluze, regards “the simple path opened up by LeNain as altogether higher than the imaginary and fantastic genre treated by Watteau.” I shall not discuss this opinion; oppositions between masters, comparisons between the ancients and the moderns are the stuff of long but not very useful theses. Watteau is Watteau, LeNain is LeNain. If by nature I incline towards LeNain, I shall not present fanciful spirits from going into raptures over Italian masques, actresses and amorous embarcations. But the 18th century is slandered when it is decked out exclusively as an age of gallantry. . . .
103. One of the most singular pictures by LeNain was exhibited in 1860, on the Boulevard des Italiens, among the maîtres galants of the 13th century, Watteau, Pater, Lancret, Boucher, Gillot, Lemoine, etc. This painrng cut a sad figure, I must say, in the midst of all that elegant sensuousness. Imagine among courtiers arrayed in silk a band of coalmen who have fallen into flour, and you will barely get an idea of the sober and stern LeNain, whose description I will leave to M. W. Bürger. . . .
104. . . . a singular anomaly in the midst of the pompous and theatrical art of the 18th century.
105. And M W. Bürger added rightly that, “among the Parisian painters,” LeNain and Philippe de Champaigne, because of their convictions, seemed two “eccentrics.” This is the right word. Le Nain is an eccentric. Ordinarily quiet and tranquil, he appeared severe in such company. Put a portrait by Holbein alongside a woman’s head by Fragonard, and you will realize the gap that separates these two ways of seeing nature, an experience like reading a novel by Crebillon fils after meditating upon one of Pascal’s Pensées. Art is ruled by mysterious currents which guide the hand of a Watteau and a Boucher; but that these pleasant masters are now the objects of a cult, that their admirers, imitators, and all their contemporaries are also admired, that is a fad and an adoration against which one cannot protest too much. These periods of decadence led to the Revolution, and in the presence of this prettiness in art, one is forced to regret that the revolution initiated by David was not sharper and more absolute, since one century later we are reverting to this third-rate art, which had its historical and social causes, but which should be considered solely as an amusement.
Would it not be good today to put aside Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard, in order to concern ourselves with a more glorious French school: Clouet, Poussin, Champaigne, LeNain?
109. To superficial observers, Watteau does not seem to adhere closely to nature. This, however, is his supreme merit, along with his sense of elegance, and his subtle and delicate mind.
Didn’t this melancholy young man go observing and sketching in the outskirts of Paris whenever he had the leisure? When sickness attacked his vital forces, where did he think of going to recuperate? To the country, by the water, in the heart of nature. And how many studies he has left, all of them, even in their most minute details, stamped with penetrating passion! One sees very clearly that he loved nature, in his mysterious and poetic landscapes, in his dazzling, bright skies, in the incomparable ease of his figures, with their delicate and deft extremities, in the exquisite coloring of his women’s complexions, in the impressive combinations of nuances in his fabrics, in the harmony of his total effects.
110. And, incomprehensibly, although he begins thus directly from the observation and love of nature, he ends up with an extremely mannered kind of drawing, with forms that are almost impossible, with mirages of color such as are rarely seen. But this happened also to some other painters of genius, Rembrandt, for instance, and Velasquez, who are at once very fantastic and very real. This is one of the mysteries of painting among certain privileged colorists.
111. Watteau! Before him they painted princesses, and he panted shepherdesses; they painted goddesses, and he painted women; they painted heroes, and he painted mountebanks—and even monkeys!
112. . . . actors who step to the foreground of the canvas to sing their final couplet to the audience.
113. It is therefore in French manuscripts, at the moment that art becomes secularized and leaves the convents, as early as the 13th century, that we should look for the nascent realism which made up and still makes up our taste in art . . . How could one deny the kinship of certain groups of saints in the miniatures with the groups that are found in the work of the brothers LeNain, Philippe de Champaigne, Watteau himself and Chardin, and to a lesser extent Pater and Lancret? Within the variety of these talents, whether humble and modest, or brilliant, dazzling, superficial and light, how often we encounter, even in the most corrupt, this return to naïveté which poses the characters in a scene simply facing the spectator, unaware of outside sounds, their eyes vaguely staring into space, looking without seeing:—a singular characteristic which one repeatedly finds at the most widely separated dates!
115. . . . the first in Europe and almost the only one.
116. The realistic tendencies of the modern school are in fact nothing but the preliminary signs of a legitimate return to the ancient tendencies of French art. Those primitive aspirations, which were repressed and crushed from the very beginning, without ever being able to develop or manifest themselves consistently, are a direct expression of the very genius of the French intellect . . . A chronological study of the French painters who remained truly French, who shook off or simply refused the yoke of the Italian tradition, would more than prove the rightness of these assertions.
118. But now at last in the 18th century a French school begins: Watteau is a Frenchman by his turn of mind, by his style; still, he comes from the Flemish border, and, as a technician and colorist, he is a follower of Rubens. It is not far from Valenciennes to Antwerp.
Chardin is a Frenchman too, but his touch and color are also a little Flemish.
From that moment until the end of the century . . . yes, there was a French school, which one may have various feelings about, but which in the absence of any painting in other countries, had the privilege of casting its influence across Europe. Nattier, Francois Boucher, Fragonard and others are at least Pompadour-Frenchmen. Greuze is a Louis XVI-Frenchman.
119. Yes, the French school is really there! Some critics like to pretend that the French school hardly exists. Let them visit this exhibition. Ah, how French it is! Elegance, caprice, skill, taste; a lot of charm and a lot of wit: one knows r:ght away that one is in France.
One has to admit that these artists are at home, that their inspiration and manner, their feeling and style are proper to their country and their time, and that they constitute an original school distinct from every foreign school.
In point of fact, the pleiad now shining at the exhibition on the Boulevard belongs almost entirely to the 18th century. Could it be that the French school dates only from the end of the reign of Louis XIV?—Perhaps.
During the 16th century in France one finds only the Italian style imported by Andrea del Sarto, Leonardo, Salai, Rosso, Primaticcio, Niccolo dell’Abbate and others; and the Florentine or Bolognese style, from Jean Cousin to Martin Freminet.—Those who did not become Italianized are the Flemish: the Clouet.
In the 17th century the craze for Italian imitations is such that Moliere, the most French of French writers, glorifies Mignard, “this great man become all Roman.” The Roman and Bolognese School of Vouet, Mignard and Lebrun exerts such a dominating influence, that the best native artists go so far as to leave their own country and adopt another nationality: the Norman Poussin, the Lorrainese Claude, the Burgundian Courtois, Valentin and others all live and die in Rome—doing the opposite of those Florentine and Bolognese painters who, one century earlier, had come to live and die in France . . . The only ones who do not become Italianized are always the Flemish: the painter of the great cardinal and the painter of the” great king, Philippe de Champaigne and Van der Meulen, who die in Paris members of the French Academy.
Towards the end of the century, the Dutch influence begins slightly to offset the Italian taste: Jacob Van Loo establishes his dynasty in France; Largillière receives his educat’on in the town of Rubens from the Fleming, Goubau, then in London from Lely, who was carrying on the tradition of Van Dyck; Rigaud also perfects his art by copying Van Dyck as well as by following the advice of his friend Largillière; and many others serve as transitions between the entirely Roman grand siècle and an altogether different period during which a greater freedom in manners authorized a greater freedom in art and the blossoming of French fantasy in painting.
Is it certain that the French school of the 18th century is more original than that of the 17th century? Is it certain that Watteau is more French than Lebrun? But that couldn’t be clearer! Just as Rubens and Jordaens are more Flemish than their predecessors, the Van Coxcyes and the Van Orleys; just as Velasquez and Murillo represent Spain better than their predecessors who aspired to imitate Raphael and Titian.
121. Art is indigenous—or it is not art. It is the expression of a given society, of its mind, customs and history,—or it is nothing. It belongs to the soil, the climate and the race,—or it has no character.
Let’s not be afraid to admit it, we have never had any French painting in France.
The seeds of a national art,—based upon nature and upon the expression of life like all the national arts which developed in Europe,—were beginning to grow in the various intellectual centers of our old provinces (you can see in the Clouets in the Louvre what heights this art might have reached), when, directly after the Peninsula Wars, Italian art suddenly invaded France, carried by the gentlemen of Francis I . . . The blow was terrible. The arrival of Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Sarto, the formation of the School of Fontainebleau, the growing importance of Paris nothing more was needed. Never was an invasion more rapid or more decisive. French painting was killed on the spot . . . From then on, no more art, except a second-hand art, one inspired by the art of other nations instead of issuing from the guts of the life around it. What is the upshot of all this? It’s that our chief glories, those we tend to he most proud of, are only half ours. Are Nicolas Poussin or Claude Gelee really French? Not by their style or turn of mind, and not by their choice of adopted country. Lesueur himself, despite the fact that he never left Paris, is Italian. From this great flow of imitation which begins with Primaticcio and ends who knows where towards the end of the last century, a few individuals emerge: LeNain, Watteau. Chardin. But how few of them there were, and how little influence they had.
123. . . . And why should we not have the courage to cry out at once, loud and openly: “Enough of the 18th century; enough of this corruption. The 18th century has softened, spoiled, rotted and in the end killed us I mean that it softened and spoiled people at the time and that it took only a few amateurs to reintroduce that ferment of our taste in our national art to get us to decay in turn. Ah, how right David and the strong legion of his students were to abuse it, curse it, banish it, with hatred, mercilessly, from the height of their scorn; and it is about time that we rid ourselves in turn of this flour, this poisoned face powder! . . . So this is the 18th century, which the Goncourts and the Marcilles and the Walferdins and all of our amateurs for the past thirty years, those in whom we had most confidence, have presented to us as the only French school, as the period when the true French genius was at its height! . . .”
