Jean Laran.

Édouard Manet online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryJean LaranÉdouard Manet → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

;., fij -,v •;•■'-:. .•.:.';'


|. J0 4







With an Introduction by LOUIS
HOURTICQ, Assistant-Inspec-
tor of Fine Arts to the Town
of Paris, £f Notes by JEAN
LE BAS • With




Printed in England



uard Manet. Introduction by Louis Hourticq


hort Bibliography



Portrait de Manet Frontispiece

Le Buveur d' Absinthe to face

page 4

Le Guitarrero


L' Enfant a l'Epee


Lola de Valence


La Musique aux Tuileries


La Chanteuse des Rues


Le Dejeuner sur PHerbe


La Nymphe Surprise


L' Homme Mort


Les Anges au Tombeau




Olympia (continued), Course de Taureaux


Le Fifre


La Bonne Pipe


Les Bulles de Savon *
Emile Zola



La Femme au Perroquet


Execution de Maximilien


Le Dejeuner


Rendez-vous des Chats


Melon, Coings, Raisins ^




Combat du Kerseage et de 1' Alabama



2$. Le Clair de Lune

to face page 50

26. Le Port de Bordeaux


2J. Au Jardin


28. Monet et sa Famille


29. Femmes sur la Plage


30. Le Bal Masque


31. Le Bon Bock


32. Le Repos


33. Le Chemin de Fer


34. Venise


35. L' Artiste


36. Le Linge


37. Nana


38. Au Cafe


39. La Rue de Berne


40. En Bateau


41. Dans la Serre


42. Chez le Pere Lathuille


43. Le Tub


44. La Jarretiere


45. Le Bardes Folies-Bergere


46. Jeanne


47. La Femme au Carlin


48. Le Jardin de Bellevue




THERE was a time when the relation of artists
and amateurs of art stood on a sound basis.
The amateurs were few and cultivated, and
with the artists the desire to please was more
urgent than the need for being original. This excellent
state of affairs had passed away before the nineteenth
century, and now the artist cultivates his originality,
jealously preserves it, and the audience for which he works
has become a multitude. The greater the independence
of the artist, the greater the throng about him, shocked
and scandalized by his efforts to gain their approbation,
efforts for the most part directed towards differentiation
between them and himself; and misunderstanding has
become so normal that it is hard for us to conceive of a
man of genius except as a misunderstood being. And r
yet it is a modern malady and it is not only the artists
who suffer from it. The public of the nineteenth century
was subjected to the torment of constant uncertainty.
Hardly had it recovered from the hubbub about the
romantics, when Courbet set Paris by the ears with his
aggressively vulgar peasants. Hardly had the uproar over
Courbet died down than Manet brought confusion worse
confounded. Since then there have been so many scandals
and squabbles one after another that the surfeited public
has refused to be indignant any longer. Violence can no
more rouse it from its lethargy. But Manet was producing
his work at a time when not one of his audacities could
be met with indifference. His pictures met with practically
nothing but laughter and derision. He encountered even
more violent disapproval than even Courbet had done.


Courbet had shocked by the affected ugliness of his models
and his noisy glib charlatanism; but even the most
hostile of his detractors were forced to admire his magnifi-
cent craftsmanship. It was objected of Courbet, "There
are such men and such things, but why paint them?"
Of Manet it was said: "No, things are not like that.
You're laughing at us." And for thirty years Manet stuck
to his guns and went on obstinately showing his work
to an indifferent and incredulous public.
Did Manet know exactly the new kind of painting that
he was trying to substitute for the old ? That is not so
certain. The study of his pictures in chronological order
reveals clearly a certain indecision in his mind. , Every
one of his paintings is a bold attempt to set down on
canvas some aspect of things that had not hitherto been
revealed; once he had gained his effect — successfully or
unsuccessfully — he passed on to some new audacity.
It is this bold inconstancy of his that accounts in a great
measure for his long continued quarrel with the public.
He was for ever mercilessly disconcerting it; the visitors
to the Salon were not prepared by the old outrage for the
new. Such a hardened offender mocked at clemency, a
procedure unusual among painters. Even the greatest
have very rarely been able to resist the temptation to
re-handle kindred subjects and to aim at picturesque
effects of the same order. Painting is such a difficult
language, and Nature is so elusive that the majority
limit their vision to a few motives only, and adapt their
technique to them and compensate by plumbing into the
depths for their quality. Manet on the other hand, even
when he finally laid down the brush, had come by no
settled formula. Very rarely has there been such a com-

