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Edouard Manet

The Met | Metropolitan Museum of Art

The incredible thing about Manet’s career is how controversial it remains. From eaves dropping on the crowd here and reading the press afterward, it is clear that large numbers of people are still stuck with the impression that he was a terribly clumsy painter who sort of blundered into a few good paintings. The persistence of such a judgment, a judgment based on an expectation of correctness, tells us quite a bit about how deeply ingrained is Giorgio Vasari’s understanding of the history of art. It also, surprisingly, tells us something about the work, for what is so interesting about that, and what is so commonly understood as clumsiness, is its restlessness, a restlessness which in fact disguises a need for a certain kind of correctness. And what makes it so moving is that this restlessness is expressed in terms bounded by a desire for stability.

The fact that the Metropolitan was unable

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