Friday, January 13, 2012

Not A Premise Beyond Belief



I know that people would say that I exploited her and then cast her aside. That would hurt me even more than when they criticize my pictures. Contrary to what everyone thinks, I am not greatly interested in what is said about art, mine or anyone else’s. But if I have to give an opinion on what is good, I would put it this way: everything that has a sense of humanity, a sense of modernity, is interesting. Everything that lacks these qualities is worthless. Humanity and modernity.


That is a fictional inner monologue
of
Edouard Manet thinking
about Victorine Meurent,
from
A Woman With No Clothes On
by V. R. Main





I am still preparing for today’s session and she does not assume the full pose straight away. Using soft soap, I wash off the woman’s face that I painted yesterday. The hard, thick lumps of paint I have to scrape off with a palette knife. Victorine sits with the elbow of her visible arm propped against her knee and the hand holding her chin. She is waiting and thinking. Her head is in profile.

“Please do not move from this position. Just turn your head towards me.” She does as I ask. And there I have it. Here is a thinking woman, rather than just a nude posing in the company of two men engaged in a discussion. A thinking woman. A woman of modernity.


That’s also from “A Woman With No Clothes On”
but comes earlier in the book than the first quote



The book “A Woman With No Clothes On” is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Edouard Manet and Victorine Meurent. The premise of the book is that Meurent, a reasonably skilled painter herself, conceived of the idea for the famous painting ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ and executed a rough painted sketch. Manet fell in love with the idea of the painting and convinced Meurent to allow him to over-paint her sketched idea using his more polished technique.

The author of the book, V. R. Main, is an accomplished female writer with a background in academia and the arts. The book is a work of fiction. However, Morisot, for instance, has written of how Manet would sometimes ‘correct’ her paintings for her, sometimes extensively re-working large areas. The premise of the book is not a premise beyond belief.

The book begins with a series of real quotes, including an actual quote from Edouard Manet, although it does not note where the quote was taken from: “Those who live in the next century will see better.”

Manet, of course, lived and worked in the 19th century. I spent some time in that ‘next’ century he was looking forward to, the 20th century, and I don’t know if Edouard would have felt we lived up to his prediction.



*



A thinking woman as an image
of modernity. It’s like a dream.
Now there are TVs and orgasms
and what can anyone think about?
Money, for more relaxed orgasms?
Money, for TVs with bigger screens?

A thinking woman as an image
of modernity. Some years later,
I mean later than Edouard Manet,
Georges Seurat created a painting
of the Eiffel Tower. Metal arches
that cars drive through. A spire for tourists.

A thinking woman as an image
of modernity. It’s like a dream.
My grandmother’s sister was the first
woman in our family to drive.
My mother thought her aunt Harriet
was wild and fun. And very modern.

A thinking woman as an image
of modernity. Some years later,
I mean later than aunt Harriet,
my friend Joanne bought a new sports car.
“Pretty sexy, huh?” she said. “Get in.
Buckle up. I’ll take you for a ride.”



*



The book “A Woman With No Clothes On” begins with a series of real quotes, including an actual quote from Adolf Tabarant, a biographer of Edouard Manet, speaking about Victorine Meurent: “We will probably never hear the last word on this strange girl of so many different faces.”

























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