bination of audacity and uncertainty. His audacity
came from the sincerity of his vision, his uncertainty
from the inadequacy of the medium.
Take it for all in all, Manet's work seems essentially to
be an endeavour to substitute in painting the changing
light of day for the artificial, manipulated light of the
study. Naturalistic painting had of its essence to face
this difficulty. It is in Manet's work that we see clearly
how the radiant light of day did little by little dissolve
the bold shadows of naturalistic painting. The naturalistic
painters of all time, from Paolo Uccello to Courbet, not
to mention Tintoretto, Caravaggio, the Spaniards, and
Gericault, and all the men who have tried to render solid
bodies and things in paint, have been prodigal in their
use of dark colouring traversed with sudden lights;
bold contrasts of light and shade are the only methods
by which a painter can show up the objects on his canvas
in bold relief. There are ingenuous visionaries, like Fra
Angelico, or the fantastic decorators, like Rubens or
Boucher, who paint in light only ; Courbet, and following
him, Manet, painted in shade, like the Spaniards. But
in 1850, when landscape painters had taken to painting
out of doors, it became impossible for figure- painters to
stay shut up within the four walls of the studio. Courbet
endeavoured therefore to set his figures in the full light
of day. But though he had been magnificent when he
painted in shade, he became dull when he tried to paint
in light.

Manet saw that it was not enough to transpose the
sombre painting of the naturalistic painters into a lighter
tonality, and therefore he resolved on sacrifices to which
the precise draughtsmen of the schools would never have


consented. He was bold enough to eliminate the nice and
exact science of modelling, which had been handed down
as a tradition ever since it had been established by the
Italians of the Renaissance. That science pre-sup poses
an attentive vision, an intellectual interpretation of the
model rather than a direct transcription of impressions

Manet unhesitatingly sacrificed all the finesse of modelling
in order to be able to see and to render absolute contrasts.
In a face in which the classicist sees fine shades which
give roundness to the mass, he sees only a plain surface
evenly lit, bitten into by a few harsh shadows which throw
up the features in relief. This process can be seen in
caricature in one of Manet's early works, the poor
"Angelina" in the Luxembourg, where the face consists
entirely of chalk and soot , which never mingle. Fortunately,
Manet soon saw that his harsh shadows must not be
abused and that forms and figures could not be so abruptly
split up into compartments of black and white. But he
reduced every effect to a bare contrast of flat tones with
hard outlines, sometimes ending in nothing more than a
striking summary reminiscent of the Italians or the
Spaniards, though they were more sure and less deliberately

Two pictures in the first manner, "Le Dejeuner sur
FHerbe" and the "Olympia" in the Louvre were
executed with all the application that a man brings to a
profession of faith. In these pictures the painter is clearly
struggling with the difficult problems of the changing
light of day and modelling without shade. Did he solve
these problems? The young people in the "Dejeuner
sur THerbe " are supposed to be sitting in the radiant

light of the sun. The blunt contrast of an ivory body and
sombre greens, and the bold black of the clothes, the
shadows and the men's beards, together with the acid
tones of the grass make up a robust harmony. But how
far short does this picture fall of calling to mind the
countless fairy-like reflections and play of light in woods
on a summer day! In the "Olympia" Manet tried to
depict a nude under a similar light. He discarded all the
tricks of the trade, modelling with love and joy, omitting
not only the light shadows, which serve to show up the
suppleness of the form, but also those minute reflections,
the blues of the mezzotints, the reds in the shadows,
with which the Flemings adorned the flesh in order to
render its fine pearly quality and its warmth. "Olympia"
is coloured with a uniform old ivory tint; her little flat
head, her thin chest, her amber abdomen, her slim legs
are all dully outlined. The joyous face has the curdled
rigidity of an archaic figure and the whole picture of
wantonness is drawn in livid pallor and the hues of morn-
ing. No doubt the sadness of the light, the whole un-
accommodating design do respond to the artist's vision,
which always traduced everything that was presented
to it. But it is also possible to think that Manet's inten-
tions were falsified by his medium.

