The railroad station known as the Gare d’Orsay was built for the World’s Fair of 1900 in the very center of Paris as a prestigious display for the Orleans Railroad Company. The bold iron structure, constructed with the most up-to-date technology, was hidden under traditional decoration with profuse ornaments and fashionable murals, all artfully orchestrated by the architect Victor Laloux. It was known as the Orsay Palace, and boasted the city’s most luxurious hotel.
By World War II the station had more or less fallen into disuse. For a while it still housed a suburban railway; then even that was abandoned. Something had to be done with the building—or rather the site, since demolition was the order of the day. Le Corbusier had proposed tearing it down in order to build a skyscraper in its place, not the happiest idea for that particular spot, almost exactly opposite the Louvre across the river. No matter how fervent our admiration for Le Corbusier, we must be thankful that nothing came of this project.
In 1973, the central wholesale market of Paris (les Halles), one of the greatest iron and glass structures of the nineteenth century and the masterpiece of Baltard, was savagely destroyed in the teeth of widespread protest. At the time our ideas of nineteenth-century art were being reassessed, scholarly interest was intense, and “Postmodern” architecture was taking shape. The architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the last gasp of the classicizing tradition, came back into favor. The indignation aroused by the destruction of Baltard’s great work, a symbol of modernism celebrated by Emile Zola in one of his best novels, Le Ventre de Paris, redounded to the advantage of the abandoned railway station. The government agreed to save the building and turn it into a museum of nineteenth-century art.
Ugly as the station may seem, especially the façade, the decision was probably a wise one. Laloux had been sensitive to the site, and his railroad station establishes a strong and effective visual dialogue with the Louvre. Probably no architect of the 1970s would have done so well, and one feared the worst when one considered the monstrosity built on the site of the old Montparnasse railroad station.
Nobody ever contemplated moving the whole nineteenth century out of the Louvre to the Gare d’Orsay. It was always agreed that Jacques-Louis David and his followers were going to stay in the old museum. The year 1848, when important political and artistic changes seemed to coincide, appeared to be a good starting point: the Second Republic and the Realist movement, led by Gustave Courbet, would provide a decisive beginning. This was the original plan when Georges Pompidou was prime minister. He was succeeded by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who embraced the project wholeheartedly, but insisted that the collection must begin with Delacroix. This reflected the old established idea that modern art began with the Romanticism of 1830. We may surmise also that the Bourgeois Monarchy of Louis Philippe was a more sympathetic government to Giscard than either the Second Republic or the Second Empire that followed three years later. In any case, when the left won the elections in 1981 and François Mitterrand became president, the Revolution of 1848 appeared once again to mark the preferred date.
Only a few of the later works by Delacroix and Ingres have been included in the new Musée d’Orsay, in order to remind the public of their continued presence and productivity in the art world of the Second Empire. The breaking-off point of 1914 is more a historical symbol than an artistic date of any importance. The early twentieth century, in fact, is only sketchily represented. No Cubist works are included and only a few Fauve paintings, which serve as an invitation to visit the museum of modern art in Pompidou’s cultural supermarket at the Plateau Beaubourg.
The new museum is vast and probably nowhere else is so enormous a building entirely devoted to the work of virtually half a century. All the arts are represented, including photography, movies, and architecture; of course, the building itself is a major feature of the collection. Literature and music will be present in lectures, conferences, and concerts. The socialist government even appointed a historian, Madeleine Rébérioux, as vice-president, in order to introduce a much wider cultural and educational scope to the museum. But her plans for exhibiting a locomotive were frustrated, and what we have is decidedly a museum of art. Even the examples of decorative arts all belong to high culture, to the most sophisticated kinds of design and craft. History has been relegated to a few educational displays, clearly distinct from the high-class objects on show.
The cultural policy of the French government is astonishing. During the last few years we have seen the opening of the cultural center at Beaubourg, the Picasso museum, a vast cultural complex at La Villette to cover up the embarrassment of a disastrous wholesale meat market that had to be closed down only a few years after it had been opened, the permanent installation of the Guillaume-Walter collection of early-twentieth-century art at the Orangerie, the new Musée d’Orsay, and a feverish schedule of exhibitions in Paris. This cultural program is considered essential to the personal prestige of the political figures who are directly involved, as we have seen in the case of Orsay, and it has become an important aspect of public life in a way unthinkable in the United States. Few cultural events have ever had the kind of international publicity surrounding the opening of this museum; the crowds line up for three hours to get in.
