Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Get Well Soon, Marianne Faithfull! #3: The Architecture Of The Groupie Landscape

People who have never experienced the groupie dynamic typically imagine things like two fourteen year old girls wrestling in the doorway of Jimmy Page’s hotel room, pulling hair, scratching, kicking each other while Page lounges on the carpet watching, laughing.

But judging the groupie dynamic by scenes like this is as misguided as saying, for instance, that San Francisco is a city of ugly buildings because there are a lot of funky McDonald’s fast food restaurants there. The (so to speak) architecture of the groupie landscape is a panorama of skyscrapers and cottages, elegant spires and sprawling campuses, glass and steel, bricks and wood, an inspiring vista in all directions. And, unlike the self-similar fractal trivialities of the Mandelbrot set, where ever you look at the groupie landscape what you see is always uniquely beautiful, interesting and cool, never repeated regardless of what dimension you move your point-of-view through.

Music is less visual than painting, but the painting world participates in the same groupie dynamic as the music world. Here are some views—visual and textual—of part of the landscape. Quotes and images from Eyewitness Art: Manet.

Antonin Proust recalled walking with Manet when a woman carrying a guitar stepped out from a café: “Manet went up to her and asked her to come and pose for him. She went off laughing. ‘I’ll catch up with her again,’ cried Manet, ‘and if she still won’t pose, I’ve got Victorine.’”

Victorine Meurent was Manet’s favorite model. According to his friend Théodore Duret, Manet first met Victorine in 1862, “… by chance in a crowd in a room in the Palais de Justice [and] had been struck by her original and distinctive appearance.” She was then just 18 and had worked as a model in Thomas Couture’s studio, although by that time Manet had already left.

According to the writer, Tabarant, Meurent posed for Manet “with long intervening lapses, for she had a will of her own.” She went to America at the end of the 1860s, but returned to France in about 1872 and disappeared into oblivion.

Meurent was known as a “fantastic character” who played the guitar and who could also paint (she later exhibited in the 1876 Salon when Manet’s own works were rejected, and again in 1879). She was to enjoy a dubious kind of fame in her role as the naked courtesan ‘Olympia,’ and her grace under the pressure of the attention she received from the press, as Manet’s model, attests to her strength of character.

Isn’t it odd that the writer said Meurent “disappeared into oblivion” when, today, her face and body—and thanks to the skill of Manet, the object of her attention, something of her character and spirit—are viewed and admired, experienced, by thousands of people every day in museums around the world, in books around the world, on the internet around the world?

That’s a strange kind of oblivion.

It’s a timeless oblivion. A magical oblivion. It is an oblivion that is bright and warm under the strange sun of Magonia, a sun that illuminates a very interesting landscape. A wonderful landscape.


Get well soon, Marianne Faithfull!

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