126. “. . . The other day [Courbet] paid a visit to Deforge—Diaz was there. ‘How much will you sell your Turk for?’ he asks Diaz, pointing to one of the pictures on show. ‘But that’s not a Turk,’ says Diaz, ‘it’s a Virgin.’ ‘Oh, in that case it doesn’t answer my purpose—what I wanted was a Turk!’ And with that Courbet and his friends return to the Café Madrid, with Diaz running after him on his wooden leg, shouting blue murder. What a leg-puller, eh? But all his fooling doesn’t hide the fact that this master is very French at heart. We French have an integrity, which in spite of everything, always leads us back to truth. You’ve only got to look at the pictures of LeNain, Watteau, Chardin—or even of David himself. What a feeling for truth there is there!” Portrait of Manet by himself and his Contemporaries, ed. by P. Cailler and P. Courthion, trans. by Michael Ross, London, 1960, p. 6.
127. There is in our country such a false idea of the conditions of good draftsmanship, beautiful color, and sound composition, that Watteau and Chardin went almost unnoticed amidst the clash of noisy brushes, the metallic drawing and the banal arrangements prescribed by the professors. At best, Watteau was praised for the elegance of the characters of his fêtes galantes and Chardin was granted a master’s degree in still life. But no more attention was paid to Watteau’s astonishing drawings in red chalk heightened with black pencil, or to Chardin’s portraits, than to the works of Clouet, Janet and Cousin. Manet made us respect this national tradition again and admire these unknown things. He made all this live again by his personal observations, but his contemporaries persisted in not seeing. . . .
128. . . . his aversion for the Italian Renaissance, h s fidelity to the simplicity and the measure of our French art.
129. It is one of the most curious symptoms of the force of superstition that the error which, throughout the centuries, since the fatal epoch of the Renaissance, has led art away from its natural path, reaches such an extreme point that all loyal expression of the truth could appear a kind of lie.
135. . . . no doubt the LeNain were trained in the Flemish school, by a Flemish master, by exposure to Flemish paintings which had a great influence on their future. They are Flemish and Spanish at the same time; an annotator of 18th century catalogues never failed to describe their paintings as “in the manner of Marllo,” which showed some insight on his part. They are often Flemish in their choice of costumes, but they are Spanish in the way they paint. I must be careful here if I want to make myself understood, because they are at the same time very French.
136. Six small children. One plays the violin, a charmingly fanciful object, the other plays the oboe. They are almost in the same plane and seem unaware of each other. Background wall dark grey. The ground offers green nuances. The colors are brilliant, although in a quiet range. Very close to Velasquez in its feeling for crystalline tints. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and calm. Its naïveté strikes you as a graceful oddity.
137. In claiming to acknowledge the French inclinations or the French traditions in M. Ingres’ talent, must we forget his borrowings, which deserve notice, from Greek and Italian art? No doubt these models have had a great influence on the painter of the Virgil and the Apotheosis of Homer, of the Vow of Louis XIII and Saint Symphorien. In this respect, the painting that he is offering us now reveals that he still stubbornly admires his models and still studies them with tireless ardor; but by no means does it betray a mania for imitation or servile erudition. looking at Jesus Among the Doctors we may recall some composition by Raphael or Fra Bartolommeo, which expresses a taste like Ingres’ for perfect balance and rigorous control of line; its fresh and limpid colors may remind us of the frescoes of Andrea Del Sarto, while the frankness and diversity of his characters may bring to mind the works, so admirable in this respect, of Masaccio and Filippino Lippi: does it necessarily follow from this that the merit of the painting resides in its skillful mixture of borrowed elements? Has M. Ingres’ method no other principle than eclecticism, no other goal than to introduce into painting a sort of composite order that exploits other people’s discoveries, and depends on a few clever combinations?
138. If this were so, how could we explain the singular ease with which the master varies and renews his style in response to each subject treated, each example that reality provides. . . .
139. It was one of the claims of romanticism to have founded a national school. The great raising of shields against the presence of Greeks and Romans in literature and art took place in the name of ideas of nationality. This is an amusing memory; for it was precisely that period that saw the rise of cosmopolitanism in art and the outbreak of every kind of imitation. Only twenty years ago all the schools of all possible times and places were to he found among us at once. Alongside M. Ingres, who was drawing his inspiration from Rome and Athens, M. Eugène Delacroix was paying tribute to Antwerp and Venice, and M. Meissonier to Flanders, while Ary Scheffer was looking to his compatriot Rembrandt for the secret of color. Below these illustrious leaders, each imitated whom he could. It was a tower of Babel, an anarchy, a wild heap which had no equal and which was to he matched only by the frightful whirlwind of paintings borrowed from every age, every country, every style, with which auctioneers have been infecting Paris for more than thirty years.
This is the enviable state which the bastard eclecticism of our age wants to prolong, and will prolong if a bolder young generation does not take the matter in hand, and if both classicism and romanticism are not eradicated once and for all.
140. . . . express life and paint truly.
150. . . . When he said that in our century, M. Ingres was the master of Masters, people regarded as a blasphemy this manifestation by the painter of the Déjeuner of his cult for the painter of the Source . . .
The famous painting Olympia, exhibited at the Salon of 1865 and currently at the Musée du Luxembourg, proceeds, for any detached observer, from the preoccupation, constant in Ingres and intended by Manet, to seek in the outlines of his figures a faultless purity. Is there anything better mise en place [in its place?], to use Manet’s favorite expression, than the figure of Olympia? Certainly not.
