Manet/Velazquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting

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9781588390400: Manet/Velazquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting

In 1804, at the dawn of the French Empire, there were no more than a handful of Spanish paintings in public collections in France. During the course of the nineteenth century, however, French collectors and museums assembled substantial holdings of works by such Spanish masters as Velázquez, El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo, and Goya. At the same time, French writers and artists―among them Delacroix, Géricault, Courbet, Millet, Bonnat, Degas, and, especially, Manet―came to understand, appreciate, and even emulate Spanish painting of the Golden Age.

This beautiful book features over 150 works by French and Spanish artists, charting the development of this cultural influence and mapping a fascinating shift in the paradigm of painting: from Idealism to Realism, from Italy to Spain, from Renaissance to Baroque. Above all, it vividly demonstrates how direct contact with Spanish painting fired the imagination of nineteenth-century French artists and brought about the triumph of Realism in the 1860s, and with it a foundation for modern art.

American artists of the second half of the nineteenth century often turned to Europe for training and inspiration. Whistler, Cassatt, Eakins, Chase, and Sargent all traveled to Spain for firsthand exposure to its artistic heritage and experienced the thrill of discovering Spanish painting. Also included in this volume are works by American artists that clearly reflect the pervasive influence of and taste for Spanish painting.

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Review:

After an exhausting trip to Madrid to see paintings by Diego Velásquez, Édouard Manet declared in a letter that the seventeenth-century master was "the greatest artist," He was also the greatest influence on Manet, whose bold handling of color and space had revolutionized figure painting. Manet/Velásquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting accompanied an landmark exhibition that opened in Paris in 2002 and traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Lavishly illustrated--with nearly 400 color reproductions and more than 300 in black-and-white--the book is a consolation prize for art lovers who missed the show. Actually, the Manet-Velásquez connection is just one aspect of this wide-ranging survey of French 19th-century culture, bolstered by a detailed chronology. (This inclusive outlook even extends to the influence of Spanish painting on nineteenth-century American artists.) Most essays are packed with scholarly details likely to be of more interest to specialists than to the general reader. Still, the historical outline is intriguing. For generations, the only foreign artists the French thought worthy of interest were the Italians and the Dutch. Napoleon changed all that, inadvertently, when he invaded Spain and brought back artistic plunder for the fledgling Louvre. Although the museum's Spanish art holdings subsequently had a checkered history, the die was cast. French Romantic artists and poets found a soul mate in Goya, the eighteenth-century artist whose hallucinatory vision and social commentary seemed tailor-made for the 1830s. Three decades later, the shrewd pictorial intelligence of Velásquez was the key that unlocked a new directness in art. —Cathy Curtis

From the Publisher:

This book is published in conjunction with exhibitions held at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, from September 16, 2002 to January 6, 2003 and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from March 4 to June 8, 2003. Published in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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