in the 1860s its peculiar force, and perhaps its continuing power of example, is that at the same time as his art turns inward on its own means and materials — clinging, with a kind of desperation, to the fragments of tradition left to it — it encounters and engages a whole contrary iconography. Its subjects are vulgar; the fastidious action of paint upon them does not soften, but rather intensifies, their awkwardness; the painting's purpose seems to be to show us the artifice of this familiar repertoire of modern life, and call in question the forms in which the city contrives its own appearance. Doing so, as we have seen, excluded Manet's art from the care and comprehension of almost all his contemporaries; though whether that is matter for praise or blame depends, in the end, on our sense of the possible, now and then.
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Publication information: Book title: Modern Art and Modernism:A Critical Anthology. Contributors: Francis Frascina - Editor, Charles Harrison - Editor, Deirdre Paul - Editor. Publisher: Harper & Row. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1982. Page number: 273.
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