152. During his strolls in the Louvre, with the habitués of the Café Guerbois, who made it a matter of principle to be critical of everything, Manet would stop, and force them to stop, in front of the Poussins. Everyth ng that was French seduced him.
155. . . . Without attaching less importance [than Gros] to dramatic effects, Géricault imitates reality with persevering care; he tries to reproduce all of its details scrupulously, and his efforts are almost always successful. The torso of the young man lying at his father’s feet, undoubtedly the most remarkable figure in the panting which I am now studying, leaves nothing to be desired from the point of view of imitation; the false ribs are indicated with a precision which defies all criticism. In the entire history of painting it would be hard to find a model more exactly reproduced. All the parts of this corpse are rendered with an amazing and frightening fidelity. Neither David nor Girodet nor Gros ever found, painting the human figure, the power and energy which we admire in Géricault. Girodet’s Deluge, so rightly praised for the knowledge it reveals, remains far short of the figure which immediately attracts our attention in the Raft of the Medusa.
156. [Géricault had] a passion for reality which could not accept any constraint; [he] represented naively, frankly, all he had seen; [he] gave himself wholly to the desire to substitute reality for convention; [he] never aspired, at least in his more familiar works, to anything but the expression of reality.
161. A single painting like the Raft of the Medusa, by Géricault, coming a quarter of a century after the Marat Dying, by David, redeems a whole gallery of madonnas, odalisques, apotheoses and Saint Symphoriens, it is sufficient to indicate the path of the art across the generations, and allows one to wait.
184. . . . one can say that Japanese artists combine a deep respect for reality with an admirable esthetic intelligence. They have the gift of making reality comply with the most amazing flights of the imagination. Yet they never betray or denature this reality, which remains their infallible principle and starting point for all their combinations of forms. Nature always provides them with the basic elements. Only they use it freely as regards character.
185. . . . Shall I live long enough to see the rebirth of true French art? I see it come. Ah, how lucky you are to be young!
Everything points to the advent of that art which I have dreamed about for so long: the indifference of the public for the art which is already here is a good omen—why should the public, which is so alive, concern itself with this painting that issues from tombs?
Only a few painters remain, clients of a dying world, who still cater to the weak appetites of the bourgeois. Our national art has yet to be born, or at any rate it must be taken up again, for since Gros and Géricault it has lapsed. Indeed, for all my admiration of the art of the Revolution, even those artists were not completely French, they seem to have treated modern subjects only reluctantly, their manner was not frank enough, they showed too much labor and too many flowers of rhetoric, in short the new art was still at its beginning stage.
Take up again now this beautiful, interrupted painting, be even more native, more frankly French in your form, and your art will match in grandeur and majesty the most splendid works of the Venetians. You will become not the imitators but the equals of the Greeks.
Look around you and produce . . .
186. In France mere imitative painting is far from satisfying us; art must be raised up; this can be done by enriching it with thought, poetry, philosophy, or Christian feeling; the more an artist adds to his pictorial qualities, the greater he is.
187. Our most gifted painters, sculptors and architects must stop satisfying special tastes; they must address the whole nation . . .
202. . . . The word “fraternity” only very feebly expresses the feeling which pervades this book; union, unity, would be better, the unity of a world in a soul.
This unity in action is the divine quality of the great days of the Revolution, as I have described them, those of the Bastille, and of our Federations, and of the Departure of 1792, and of so many other sublime moments. This is what had to be brought to light in order to show the true basis, the substance of the Revolution.
203. . . . one must not say Revolution, one must say Foundation.
204. Bear in mind that before Europe, France will have only one name inexpungible, which is her true, eternal name: Revolution.
206. . . . establish the Republic in the minds [of the people].
207. The political faith that determines France’s acts and words, her politics and teachings, must not remain in the state of a feeling or vague speculation; it must be based on history and experience.
France is up again, wide awake; what is she going to teach to her children, to her heroic people and to the world gathering around her? . . . Rhetoric? Arithmetic? The workings of government, abstract politics à la Sieyés? . . . No, she must first of all establish and promulgate the principles which will constitute our civic morality, the dogma of the Republic, the Credo of the homeland. She must teach two things which are in fact only one, and which are the heart of France: the faith of the Revolution, and the same faith in practice, the history of the Revolution.
209. In order to do this, France should not have disowned the past but instead ought to have claimed it, to have taken hold of her past and made it her own, as she was doing with the present; she should have shown that along with the authority of reason she possessed the authority of history and of our entire historical nationality, that the Revolution was the late but just and necessary manifestation of the genius of the people, that the Revolution was nothing other than France herself having at last discovered her rights.
She did nothing of the sort, and abstract reason alone did not support her in the presence of the terrible realities that confronted her. She lost her self-confidence, abdicated, and effaced herself . . .
210. The first question of education is: “Do you have faith? can you give faith?”
211. Faith is the common basis of inspiration and action. No great work without it.
. . . But a serious objection arises here. “How can I give faith when I have so little myself? Faith in country, like religious faith, has weakened in me.”
