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Eisenman’s Impressionism, Essay Example

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Words: 1127

Essay

In chapter 11, “Manet and the Impressionists,” Eisenman examines the historical and political contexts of the Impressionist movement particularly as they pertain to the work of Edouard Manet. One of the key aspects of the examination is the way in which the historical circumstances of life in nineteenth century France influenced the aesthetic of Impressionism. According to Eisenman, the process of Haussmannization which took place under Napoleon, created the groundwork for Impressionism. This is due to the fact that the modernization of Paris that took place in Paris during the Haussmannization brought with it a corresponding sense of alienation and anxiety in regard to individualism.

Eisenman cites this sense of alienation as being one of the chief components of the eventual rise of Impressionism. He writes that in trying to “carve out an identity in an environment increasingly bereft of social markers … the painter Manet adopted the subcultural stance of the flaneur” (Eisenman 239). One of the most significant underpinnings of this orientation was that it valued individualism above materialism. As such, Eisenman develops the argument that the materialistic preoccupations of the Napoleonic age during the Second empire inspired a rebuttal in artistic expression and that part of this rebuttal is expressed in the genre of Impressionism. Therefore the historical basis of Impressionism is actually one of politics and economics rather than merely abstract aesthetics and principles of composition.

This means that Impressionism must be regarded as a modernist movement. Two of Manet’s works The Balcony and Music in the Tuileries express modern sensibilities. In the case of The Balcony Manet was able to scandalize viewers by showing two women with their servant on a balcony without adhering to traditional poses, expressions, or conveyed social manners. As Eisenman writes in regard to the painting, manet meant to disturb the usual conceptiion of painterly subjects as wella s the usual expectations in regard to gender. Eisenman writes “Manet would accpet no such circumscribed role for his women chracters or for himself” (Eisenman 240). Instead, Manet used painting to celebrate individuality. This is a modernist idea for two reasons: one, because it breaks with the traditional idea of how paintings were supposed to serve society, and two, because it shows that the individual can sometimes stand in opposition to, or outright conflict with social mores.

In the painting Music in the Tuileries manet breaks with convention by depicting artists rather than nobility as the cream of society. According to some critics this painting should be considered the first truly modern painting. this is, in part, due to the fact that it challenges the conventional social ideals of its time, but it is also because it is a painting which shows the capacity for self-mythologization that exists in painting. The modern aesthetic is one that allows for the idealism of art itself to be celebrated outside of its connection to religious or political leaders. This was obviously a very new idea in Manet’s time. Taken together with The Balcony, the two painting indicate some of the moree essential qualities of modern painting that would develop over the next decades. One of the key points in regard to the modernist perspective is that it values individuality and imagination above social rank or materialism. This is very important to keep in mind as the technique of Impressionism is studie a bit closer in relation to its connection with issues of class-struggle and the commodity culture.

One way that the Impressionist genre emerged as an act against the commodity culture was to challenge notions of academic painting. the reason that it was important for the Impressionists such as Manet to challenge notions of academic painting was because those ideas had long kept art combined with social class and elitism. The Impressionists, in short, wanted to move painting out of the academy and into the real world where it interacted with people of all social classes and backgrounds. This means that a painting like Manet’s Olympia not only shows the qualities of impressionism noted above, but also an overt deviation from academic painting. In fact, Eisenman considers this oainting by manet to be the very embodiment of anti-academic painting. He writes that the painting is “a refusal of modeling and subtle chairascuro” and that Manet’s work stands as “very different from teh disingenuous entreaties of Academic and Official art” (Eisenman 242). this work was not only a statement against the academic principles mentioned by Eisenman, but at the idea of placing limitations on art at all.

Because the painting featured a nude women, it caused controversy among the moralizing public as well as among traditional art academics. Manet intended his paintings to create controversy and particularly intended to challenge ideas of gender and race. Olympia portrays a black woman and a white woman. the painting was left deliberately “rough” and unpolished. This along with its depiction of a “courtesan” and a “negress” according to critics of the day caused the painting to be looked down on as a scandalous failure. Eisenman’s conclusion regarding the painting is much different. According to him, the paiting represented prolitarianism and was in actuality was “more modern than it was avant garde” (Eisenman 244). his view of the painting indicates very much his inference that Impressionism, above all other things, existed as a rejection of materialistic sosciety.

This is the real point of Chapter 11, which shows that the open-air utilitarianism of the Impressionistic style was connected to ideas of alienation and the commodity culture. impressionism was, in fact,a rejection of these ideas and a corresponding celebration of individuality and the gratification of the emoitions and taste rather than sensual materialism. the very techniqque of impressionism was menat to emphasize the imaginative compponent of art and excite the eyes. The statement of the genre as a whole is therefore anti-materialistic. it is a style of painting the intrisically refutes the commodity culture of its time as well as the acdemic painterly principle that preceded it.

Manet’s work, as described by Eisenman is a meditation on the subversice nature of vision. in other words, the way in whihc the eye the imagination interact for Manet is an act of rebellion against the materialistic and commodity-driven society of his time. The way in whihc the eye and imagination fucntion are not only acts against the machine-state and the alienation of materialsm, but they are redemptive caocities that help to preserve individuality in the dehumanization of the modern age. As such, impressionism must be considered as much a political and social phenomenon as an artistic style. the elements of the aesthetic sketched out above corresonp to very definite Marxist ideas, mentioned in the reading material. in sort, impressionism is a rejection of classicism and a celebration of iumagination and individuality.

Work Cited

Eisenman. “Chapter 11 Manet and the Impressionists” 239-254

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