One of the reasons I love my man is demonstrated below:
(We’ve been talking about my work-in-progress the BLOODANGEL sequel.)
ME: …If and when I write a third BLOODANGEL book I want to set a small part of it in Paris, during the Second Empire*.
HIM: Second Empire…what years were those?
ME: Um, 1840s to 1870 or so?…I want to use the 1860s.
HIM: Oh. Napoleon III.
I just like that he knows that — he’s this science/engineering/technology/business guy who can nonetheless name the ruler of France during a given time period at some completely random comment from me.
You’ve heard of artists Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas, Courbet? Right.
But while the public — and the academics and critics who controlled the art scene at the time — were bewildered by them, or simply laughing and jeering at their work, or finally, slowly, reluctantly beginning to consider the fact that perhaps “there is something else in painting besides exactitude and precise rendering from the model” (Eugene Delacroix, 1866), the most critically acclaimed as well as the most commercially successful painter of the day was this guy named Ernest Meissonier. Ever heard of him? I hadn’t either. (But he drew horses especially well.)
I don’t think Art with a capital A has to be, by definition, something that alienates the average person by any means; but I do find it interesting how the direction of art down through the ages has been decided and determined by other artists. The first group to recognize Manet as anything other than a joke or a laughingstock, someone with no higher aim than to shock the public because of what he painted and how he painted it — the first group to take him seriously –were other, younger artists. It takes the rest of us awhile to catch up.
I love Manet; he’s been one of my favorite painters ever since I discovered there was a difference between a Monet and a Manet. (Manet himself was once congratulated on seascapes that were done, it turned out, by this other dude with the similar name.) And I love him because Olympia is one of my favorite images ever. I love, among other things, the unabashed way she looks directly at the viewer. No shame. No fear. But I do wonder if I had been one of those people browsing through the Salon paintings of 1865, glimpsing ‘Olympia’ for the first time, would I have also laughed at it, perhaps struck it with my walking stick? And when art itself started to leave behind the Messionniers and accept and then embrace the Impressionists and those who came after (including Matisse, Picasso), would I have been one of those people who shook my head, dismissed modern art as the great hoax inflicted on an unwilling public?
*BLOODANGEL touches on a strange psychic relationship shared by two characters on opposing sides of the growing supernatural battle; the next books explore that relationship in greater detail, which has to do with shared past lives and an event that happened during one life in particular.