If faith and reason were opposed to each other, and there were no rational way of gaining faith, one would have to wait and sigh like the mystics. But faith worthy of man is a loving belief in what reason proves. Its object is not some sort of accidental wonder, but the permanent miracle of nature and history.
In order to regain faith in France, to have hope in her future, it is necessary to probe into her past, to enter deeply into her natural genius. Do this seriously and with all your heart, and you shall see certain consequences following infallibly from the premises of that study. From the past you will be able to infer the future of France and her mission; they will be perfectly clear to you, you will believe and you will want to believe; faith is nothing but that.
212. . . . No art object, no luxury industry, no form of high culture remains without influence on the masses, down to the lowest and the poorest. In this great national body thought circulates imperceptibly, rises to the highest, descends to the lowest point. Ideas enter through the eyes (fashions, shops, museums, etc.), others through conversation, through language, which is the great storehouse of common progress. Everyone receives everyone else’s thought, without analyzing it perhaps, but in the end everyone takes it in.
214. One knows the strange reaction of 1816, and how France seemed to become untrue to herself then. But as she did so Géricault adopted her. He protested for her, by the wholly French originality of his genius, and by choosing national types exclusively. Poussin painted Italians, David painted Romans and Greeks, but Géricault, amidst the bastard mixtures of the Restoration, kept national thought strong and pure. He did not submit to the invasion and yielded nothing to the reaction.
215. In 1822 Géricault paints his raft, the shipwreck of France. Alone, he sails into the future without taking notice or making use of the reaction. This is heroic.
It is France herself, it is our whole society that he cast onto the raft of the Medusa . . . Image so cruelly true that the original refused to recognize itself. People recoiled before this terrifying painting; they passed it by quickly; they tried not to see or understand . . .
216. . . . the national artist of an entire epoch, who alone was the true tradition; I’ve said it and I repeat it: At that moment Géricault was France.
217. This is the one grave reproach that he deserves. He lacked faith in the eternity of France.
How could he fail to believe in her? He had just created her powerful and immortal symbols, her first popular art. France was in him.
He was unaware of this; he no longer wanted to live.
218. Let the life and death of this great man be an example to us; let us not give way, as he did, to despair.
223. . . . There is now in France and everywhere a strange uneasiness, an irresistible aspiration toward a life altogether different from that of the past. All the conditions of the old society have been overthrown: in science and in the religions which are the resumé of science; in politics and in political economy, which is the application of politics; in agriculture, industry and commerce, which are the components of political economy. Incomparable discoveries have given every idea and fact an unforeseen and unlimited extension. It is as if an invisible telegraph puts into circulation almost everywhere and at once the impressions of entire peoples, the thoughts of men, and events and novelties of all kinds. The slightest quiver, moral or physical, felt anywhere on the globe, propagates itself from point to point and is transmitted around the world. Humanity is in the process of constituting itself, and soon it shall attain complete self-awareness.
The chief characteristic of modern society-of the society of the future—will be universality.
Whereas previously—yesterday—each nation shut itself up in narrow territorial boundaries, in its particular traditions, its superstitious cults, its selfish laws, its obscure prejudices, its customs and language, today each nation tends to expand beyond its narrow limits, to open up its frontiers, generalize its traditions and mythology, humanize its laws, enlighten its opinions, liberalize its customs, mingle its interests with those of other nations, and permit everyone to share its energy, language and genius.
224. When the arts of all county es, with all their native qualities, shall be brought into relation with each other often, when mutual exchange shall have become habitual, art everywhere will gain considerably, but the genius proper to every nation will not suffer. First a sort of European school shall take shape, instead of the national sects into which the topography of frontiers still divides the great family of art; then, we shall have a universal school, at home in the world, to which nothing human will be alien.
225. In our opinion, 19th-century esthetics and criticism must be independent of any school, or system, or nationality, or local or historical prejudice. They must not belong to any single country or period, if they are to promote the sympathetic and providential convergence of the creative powers proper to the different peoples.
. . . It is said that art is the expression of society: this is undoubtedly true, since one means by society the totality of human manifestations . . . This is why the progress of contemporary art consists in rendering in a harmonious form the irresistible impulse which draws the world towards unity.
227. A general history of art seems to be one of the tendencies and necessities of modern civilization. National monographs are no longer sufficient. Generalization and universality characterize the present in art, literature and science, as well as in political economy and industry. The moral frontiers between peoples have been removed. Nations from now on will feel united not only by the concord of their interests but also by the solidarity of their imagination and intelligence.
How is one to bring about this universal history of art, if not by collecting dates, particulars of all sorts, which help us to understand different epochs, different countries, different national geniuses, and especially to grasp the analogies and harmonies which bind them in a great unity?
229. In order to arrive at being able to write a history of European art since the Renaissance, an enterprise which seems to obsess our time, it is necessary to distribute justice among the various schools of painting, to establish their distinctive and essential qualities, to reconsider each country’s claims and give each its due role in the general development of art. Instinctively, one feels today that each nation is preparing itself for a kind of Last Judgment, after which, the past having been liquidated, we will enter a new world.
