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immeubles haussmannien
Georges Seurat, Asnières, Baignade, 1884
Edouard Manet, Le vieux musicien, 1862
Claude Monet, Le pont de chemin de fer, 1872
Gustave Caillebotte, L´homme au balcon, 1880
Edouard Manet, le propriétaire
Arenteuil, Le pont de chemin de fer
Claude Monet, La gare Saint Lazare,1877
Manet, Argenteuil, 1874
Seurat, Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte, 1886

Édouard Manet and Georges Seurat
Beyond the Forerunners of Abstract Art 

The spectacle and irony of Parisian life

captured in painting

While generations of historians have tried to see in the unconventionality of Manet or the pointillism of Seurat only the geniuses and forerunners of their own school, to be called abstract modernism (Clement Greenberg), another school, known as the social history of art (T.J. Clark), has proposed a completely different version.


The Paris of the Impressionists was an area turned upside down by Haussmann's works and the social changes of the new Republic. A living geography was created, where young girls from good families, workers and demi-mondaines rubbed shoulders while the bourgeoisie spied on them from brasseries to guinguettes. On Sundays, streams of workers frolicked along the banks of the Seine, between the sewers and the factory fumes.


Before talking about the flatness of colour in Édouard Manet's work, it was necessary to understand its contextual dimension. Before talking about the unfinished nature of his canvases, perhaps we should have considered the unfinished nature of the Haussmann project. As for reducing Georges Seurat to his little dots, shouldn't we look at the places where he chose to set up his easel?


The painting of Manet and Seurat cannot be reduced to the imperative of disalienating the subject in favour of pure form, a preoccupation of the twentieth century rather than the nineteenth. These men tell of their times, their customs and their convictions in a language that is that of form and colour. But we still have to listen to them.

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