Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Manet Returns to Venice

A city with a painting around every corner.
I don't usually write regarding traveling art exhibits. I like my art blurbs to have a shelf life of more than a few weeks. However, inasmuch as I communed personally with Manet through the show, "Manet Returns to Paris," now at the Ducal Palace in Venice through August 18, 2013, I'll make an exception. Alright, it's probably not worth a special trip to Venice just to see it, but if you happen to be there this summer, as my wife and I were, place the show at the top of your "must-see" list, even if you're not much of an art connoisseur or particularly fond of the late 19th century artist icon. By the time you've spent the hour or so required to see the show, it's likely you will be. Eighty paintings, drawings, and prints from the hand of this groundbreaking master is well worth the 16 euros ticket price (half that if you're a student between the ages of 6 and 14 or over 65.

Manet's Olympia (left) and Titian's Venus of Urbino (right), together for the first time.
The beauty of this show for me personally was that it allowed me to study closely works by Manet that otherwise would have required a trip to Paris, the Musée d'Orsay, and the Louvre. Several works by other artists related to Manet and his relationship with the city of Venice have been imported from museums around the world as far flung as the Met in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, Florence's Uffizi, as well as art repositories in Boston, Budapest, Chicago, Frankfurt, and elsewhere. Manet's famous Olympia (1863), is seen for the first time juxtaposed next to Titian's Venus of Urbino, which inspired it. Manet's most famous work, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863, Luncheon on the Grass) is there as well a his Le fifre (The Fifer, 1866), and his Le Balcon (The Balcony, below, left, 1868-69) alongside Carpaccio's Two Venetian Ladies (below, right, 1490), which inspired it.

The Balcony, 1868, Edouard Manet
Two Venetian Ladies, 1490,
Vittore Carpaccio

Though less visually compelling than his paintings, the show's exhibits featuring Manet's drawings and prints, which provides evidence of the artist doing his homework during his two trips to Venice in 1853 and again with his wife in 1874. The paintings occupy the private apartments of the doge on an upper level of the palace (no elevator). Beyond studying the influence Venetian art and artists had upon Manet, it's just as fascinating to study the impression the city itself made upon the artist. Moreover, in actually being there, experiencing some of what Manet experienced, it's amazing to observe all that has not changed in the nearly 150 intervening years between then and now. Manet painted the same landmarks I saw, all of which are virtually unchanged. He painted the canals, the bridges, the gondolas, St. Mark's Square, even some of the grand palaces which, even then, were starting to be converted to hotels.

The Grand Canal of Venice (Blue Venice), 1874, Edouard Manet
Only the details have changed. The pigeons are still there, though now joined by souvenir vendors and tour guides. Manet probably missed enjoying the incredibly flavorful gelato but undoubtedly not the wines, nor the musty smell of the canals or the colorful shop windows full of glass works and lace. He may even have dined on the Venetian version of pizza at a sidewalk café. As an artist myself, I felt the same local influences. I doubt any artist could visit Venice and not come away with a lifetime of painting inspiration. This current Venetian retrospective of his work certainly underscores this to have been the case for Monsieur Edouard Manet.

Photo by Jim Lane
What Manet would see today in St. Mark's Square.


No comments:

Post a Comment