As a matter of fact he was not looking in the right direc-
tion. The solution of the problem has been found, but by
others and by a method very different from his. Manet,
the figure painter, is absorbed in the reality even of his
model, his gaze explores shape and size, he feels solidity
at a distance, and with his brush draws in the various
forms in bold outline. Painters have only really begun
to render the effects of the light of day when they have


been bold enough to dissolve form into the atmosphere.
It was the landscape painters, who, in this matter, were
to show the way. The sky, water, leaves, all justify every
conceivable fantasy in colouring. On the other hand,
the human face is more obstinate stuff to handle and
does not so easily admit of being dispersed (as it were)
among the moving and changing reflections which flicker
over inanimate objects.

Through Manet's accentuation of the contrast of black
and white and his suppression of the transitions of
graded shadows with the object of throwing bold forms
up into the light there was created a new technique which
relied upon the vibrations of the light between our eyes *
and the object. In the adjustment of the light of day and
modelling the classical painter sacrificed everything to
modelling; Manet contrived it summarily with the use
of a few flat tones vividly contrasted; Claude Monet and
the "impressionists," on the other hand, dissipated
their forms with little bright patches which transpose
the rays of light into a coloured motley. In order to
counterbalance the brilliance of the light with vivacity
of colour they cast about for every conceivable reason
for colouring light and shade. They accentuated the
thousand elusive reflections which Manet blotted out with
his broad flat tones, while in doing so he effaced all
delicacy, all subtlety of form.

Except in the case of a few lucky accidents, as, for instance,
"Le Petit Fifre," where the brilliant uniform made it
possible for the painter happily to accommodate vivacity
of tone to simplification of modelling, Manet never
succeeded in fixing light in his painting : he never reached
that promised land towards which he had led modern

art. No doubt he changed a great deal between the
"Angelina," which is black and white mosaic, and the
" Pertuiset," in which the fat, pink face is worked into
the sun-dappled shade of the trees. But the example
of Monet and Renoir was never quite able to liberate
him altogether, or to set him free from his prejudice in
favour of local tone and outlined form. A few of his later
works, gardens filled with light, do, at first sight, have the
effect of impressionist painting, in which the light has
been analysed, discomposed into pure patches, heightened
by contrast. But they are not really anything of the kind ;
Manet painted his motleys because in a flower-bed they
do render the very reality of things; little patches of red,
little patches of green, little patches of white, the whole
violent medley of crude colours does really imitate flowers,
leaves and gravel, and is not only glitter and sparkle
which plays upon our dazzled retina. Even in these
pictures Manet is still enclosing his forms with dark
shadows ; his eyes are still penetrating beneath the moving
and changing reflections to the solid shapes in relief
beneath them.

For the rest, Manet was something more than a precursor
of impressionism; he was not wholly absorbed in his
technical experiments in the problem of coaxing light with
colour. Like the true painter that he was, he could not
use his instrument without revealing his original tempera-
ment. His natural impatience is shown in his impulsive
and abrupt craftsmanship and his bluff brushwork.
He never thought himself sufficiently emancipated from
the academic conventions which cut a man off from reality
as completely as the walls of the studio shut him out from
Nature. If he was persistently shocking the taste of his


contemporaries it was not unpremeditated. If again he
waged a long, blustering fight against them it was because
he liked fighting and had a passion for conquest. His
manner is combative; in his brushwork one can discern
a spirit of defiance, sometimes a sort of teasing, mis-
chievous quality.

His hatred of tradition is revealed even in his choice of
colours. He rejected the warm harmonies which had been
the tradition handed down from the Venetian school,
and the fresh tones which had been borrowed from Flemish
painting. He had no taste for the golden light and the
ruddy penumbra dear to the old masters. His vision was
sad. When he relieves his painting with vivid patches
of colour they stand out brutally from a neutral ground ;
as brutally as a sudden harsh breach of silence. His
colour never sings with that blithe virtuosity which is the
quality of more than one impressionist — Monet or Renoir
for instance — even in his frank, bright colour schemes
there is harshness, dryness, shrill discord, an indescribable
aggressive, biting quality which is the very opposite to
the voluptuous indolence of the fine colourists.
His early work was that of a romantic, attracted by Spain ;
he was haunted by great dark shapes outlined against
a grey background; whether in his pictures or in his
sketches and drawings one is certain to find mantillas
and castanets, beggars' or brigands' rags, bulls bearing
down on picadors, cruel little figures standing in the
sunlit arena. But all these visions a la Goya were effaced
by the great movement of naturalistic art. Manet, a
Parisian, a " boulevardier," was satisfied to take his
subjects from the circles in which he moved; his pictures
astonished not only through the boldness of his vision,


