Monmouth, Manet and Morisot

by tobelikeafeatherby

Hi Sez,

I managed to wake up relatively early on Saturday and decided to make the most of the morning. After catching a train to Waterloo, I walked across the Millennium bridge towards Covent Garden. I stopped off at Monmouth Coffee for an americano and a pain au chocolat – both were delish. Speaking of delish, I have been frequenting the Portuguese Lisboa Patisserie on the Golborne Road. I walk past it too and from work and it’s difficult to resist going in. Usually I’ll go for a classic custard tart (or three) but last Thursday I got a selection for Piz and I to share. This included a mini cheesecake in shortcrust pastry, a moist orange and coconut sponge, and a small yellow sweet which looked and tasted like a solid, sugary egg yolk (yes, this was how we spent Valentine’s Day).

After leaving Monmouth Street (with a new lease of life) I walked down Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly to the Royal Academy. Here I fought my way through the crowded Manet exhibition. Manet’s portraits quiver with life – his loose brush strokes make the figures less stiff. He was one of the original avant-garde rebels, breaking down the traditional conventions of painting. He did this in several ways; for instance a portrait subject might have her back to us, or a woman of alleged ill repute will stare provocatively and unabashedly at the viewer. He also painted scenarios in which any number of things might be going on. Overall, Manet rejected tradition and classicism for something more daring and mysterious.

Manet is known for his use of a rich velvety black, which emphasises the flatness of the picture plane. The following two paintings are great examples of this. The use of black in both images serves as a type of frame within a frame to surround the subject’s face.

Manet, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Flowers, 1972

Manet, Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Flowers, 1972

Manet, Berthe Morisot in Mourning Hat, 1974

Manet, Berthe Morisot in Mourning Hat, 1974

The two paintings depict Manet’s friend, fellow artist and influence in mourning over the death of her father, however they have very different vibes. Whereas the second porrait is menacing and almost monstrous, the first portrait is sweetness and light. In fact, the two paintings seem like depictions of how I feel on a good day and a bad day. Not only that, Manet reminds me of why I like to wear all black – because nothing looks more chic.