The Influence of Manet

Manet catalogue- Musée d'Orsay, 2011
Manet catalogue- Musée d’Orsay, 2011

Manet’s influence on my work was not truly felt until 2015, when I visited the Musée d’Orsay. I had seen its collection of his paintings before, twice in fact. But this time they resonated in a new way.

Manet painted modern urban life. He depicted the young and old, the poor and wealthy, the beautiful and the less than picturesque. All fell before his gaze in what was then the centre of 19th Century modernity. He even ventured into painting political and historical events. All of this chimed with my attempts to paint this type of subject matter.

As he progressed, Manet developed a much looser type of brushwork. One can see the speed of application in his brushstrokes, as well as his use of black outlines to strengthen forms. There is no tightness or hesitation. It’s all very direct. Certainly confidence played a part in this. Yet it also took courage in the face of critical derision.

I think at that stage I was determined to be braver. To take a more painterly approach to the figure. I was unconcerned about using paint. My earlier non-figurative work was often quite experimental and painterly. But it took time to apply this approach to depicting the human figure.

A detail from an oil painting in which a journalist is holding a small digital camera
A detail from Black and White and Red All Over, 2019

I don’t think it was until 2019, when I painted a series of paintings based on the Grenfell Tower Fire, that I got on board the Manet Express.