but because his public were shown in his pictures what
had till then only been seen in real life. Manet holds
an honourable position among that group of artists
and writers who rejected the lyrical and metaphysical
ambitions of romanticism, men whose Muses found their
sacred grove in the avenues of Clichy. Instead of taking
refuge in dreams and history they became the painters
of their time and surroundings. They put themselves
into their works and showed the scandalized burgesses
pictures of cafe-haunting, tobacco -smoking daubers.
But Manet was one of the few who managed to escape
vulgarity by the amusing irony of his observation, and the
wit and skill of his accomplishment; he had an admirable
turn for painting a landscape consisting of beer-bottles
and match-boxes reflected in the gleaming marble of a
cafe counter. The most brilliant themes of naturalistic
literature are illustrated in his work; smart women in a
balcony, crinolines at a Tuileries concert, black coats and
dominoes at an opera ball, the Parisian enjoying the
country in the outskirts, the tea-garden idyll, Zola's
" Nana " and Maupassant's boatmen. He was too
keenly intelligent, his perception was too acute for him
to remain indifferent to the characters of the Parisian
comedy. He succeeded in accentuating his alert, blustering
manner, without betraying them. His quivering, vivid
brushwork was admirably suited to the portrayal of those
busy marionettes and their rustling skirts and chiffons,
as admirably as was Courbet's trowel to the portrayal
of the rocks, the contemplatives, the village folk of Franche-
Comte. His art has the refinement, the irritable nervous
quality of a son of the town, while Courbet is a stolidly
healthy countryman. Manet showed how wit could be


expressed in a fine stroke of the brush, and irony or
contempt in a sudden touch; he caught in its flight the
peculiar charm of fashion, which lives but for a day and
thereafter is ridiculous. At the end of his life he made
sketches in pastel of charming faces of women in which
a few frank touches, a few incisive lines take the place
of any more explicit design. These tiny creations, light
and delicate as flowers, show how much elegance and
sensitiveness there was in the talent of an artist who
was at one time so often considered brutal.
It is impossible to attach too much importance to the
part that Manet played in the history of modern art in
France. With his bold vision and his uncertain craftsman-
ship he placed before our eyes new images which prepared
the public for the change in its way of seeing things.
The " impressionists " succeeded in finding that which he
sought; but they have had to make sacrifices which would
have cost Manet dear ; they have painted with the colours
of the rainbow and dissipated the personality of men
and things in the fairy-land of their colour-schemes. Their
dazzling variations will remain in the tale of naturalistic
art as a moment of lyric fantasy, a joyous escape from
the stony road of austere naturalism. Manet had no such
power of flight, and his rather disparaging art was not
repelled by the sadness, or the harshness, or the gloom
of truth. Now that the fireworks of the great impressionists
have begun to go out, is it not clear that painting is
returning to form solidly modelled under the light of day,
to the dark shadows which accentuate facial character
and prevent faces from being dissolved into the light?
Is it not clear that painters are taking up once more what
the impressionists sacrificed, the strong shadows which

the radiant light of the impressionists had dissipated
with their dreams, and the power of feeling which is con-
tained in those shadows ?

