icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Picturing a World

Manet, Children in the Tuileries

See the black nurse in a turban on the far right? In her award-winning catalogue for the exhibition, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today (2018), curator Denise Murrell points out that the population of Paris in the 19thC was much more racially mixed than many people realize. She contrasts Manet's Children in the Tuileries Garden to Lobrichon's Promenade of a Paris Crèche on that very ground.

Manet's is by far the greater work of art. What's interesting for a writer, though, is to gauge what you can learn from first-rate and second-rate art. An enlargement of mind from the first and concrete details  from the second? Anyway, I wish I had known what I learned from Murrell when I was writing Where the Light Falls. I don't think I would have tried to tackle racial questions, but anyone who loves world-building wants to know everything possible about a place. She even provides a map plotting out where black models and the Impressionists lived and worked to show their physical proximity.
In the main argument of her study, Murrell discusses Laure's importance in Manet's Olympia and the painting's subsequent impact. It is revelatory. I can't recommend Posing Modernity too highly. For more on the book, click here. To hear Murrell lecture on the topic, click here.

Post a comment