Last weekend, I went to the current Manet exhibition at the Royal Academy. To be honest, I had been prepared to let this one pass me by. Though I do like Impressionism, I can't say that I have ever been particularly drawn in by Manet. I suppose that I haven't been exposed to that much of his work in the flesh and none of his most reproduced and lauded paintings have really spoken to me. In addition, the focus of the exhibition was portraiture and, unless it's the work of an artist I particularly love, I am generally less inclined towards straight portraiture than other subjects.
However, I was enticed into going by one of my friends, as his enthusiasm made me think again about my readiness to dismiss the exhibition. And I am so glad I allowed myself to be enticed because it was truly wonderful. It encouraged me to do some reassessment, it amused and surprised me, it presented some revelations and impressed me with its variety. It helped me to place Manet within the course of art history, particularly with regard to the hints of modernist techniques and style in his paintings. And, always a sign of a good exhibition, I was just stunned and overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.
One of the paintings which particularly captured my fancy was The Amazon:
|Manet's The Amazon, c.1882 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)|
The painting shows a young female horse rider and I just thought her wonderful. Her androgyny particularly appealed to me - she could almost be a beautiful young man. Someone else might see it differently but, to me, it's rather an empowering female portrait. She feels very modern, she's dressed for action (perhaps it helps that she is cut off just below her waist, so you can't see the ridiculously impractical skirt she was probably wearing...). She looks like she knows what she's doing and you can imagine this young lady keeping up with the boys. And this all made me rather fond of her.
I'll leave you with a couple of more favourites from the exhibition.
|In the Garden, 1870 (Image source: WikiPaintings)|
|Berthe Morisot, 1870-71 (Image source)|