230. God’s most powerful means of creating and increasing originality is to keep the world divided into the great and beautiful systems which we call nat ons, each of which, opening to man a diverse field of action, is a living education. The more man progresses, the more deeply he enters into the genius of his homeland, the greater his contribution to the harmony of the world; he comes to know his homeland in its distinctive as well as its relative value, its role in the great concert of nations; through his homeland he participates in this concert; through his homeland he loves the world. The homeland is the necessary initiation into the universal homeland.
231. As for us, whatever becomes of us, poor or rich, happy or unhappy, alive or beyond death, we shall always thank God for giving us this great country, France. Not only because of all of the glorious things that she has done, but above all because we find in her the representative of the liberties of the world and the most sympathetic country of all, the initiation into universal love.
Doubtless, every great country represents an idea important to humanity. But, good God!, how much more true that is of France! Let us suppose for a moment that France should disappear, that she should no longer exist—the bond of sympathy which unites the world would be loosened, and probably destroyed. Love, which makes life possible in this world, would be attacked in its very depths. The earth would enter the ice-age that has already claimed other worlds not far from us.
232–234. [France was] the universal homeland; [she was] more than a nation; she was fraternity incarnate. [More than any other nation France had] confounded her interest and her destiny with those of mankind.
235. . . . that God has graced him with this country which promoted, written in her blood, the law of divine equality and fraternity which the God of nations has spoken through France.
236. We are the sons of those who, by an heroic effort of nationalism, did the world’s work, and established throughout the nations the gospel of equality. Our fathers did not conceive fraternity as that vague sympathy which makes you love and accept everything, which mixes, adulterates, confuses. They believed that fraternity was not a blind mixing of various modes of existence and character, but rather that it was a union of hearts. They kept for themselves and for France a unique reputation, which no one was anxious to challenge, for sacrifice and devotion; alone, she watered with her blood the tree that she had planted.
237. [More than once] France gave her life for the world.
238. It is not the industrial machinery of England, it is not the scholastic machinery of Germany, which makes the life of the world; it is the breath of France, whatever her state, the latent warmth of her Revolution which Europe bears within her always.
239. [Revolution alone] can reunite us and, through us, save the world.
240. The homeland, my homeland alone can save the world.
244. I cannot make out why this intelligent and distinguished artist should have chosen such an absurd composition.
245. Here is another victim of ferocious customs, a voluntary one, lying dead in an arena at the far limit of which the bull-fight continues. This toreador, disembowelled for the pleasure of a few thousand overexcited spectators, is a life-size figure boldly copied from a masterpiece of the Pourtalês Gallery painted by none other than Velasquez. M. Manet does not scruple to “take what he needs where he finds it,” any more than to throw on the canvas his splendid bizarre colors, which irritate the “bourgeois” to the point of insult. His painting is a sort of defiance, and he apparently wants to sting the public just as the picadors in his Spanish arena place their barbs trimmed with garish ribbons into the neck of their savage enemy.—He has not yet taken the bull by the horns.
M. Manet has the gifts of a magician; his light-effects and flamboyant tones pastiche [or imitate] Velasquez and Goya, his favorite masters. He was thinking of them when he composed and painted his Arena.
246. . . . it is another Spanish master, El Greco, whom he has pastiched just as passionately, meaning no doubt to ridicule the bashful lovers of discreet and tidy painting.
247. Enough now about these eccentricities, which hide a real painter, whose works one day shall perhaps be applauded. Let us remember the debuts of Eugène Delacroix, his triumph at the Exposit on Universelle of 1855 and his sale—after his death.
249. . . . wholly naturally a colorist like that exquisite, fantastic painter [Goya].
251. We state in passing that Manet’s painting is not a pastiche of Goya, and we are pleased to repeat that this young painter is a true painter, more of a painter by himself alone than the entire band of prix de Rome winners altogether.
252. He is more of a painter than all the prix de Rome winners together.
253. If to express the idea or image of persecution and of the piety resulting from it, you keep using the same stereotyped Catholic symbol, there is no reason why you should not continue to express modern strength and beauty through pagan symbols like Hercules and Venus. Now the mission and instinct of art are precisely to create plastic forms adequate to the ideas and customs of each perod, without forsaking the permanent, typical character of universal life.
It can happen also that in imitating an old idea you are involuntarily led to imitate old forms and practices. If you paint Venus, Diana, Galatea, nymphs or naiads, how can you manage not to think of Greek statuary and the Italian Renaissance, which resurrected the Greek style? If you paint Christian martyrs, who has dramatized torture and pain more acutely than the Spanish mystics, especially Ribera? And here is Ribot falling with his Saint Sebastian into the blackness of Ribera!
254. It is fatal, irresistible: Manet does not seem to want to be taken for a rote practitioner of academic exercises; nevertheless, seized with the unfortunate idea of painting Christ in the praetorium, this original artist virtually copies the famous composition by Van Dyck! Last year, painting a Spanish subject which he had never seen, he copied the Velasquez of the Pourtalès Gallery.
