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During the time period that France was undergoing a structural rebuilding, by Baron Georges Haussmann, E’douard Manet was painting “The Old Musician”, and was unaware of the controversy this particular painting would bring him. Manet was an artist with a novel approach to art, contrasting with other artist of his time, which were following the mainstream approach to painting, he decided to paint the ordinary life of every day people. And like Courbet, he had decided to paint about the social issues going on in France. Because of his social attitudes during this time period the painting would be largely overlook by the critic’s. His painting “The Old Musician” would serve as a duality of man’s human nature for expansion at the cost of others.
Manet would use “The Old Musician” as a visual fabric of the people displaced by Haussmann’s renovations, gypsies, vagabonds, street acrobats, drunks and rag pickers. The characters in this painting were frozen in their pose and silence swept across their vacant faces. The only thing that connected them was poverty and displacement in a capitalistic society. Still, the critics didn’t like the painting because the people it represented could have been any one of them. Manet was the first true artist to draw a relationship between art and society.
Manet’s painting also offered the view that times were changing for artist. New artist were choosing subject matters with modern themes, new characters whose lives were being displaced by Haussmann’s rebuilding Paris, simple vagabonds and gypsies were being transformed into every day heroes.
Many did not view Manet’s work of “The Old Musician” as he did. They failed to see the significance and viewed the work as incomplete. Arguing that the symmetry is wrong, the people in the painting were unorganized, central focus off and the characters having self serving characters, the narrative structure of the piece went totally passed them and was dismissed as being immature.
But others realized what Manet was attempting and saw this painting as a Modernist icon. They realized that he was making and abrupt break with the traditional form of painting taught at the Academy and the expectations it imposed on them. He proved that art, could serve as a voice for problems affecting his society.
What effect did “The Old Musician” have on art? The painting was significant for many reasons and all of them are subjective. Any artist with his paint and canvas should be free to interpret the people life around him. If art is powerful enough to make social change then the artist should use it. Manet’s later work would go on to be well received. Soon others would realize the impact art had on society and the attitudes of the time. Any painting with a moral or social backdrop as its foundation will transcend time.
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