Manet's vision was so original that when he envisaged
the world he could forget the masters : he was bold enough
to try to paint things as he saw them. He met with suffering
and ingratitude ; that is the fate of all impatient heralds
and forerunners. They come too soon not to be met with
frigid incredulity, too soon also to be able to carry out
those masterpieces which they foretell. In his lifetime
Manet had only a mean sort of popularity, the vulgar
notoriety of scandal. He died impenitent and did not
even live long enough to enjoy that grateful deference
which the world pays to the revolutionaries whom it has
tamed, the wild beasts whose claws it has cut. It is by
no means certain that his pictures will even set the seal
on his fame by entering into that Pantheon of masterpieces
where admiration is devout and unrestricted. There have
always been artists like Manet throughout the ages,
sturdy disconcerting men, bold forerunners, difficult of
access, who spend all their efforts in directing the future
towards a new beauty. The tentative nature of their work
makes it hard for them to convert the great public, but it
remains clear to the cultured and the wise and those
who, to avoid being taken in, are as much interested in
tentative experiment as in finished result.




THE reader who wishes to follow criticism scattered
in periodicals or pamphlets is recommended to
study the " Bibliography of Criticism of the
Salons "by M. Maurice Tourneau (in course of
publication) and also the other volumes of this series.
It is impossible to omit mention of Zola's two studies
in which Manet is considered: "Mon Salon" 1866,
and "Manet, a biographical and critical study," 1867;
also in the " Revue Blanche " there will be found the
interesting notes published in 1897 by Antonin Proust.
There have been several important monographs on the
artist: Edmond Bazire, "Manet," 1884; Th. Duret,
"Histoire d'Edouard Manet et ses ceuvres," Floury,
1902, and a German edition, 1910 (a very important
work on account of the valuable personal recollections
of the author, and a very useful catalogue of nearly
400 works); Hugo von Tschudi, " E. Manet," Berlin,
1902; E. Moreau- Nelaton, "Manet, graveur et litho-
graphe," 1908.

More general works are: Henry Marcel, " La Peinture
Francaise au XIX e siecle (1905)"; Gustave Geoffroy,
" La Peinture Francaise de 1850 a 1900 (dans la Musee
d'Art, dirige par P. L. Moreau)"; Andre Fontainas,
"La Peinture Francaise au XIX e siecle (1906)";
Leonce Benedite, " La Peinture au XIX e siecle (1900) ";
Th. Duret, " Les Maitres Impressionistes " (an English
edition in 1910); G. Lecomte, " L'Art Impressioniste,"
1892; C. Mauclair, " L'lmpressionisme," 1904; Meyer-
Graefe, " Entwichelungs geschichte der modernen Kunst,"
1904, and " Impressionisten," 1907.



THERE is a striking contrast between the man
and his work. The man is, to say the least of
it, a surprise to those who have seen nothing
but unbridled, blustering realism in his pictures.
Always well groomed, sociable in character, sympathetic
with every one with whom he came in contact, Manet was
one of those men who cannot do without the life of Paris,
and whenever he left it was always filled with a sort of
homesickness for the boulevards. His adversaries imagined
him to be a hairy unkempt Bohemian, but he adored
society, and, as Zola said, "he delighted in the per-
fumed, brilliant subtle charm of fashionable gather-

There was in Manet none of the revolutionary who parades
his outrageous sentiments and takes a singular joy in
shocking the herd by his talk and bearing. His fighting
spirit was only revealed in his ardent, witty conversation.
11 His talk" says M. Gonse, "was vivid, full of raillery,
; humorous. His 'mots' a la Gavarni are famous." His
"mots! " Many of them have survived and we shall have
occasion to quote them.

He was born in January, 1832, a few yards away from
the present " Ecole des Beaux- Arts." He came of a
family of magistrates, diplomats, soldiers, officials, who
regarded his vocation as a painter with suspicion and
disapproval. But, once he had overcome their resistance
it was from them that he procured the resources which
rendered it possible for him to go on painting though he
was for so long contemned by the public and ignored by
buyers. In addition to this, his marriage, in 1863, with a
Dutchwoman of artistic tastes gave him moral support,
b 1

and a home full of quiet dignity where he could find balm
for his ruffled nerves.

Manet was a man of medium height, of an easy carriage,
with light brown beard and hair, and a wide open brow.
His eyes had all the vivacity and fire of youth; he had
thin, mobile, rather mocking lips (so Zola says) ; and his
features were as alert and alive as his face. According to
A. Proust, " he was very muscular, well-set, and he had
an easy rhythmical walk, a swinging stride which gave
him a strikingly smart appearance."

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryJean LaranÉdouard Manet → online text (page 1 of 6)