PRINT May 1985


The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers

The central thesis of this much awaited book is that Modern art emerged from a desire to represent the uncertainty and class tensions of Paris’ new urban ism. Concentrating on three figures of the late 19th century—Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Georges Seurat—T.J. Clark explores the convergence of form and content in early Modernism. He argues, for example, that Manet’s Olympia, 1863, through surface detail, signifies the subliminal connection between prostitution and class struggle, thus negating the myth of the courtisane perpetuated by the salon. Manet’s Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1882, he suggests, represents the increasing alienation of a new consumerist culture, a culture built on a rank of workers (e.g. clerks, shop assistants) that existed outside traditional categories of class. And finally, as a corrective to Manet’s correlation between the Modern and the marginal, Clark points

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