Art Thoughts, Week 14 -- Manet & Economy

Young Woman in a Garden, Edouard Manet, French, 1832—1883, 1879, oil on canvas, BF 820.

Economy in an artist is encouraging. It shows they are realizing the art of elimination, and appropriate inclusion. It is especially exciting personally to see this in other artists, since it becomes a teacher to me. Economy is also related to preservation – keeping those things which are most beneficial, and dispensing with the waste. When first punched with the realization of the intricacies of realism, and the burden of paying homage to all aspects of the world in front of me, even if it was a still life, I ran with abandon towards simplification; abstraction; reduction; economy.

Manet is an artist I’ve never acquainted with economy – but this painting Young Woman in a Garden is quite caught up in economics; the economics of aesthetics. The colors are spare, but lush; the gestures quiet, but applied with an animated brushwork. This painting was made towards the end of Manet’s life, a time in which many artists have grown increasingly careful – yet swift – in their art making…it’s the increased forward movement of all our baggage as our life begins to put on the brakes. Seen from the backwards vantage point of their last works, some artists often, like animals, seem to have an innate sense of the imminent end – the drawing close of a culmination – and become the better artists for it.

Faced with an increasingly crippled body, Matisse quickly took up paper-cutting as a medium, which became for him incredibly evocative and heartfelt. Klee, the poet of artists, towards the end of his life turned his always economical line and expression even tauter, drawing his series of Ghost drawings, achieving through them an ethereal, otherworldly sparseness.

Economy also reminds us of the blatant artifice that painting is. Manet’s colors are here mindful of their adjacencies, much like Fauvian Matisse works – there is air between the hues, so the material may breathe through; the colors rubbing each other like tectonic plates. There is also a bold play of negative and positive shapes which is generally characteristic of an unfinished painting, or a study. An example of this is the girl’s handkerchief; a triangle block of is-it-there-or-not canvas. The insistent weave of vertical and horizontal strokes also belie the makeup and thought process behind painting this girl in this garden: the ochre and nut-brown lattice of her skirt; the strata of leaves in the stalwart tree line; the intertwining mesh of grasses behind her.

All in all, the artifice of a painting is glaringly unavoidable. It says; there is really nothing here about recording. It is all made up. When the brush hits canvas, a new animal is being birthed. It is progeny to be sure, but a brand new creature; incapable of being just like either of its parents, Reality and Imagination. And the artist, of course, is the surrogate, stuck somewhere in-between.

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails