MANET AND THE FAMILY ROMANCE
The rich bibliography surrounding 19th-century painter Edouard Manet includes stimulating books by Anne Coffin Hanson and T.J. Clark that describe Manet's revolutionary and inventive approaches to art with imaginative interpretations. Nancy Locke, an associate professor of art history at Wayne State University, here weighs in with a psychoanalytical view of the paintings, based less on Freud than on more recent French thinkers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. Unlike more formalist art criticism, which focuses on shapes and brush technique to the exclusion of content, her basis for this approach is that Manet often used members of his family as models, such as his illegitimate son, who pops up in a variety of poses in the artworks. The result, divided into chapters like "Family Romances," "Manet Pere et Fils," and "The Promises of a Face," is presented in deadly solemn academic prose, but with a common sense that shines out from behind her Gallic forebears: "For Manet, every act of painting was grounded in resistance to everything for which his family name stood: there was the authority of the judge [his father], the property, the income, the receptions, tradition, the family honor." Balancing personal influences with social meanings, the paintings have a variety of resonances, which Locke brings out in a language mainly suited for academic art historians, although civilian art lovers may want to give it a try for its unusual perspectives. Illus. (May)
Forecast:University libraries are this book's natural market, and the price may well prove prohibitive elsewhere. But the volume's idyllic and well-laid-out cover, and its biography-based title could attract some high-end browsers.