Socialist Worker

Unexpected impressions from a face to face encounter

WHAT BETTER way to present an artist who explored the contradictions of the modern capitalist city than to put side by side two of his masterpieces.

Issue No. 1932

Detail from Manet

Detail from Manet's A bar at the Folies Bergere


Manet Face to Face

Courtauld Institute, London WC2, until 9 January

WHAT BETTER way to present an artist who explored the contradictions of the modern capitalist city than to put side by side two of his masterpieces.

This exhibition in central London brings together two of the most famous paintings by the pioneering French impressionist painter Edouard Manet.

A Lunch was painted from 1868 and A Bar at the Folies Bergere 14 years later. Both capture the alienation of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, and caused howls in the Paris Salon, the self appointed academic guardians of artistic taste at the time.

Manet was no radical politically. But in setting out to depict the rapidly changing world around him in a new, realistic way, he radically transformed the nature of painting.

Perspectives that don’t quite work, figures who are estranged from each other and mirrors whose reflection cannot possibly be right capture the uncertainty of life in Paris at the time, and under capitalism today.

Manet said of his work that he set out to create “not great art, but sincere art”. Get along to this exhibition and you’ll see both.


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Sat 18 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1932
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