255. Along with a few adventurous minds, we think that the art of the South is no longer anything but a dead though quite glorious tradition. It was alive once—and it does not seem that it shall live again in the middle of the wholly modern civilization now taking form. Has anyone noticed Spanish or Italian painting at the universal expositions of Paris, Manchester and London? O what great and noble people they were—in history! When French painting turns towards Italy, it turns towards the past. Archaeology is no doubt extremely interesting, but it is not the business of artists, who ought to be inventors, not compilers. The instinct for innovation dies out among those who shut themselves up among ruins. Isn’t life itself simply renewal?
256. In the contemporary school Courbet represents a frank naturalism absolutely opposed to the pretentious and false ways of the painters recently taken up by a frivolous public. His painting raises two problems for those who study the tendencies of art and the means by which it is to be renewed.
The question is whether art should still be dragged along in the traces of the past: ideas, symbols, images of a bygone world, backward-looking pastiches forever alien to the consciousness, mores and deeds of the new society.
Let the artist cease to draw his inspiration from pagan antiquity and the Catholic Middle Ages, and both form and invention shall become free.
For the subject determines the form. An absurd and unnatural subject like a centaur or an angel will lead to a fanciful form, since the artist cannot base himself on natural reality. Where is one to find the original of a cherub with two wings attached to his temples or of a goat-footed faun?
257. I prefer Manet’s wild sketches to the academic figures of Hercules. So I revised his studio, where I saw a large portrait of a man in black in the manner of the portraits of Velasquez, which the jury had refused. There was also a “sea-landscape,” as Courbet puts it, and some exquisite flowers, and a study of a young lady in a pink dress which perhaps will be refused at the next Salon. Those pink tones on a grey background would be a challenge to the most delicate colorists. Of course, it’s a sketch, but so is Watteau’s Isle de Cythère in the Louvre. Watteau would have carried his sketch to the point of perfection. Manet is still struggling with this extremely difficult problem in painting: how to finish certain parts of the picture so as to make the whole fully effective. But one can predict that success will come to him in his turn, as it has to all the artists persecuted by the Salon.
Translations From The Footnotes
69. Therefore I’ve composed a collection of marionette plays, a project without precedent in Europe, and I offer this project to the meditation of intelligences both naive and sophisticated.
The book was not written for children, I mean specially for them. It is meant, as was said in the Introduction, both for very naive and very sophisticated intelligences. Children belong to the first category, which is why it will suit them perfectly, even in those places that they won’t understand. . . .
Certain things will escape children, just as certain others will escape the sophisticated. That doesn’t prevent this collection of Comedies from being the most complete comic monument of the 19th century, embracing at once mystery and reality.
. . . disproportion between the living creature and the objects around him; large things reduced, small objects magnified, uninhabitable houses, dwarf trees, Procrustean beds, microscopic mountains, but enormous bottles, colossal pots, casseroles, guns, swords, monumental umbrellas . . .
86. No one I repeat, has been more of his time, but as one ought to be: an observer detached from the exigencies of his time and subtly divining its aspirations, he served it unhesitatingly, with a brave and noble heart in everything which could be truly useful to it. He was one of the first to understand that in the midst of contemporary discords, art was perhaps the gravest of France’s interests. He hardly knew any party except that of art; thus he showed himself above and indifferent to political parties; thus he gained the respect and favor of every government.
99. He complains softly of the malevolences of which he is the object and counts on the young and free generation which is wholly devoted to him and acclaims him with a kind of veneration, which he accepts only as the sign of a shared religion.
M. Courbet does not bring to the ordonnance of his works all the care desirable. He is not consumed with that flame which inspires some to treat each detail with tireless, desperate care. He is somewhat negligent and careless in his conception of the whole. But he has spontaneity and his boldness and courage make you forget his unfortunate moments of laziness. Contrary to Delacroix, who no longer sees anything but the whole which echoes the idea, Courbet applies himself to a particular morceau which takes you away from the idea. From the morceau you get to the whole, the tableau. Hence his errors and inconsistencies. He does not concern himself enough beforehand with the arrangement of the tableau. His first draft is always best.
French art as one sees it in the banned works seems to be beginning, or beginning anew. It is baroque and wild, sometimes very true and even profound. The subjects are no longer the same as in the official galleries: little mythology or history; contemporary life, especially that of ordinary people; little refinement and no taste; things as they are, beautiful or ugly, distinguished or vulgar. And a technique altogether different from the techniques hallowed by the long domination of Italian art. Instead of laboring over contours, which is what the Academy means by drawing, or slaving over each detail in order to attain what the amateurs of classicism call finish, the new artists try to render the effect of the whole in its striking unity, without worrying about the correctness of each line or the minuteness of the accessories.
One remarkable point is that contrary to the great natural talents who prompt us at first to study their art from the point of view of technique, he impresses us by—he reveals to us—so to speak only his vitality. It is the soul that strikes us, it is the movement, the play of faces so full of life and action; the feeling which their looks convey, the expressive singularity of their roles. He pleases or displeases right away; he charms, attracts or repels quickly. His individuality is so strong that it escapes the mechanism of construction. The role of painting effaces itself to give the creation all its metaphysical-and corporeal value. Only much later does the eye discover the forms of execution, the elements which give meaning to colors, sharpness to the relief, truth to the modeling.
