PRINT March 1975

Manet: A Radicalized Female Imagery

MANET WAS FIRST CALLED an iconoclast by his contemporaries; history has more than agreed. In fact, on that high road to what is popularly called modernism, Manet’s name is written first. He earned this position almost entirely on the basis of his formal innovations. Who is unfamiliar with the Manet liturgy which endlessly marches out the flatness, tonalism, foreshortened shadows, and peculiar perspective of his painting? While all of these are undeniable attributes of his work, they constitute only a partial inventory of his vision; they in no way evoke the extraordinary scope and power of his genius. For Manet was essentially a realist whose unique vision lay as much in the novelty and acuteness of his contemporary social imagery as it did in his formal discoveries.

Manet critics have been so indoctrinated by a formalist view of modern art history—a view which sees a relentless development

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