Skip to main content

On artists who write and writers who art: Part 5

Edouard Manet, 'Portrait of Stephane Mallarme'

Since writing on the subject of Manet and Baudelaire, I've been reading an excellent biography of Manet by Beth Archer Brombert, called 'Rebel in a Frock Coat'. I learned that Manet was also friends with two other significant French writers of the second half of the nineteenth century: Emile Zola and Stephane Mallarme (I know that there are supposed to be acute accents on two of those 'e's).

The friendship with Zola was even less of a communing of souls than that with Baudelaire. Zola, too, used the controversy surrounding Manet's methods as a stick to beat his political enemies with, but when it came to responding to Manet's work, he made condescending remarks about it being all colour patches with no thought behind it. Mallarme, on the other hand, wrote sensitively about Manet's painting, and in an essay published in 1876 he also provided direct reporting of Manet's words, gleaned from many visits to Manet's studio:

"Each time he begins a picture, says he, he plunges headlong into it and feels like a man who knows that his surest plan to swim safely is, dangerous as it may seem, to throw himself into the water . . . no one should paint a landscape and a figure by the same process, with the same knowledge, or in the same fashion; nor what is more, even two landscapes or figures. Each work should be a new creation of the mind."

The more I discover about these friendships, the more it seems to me that it was the painter who influenced the writers, by providing them with examples of how to portray modern subjects and then brave the rejection of a hypocritical bourgeois public.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

Restoring my Printing Press

I've just finished restoring and assembling my large etching press -- a six week process involving lots of rust removal, scrubbing with steel wool, and repainting. Here is a photo of the same kind of press from the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative:


And here is a short YouTube video of me testing the press, making sure the motor still works after nearly seven years of lying in storage:


How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…