Manet's Stranger Things
|Édouard Manet, Mr. Eugène Pertuiset, the Lion Hunter, 1881|
Well of course Manet was weird all along. The central figure in Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe inexpicably lacks clothes or shadows, twin scandals that that launched Manet's notoriety. For the rest of his career, Manet continued to make a few "bad paintings," in the Marcia Tucker sense. That is to say, he made very skillful paintings intentionally violating the rules of painting.
The prime example of this period is Manet's portrait of engineer, big game hunter, and frustrated Tierra del Fuego colonizer Eugène Pertuiset (1881). A rare loan from Sao Paolo, it was created the same year as the ultra-chic Jeanne and could hardly be more different. It's a big painting of a ridiculous-looking gent with a gun, standing his ground against the cat family. The overall vibe is part Henri Rousseau, part Monty Python.
When Manet showed Eugéne Pertuiset at the 1881 Salon, it won a medal, the only he would ever receive. As the Getty label says, the win was "a head-pounding irony for critics who absolutely hated the work." They recognized it as a middle finger to traditional Salon values, and "felt that the strong violet tones of the woodland setting represented the worst in Impressionist excess."
Here Manet's conception of "bad" modern painting approaches that of Tucker and her 1970s artists (which included West Coast painters Joan Brown and Charles Garabedian). Pertuiset had shot his lion in Algeria, so Manet's woodland background was pure studio fiction. Not that it mattered to Pertuiset, who become one of Manet's most important patrons, in the few years the artist had left.
|Édouard Manet, The Café-Concert, about 1878-79|
|Édouard Manet, Four Mandarin Oranges, about 1882|
|Édouard Manet, Asparagus, 1880|
|Édouard Manet, Bob, about 1876|