The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism
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While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.
for one of the young men seated beside Victorine was struck by his brother Gustave, while that for the other by Suzanne Leenhoffs twenty-one-year-old brother Ferdinand, an aspiring sculptor and engraver who had followed his sister to Paris in order to study art.13 In the background, Manet included a fourth figure, a young woman in a white negligee wading in the shallows of the river, a much less detailed figure for whom Victorine may also have posed. Manet's earlier bathing scene, Nymph and
shocking."31 The clothes, therefore, more than the nudity, were what shocked. Victorine's naked body, unsightly as it was for anyone weaned on the scrumptious nudes of Ingres or Cabanel, caused far less horror than the strange hat perched on Gustave Manet's head or the fact that the two men were wearing dark overcoats in a forest glade. To an audience habituated to the exotic Oriental costumes of Gérôme or the olden-days aristocratic fashions of Meissonier, these two boorish-looking students in
reform effectively wiped out the virtually monopolistic control its members had exerted over the training and education of French artists. The blow was especially devastating coming as it did so soon after the Académie had seen its authority challenged by the inauguration of the Salon des Refusés. A small consolation for the members of the Académie was that one of their own, the history painter Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, was named Director of the École. Yet another blow was to come. Hitherto
prepared for such a critical mauling from Gautier, especially given the critic's enthusiasm for The Spanish Singer three years earlier. Manet may have hoped the painting's Spanish theme (which inspired a satirical journal to lampoon him as "Don Manet y Courbetos y Zurbarân de las Batignolas"17) might once again appeal to a Hispanophile like Gautier. However, Gautier could find nothing good to say about the work, denouncing it as "completely unintelligible" before describing to his readers the
ubiquitous in French art. Every episode in his career was commemorated in paint. The Paris Salons teemed with military imagery as his exploits from Italy to Egypt were illustrated in scores of paintings and lithographs. At one Salon, nine different canvases showed the Battle of Wagram; another boasted eighteen of Austerlitz. His coronation as Emperor had been memorialized by Jacques-Louis David, his windswept tomb on Saint-Helena by Horace Vernet, who reverentially draped his canvas in black when