M. Manet has sought the tableau without caring enough about form and detail.
What I look for in a painting first of all is a man and not a painting [un tableau].
126. . . . just before he painted the Déjeuner sur l’herbe.
131. In Italy he was taken with Titan and Tintoretto, not much struck by Raphael and Michelangelo.
132. His master, his initiator—if he had any master besides his own genius—would be Rubens. In his practice, he was closer to Rubens than to anyone else.
134. There is something Spanish about the superb panting called La Crèche in the Louvre.
141. Our painter will forget the painting that preceded him, societies that no longer exist, and the interpretations to which they gave rise. One does not make a book with books, and one does not make a painting with paintings.
. . . through landscape art becomes indigenous and rediscovers its essential character. It takes possession of France, of the soil, the air, the sky, the countryside of France.
146. . . . a young lady of Paris in the costume of an Espada, shaking her purple cape in a bullfight arena . . .
. . . the young Parisienne disguised as an Espada . . .
149. . . . a Fortune or Venus, a live and charming study for a life-size figure . . .
. . . a girl victorious in an arena . . .
151. ‘[Velasquez, Goya, Hals] and our own Largillière and Nattier, who are not to be sneezed at. They were fine fellows in those days—too much conscious composition perhaps—but they never lost sight of nature—and as for the Clouets! And just think that Rosso and Primaticcio were preferred to Clouet!’ (Portrait of Manet by Himself and his Contemporaries, edited by Pierre Cailler and Pierre Courthion, translated by Michael Ross, London, 1960, pp. 6–7.)
153. Ah, it is no longer a mystical art, enveloped in old superstitions, a mythological art, reviving old symbols, a princely or aristocratic art, and consequently rarified, and consecrated entirely to the glorification of those who rule. It is no longer an art of Popes and kings, gods and heroes. Raphael worked for Julius II and Leo X; Titian for Charles V and Francis I; Rubens still worked for the Archduke Albert and the Spanish kings, for the Medicis of France and Charles I of England. But Rembrandt and the Dutch worked only for Holland and humanity.
162. . . . “that he had never seen men with wings.”
163. Géricault having died too young to legitimize and assure the lastingness of the principle which he followed, the 19th century still waits for its interpreter and its school of interpretation.
The man who has done most damage to the future of French realism is the same one who has usurped its banner, it is M. Courbet.
164. My dear friend,
My ignorance of your address along with a sickness of the will which makes me postpone my duties indefinitely have prevented me from thanking you for your charming little tales. Please forgive me and he assured that I am always touched by a pleasant memory. The exhibition is here. I wish to heartily recommend two of my friends, one of whom has already benefited from your kindness: M. Manet and M. Fantin. M. Manet is sending an Episode in a Bull-Fight and a Dead Christ with Angels. M. Fantin is sending Homage to Eugène Delacroix and Tannhauser at Venusburg. You will see what marvelous gifts these paintings reveal; and whatever category they may be thrown into, please do your best to see them well-placed. Yours very gratefully, CHARLES BAUDELAIRE.
166. This painting was much remarked at the Salon of 1855. It makes a striking effect.
172. The great masters often resemble one another in very different creations.
184. The type in these images is a lot like our classic Pierrot.
191. Your name, sir, represents better than any other the direction of our national tradition in arts and letters.
You are, as Pierre Leroux has said, the son of that great generation of the end of the 18th century that made the Revolution. You are at once a philosopher and of the people, like Diderot and Voltaire, and, like them, you have put your poetry at the service of humanity.
Like Béranger, you are of your time and your country; you belong at once to 19th-century France and to eternal humanity.
192. In the case of Couture, it seems that his philosophical intentions expressed the spirit of 1848: they were those of a brave man living in the atmosphere of the liberals, the ideologues, from the exalted Michelet to the popular Béranger.
200. Often today the rise and progress of the people is compared to an invasion of Barbarians. The word pleases me, I accept it . . . Barbarians! Yes, that is to say, full of new blood, living and youthful. Barbarians, that is to say, voyagers marching toward the Rome of the future, moving slowly, no doubt, each generation advancing a little, coming to a halt in death, but others continue nevertheless.
205. . . . I named it resurrection, and the name will stick.
228. I consider, first of all, that one cannot claim to be a painter if one can only paint landscapes, no matter how well . . . Painting is not fragmented—it is one. It sees everything, it analyzes everything: it is the expression of the colorful whole which sums up the world: from man, his dwelling-place, the objects that surround him—to the passions that make him act. Specialties only lead to the reduction of art. I am irritated by this new tendency which leads so many artists to stick to a oath that has become facile and even lucrative, neglecting the solid basis of learning that would have assured them undeniable authority. As a result, narrowness of view, inferiority of ordonnance and without doubt, in the long run, negation of force. It is not with such principles that a great school is formed, or a great example given, not only to the future but also to contemporaries . . . Categories must disappear to make way for the résumé. It is necessary that the landscapist efface himself in favor of the painter. Only then will nature progress.

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