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"Beautifully produced. . . . [Fried's] thought is always stimulating, if not provocative. This is an important book, which all students of modernism, in the broadest sense, will find rewarding."—Virginia Quarterly Review
"An astonishing piece of scholarship that will cause readers to rethink their understanding of Manet's influence, ambition, and achievement."—Gary Michael, Bloomsbury Review
"An audaciously brilliant book, long awaited and as essential reading for philosophers as for art historians."—Wayne Andersen, Common Knowledge
"Art history of the highest originality and distinction."—Arthur C. Danto, New York Times Book Review
Posted January 9, 2007
Michael Fried published his magnum opus 'Manet's Modernism: or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s' in 1996, the compendium of three books, actually, that remain the most significant resource of the study of the much maligned painter Edouard Manet. In Manet's time he was essentially hidden in the rise of the more popular Impressionists, garnering criticism form his colleagues and critics alike for works that appeared to mannered, too posed, to unnaturally lighted. But fine author and historian Michael Fried introduces some new ideas about the painter that could just place him in the echelon of the first of the Modernists. Fried 'suggests' that Manet's paintings were for the most part tableaus created in his studio from professional and non-professional models wearing costumes suggestive of the many allegories and historical events that Manet painted. That fact, in and of itself, does not venture Manet much further thatn say, Caravaggio et al, but it is the interplay between the subjects and the painter (and hence the observer) that Fried alls to our attention. The lighting of his paintings seem to have its source from the front as opposed to the back lighting or streams of side lighting usually chosen by other painters. And to make the controversy even more interesting, Fried suggests that this studio technique coupled with various observances of his models' features (eg. barefeet that suggest having worn contemporary type shoes) may - and the important word is 'may' - represent the uses of photography as the tool Manet used! Horrors! you say? But then by the time of the painting period of the 1860s that Fried is exploring, photography was well known and fairly widely used as a means of documenting history, battles, families etc. So why should an artist of Manet's importance not include this new tool in his painting paraphernalia? It is an interesting concept and one that in today's widely used techniques among artists of not only using photographs to reference 'sittings' for later solo studio work but also to include photography in the canvases (witness Rauschenberg, etc) makes complete sense. Gone are the prejudices against photography as not being 'pure'. And it just may be that Manet, if he indeed used photographs in his painting preparation, is more important in the overall history of painting advancement than he has been regarded! A fascinating book (even at 676 pages) and a fine addition to the library. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.