Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bread and Wine
16 x 20 Oil on Linen

The Paris Salon exhibitions were so large they had to be organized alphabetically. Artists whose names began with A were in the first room, B in the second room and so on. Manet was in the same room with his friends Monet and Berthe Morisot, with Jean-François Millet, known for his paintings of peasant scenes, Gustave Moreau, who painted religious and mythological themes, and Meissonier. Ernest Meissonier was arguably the most popular and highest paid artist of his time. His genre scenes and history pieces drew large crowds who stared breathlessly at those meticulous paintings. His historically accurate and exquisitely detailed works drew the highest praise from the critics. Manet’s paintings, by contrast, were mocked. Meissonier won medals, Manet was rewarded with ridicule. Meissonier was applauded, Manet was laughed at. This went on year after year, Salon after Salon. Meissonier’s funeral was attended by state dignitaries, Manet was buried by a few friends. The tide quickly turned however. In less than a generation Meissonier’s paintings were being mocked and laughed at and ridiculed. He is now nearly forgotten and Manet has come to be known as one of the fathers of modern art.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Fruit Vendor
34 x 30 Oil on Linen

Manet had a rather vexed history at the Paris Salon exhibitions. He did not enter a painting to be juried until he was 27 years old and that piece was promptly rejected. Two years later, however, he had two paintings accepted. The Spanish Singer was well received and won an Honorable Mention. His Portrait of M. and Mme. Manet was less kindly received. One critic wrote that the artist’s parents “must often have rued the day when a brush was put into the hands of this merciless portraitist.” At the next Salon his entries were rejected. Not only did he suffer the ignominy of hanging in the Salon des Refusés but his painting, Le Bain, was given a prominent position where it could receive the maximum ridicule. It was mockingly referred to as Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, the title by which it is known today. The next year his two paintings were accepted but savaged by the critics. The following year two paintings were again accepted. One was of Jesus mocked by the soldiers, the other a nude. He knew his Olympia was going to be controversial and went to the opening with great trepidation. He was relieved when a number of people rushed over to congratulate him on his work. They were, he was told, the most superb seascapes. Seascapes? Manet was perplexed but soon enough discovered the source of the confusion. The two admired canvases were not by Manet but by an unknown 24 year old artist exhibiting at the Salon for the first time, his name was Monet.....