The creation of the Musée d’Orsay is an important moment in the history of recent attempts to rehabilitate the academic or “official” art of the nineteenth century. For this once despised (and still despised) style, Orsay is both a triumph and a failure. It is a triumph, in that the academic grandes machines have at last returned from their hiding place in the reserves of the Louvre and the attics of provincial town halls to reappear on the walls in what is hoped will be a permanent installation. The failure lies in the refusal of those in control at Orsay to carry out the ultimate dream of the admirers of “official” art and hang these pictures mixed in with the works of the so-called modern tradition, of Impressionism and Postimpressionism, and so obliterate all distinction between conservative and avant-garde art. The pompiers—including such painters as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean Paul Laurens—are largely hung separately, segregated on the right side of the great central alley on the ground floor, which was devoted to everything before 1870. The “official” art after 1870, including Fernand Cormon and Benjamin Constant (not the novelist), for example, is given a floor to itself, below the large display devoted to the “modern tradition.” The decision to segregate was certainly a wise one: the juxtaposition of “official” and avant-garde artists has been tried, and it is always a disaster, degrading for the avant-garde and crushing for the academic.
Both the triumph and the failure seem to us definitive. No one contests the historical interest of showing some samples of “official” works—even if their aesthetic interest still seems dubious to most scholars and amateurs. The recent neoconservative success in reinstalling the pompiers, of making them visible once again, is probably permanent. However, the way the neoconservative bandwagon has ground to a halt also appears permanent. None of the many exhibitions of “official” art mounted in the last few years have succeeded in awakening much public interest, or even, in fact, much scholarly delight. The recent shows of Bouguereau in Paris, Hartford, and Montreal and of Flandrin in Paris have drawn a disappointingly small public, shockingly small, in fact, when compared with the recent exhibitions of the established masters of the avant-garde. The 1983 Manet retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Van Gogh exhibition currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York attracted such large crowds that viewing them became unpleasant. The critical success of the Renoir exhibition in Boston in 1986 is perhaps even more significant since he has been the most often denigrated representative of the modern movement. Bouguereau has been the object of much recent attention from scholars and dealers, and his pictures once again command high prices; he had as much chance of attracting public interest as any other “official” artist, perhaps indeed more than any other including Meissonier, Delaroche, and Gérôme; yet his work aroused little response.
The lack of enthusiasm among scholars is striking, with a few exceptions. There has been a lot of research on the pompier in the past decade, but little passion, as if “official” art were a field to be exploited rather than a cause to be taken up. No one with any appreciation of Manet and Van Gogh has claimed for Gérôme the stature of Manet, or declared Bouguereau the equal of Van Gogh. This is, in part, because the movement is less an attempt to enhance appreciation of the pompiers than to destroy the supremacy of the avant-garde, and to discredit the mythical genealogy that leads from Delacroix and Courbet toward the great modern movement, and from the successive waves of avant-garde styles to the present. For many prominent reactionary French critics, the enemy is not Manet or even Matisse but Jackson Pollock and New York Expressionism. The rehabilitation of the pompiers has its political side as well, which fits the conservative trend of recent years.
One of the few scholars with a fiercely burning and sincere passion for “official” art is Thérèse Burollet, director of the Musée de Petit Palais, who has mounted an exhibition, shown in conjunction with the opening of Orsay, of the sketches for the decoration of the mairies, the local town halls for each administrative sub-section of Paris and its suburbs. This is “official” art, indeed, if anything can be called that, and it is not a show that presents many artistic surprises, although it is undoubtedly edifying, and was well worth visiting before seeing the Musée d’Orsay. One is struck, for example, by the idiosyncratic works of Albert Besnard, whose painting for the central town hall, Truth Carrying the Sciences in its Train Spreads Light on Mankind, looks remarkably, if superficially, like the slightly later decorations for the University of Vienna by Gustav Klimt. It is interesting that, like Klimt, Besnard was attacked, and largely for the same reasons: incomprehensibility, violence of color, and radical stylization. (The logic of history, in this case, makes a pompier significant by turning him into an avant-garde artist, and Besnard, indeed, constantly flirted with the more radical styles.)
The exhibition at the Petit Palais has social interest as well. For the town hall of suburban Saint-Maur, Paul Milliet proposed a picture of virtues and vices, the latter consisting not only of debauchery, lust (volupté), degradation, and misanthropy, but of sterility and celibacy as well—the French state needed to renew its reserves of cannon fodder after the Franco-Prussian War. Artists were encouraged to illustrate the activities of the neighborhood, and for the twelfth arrondissement Joseph Mazerolle proposed a Triumph of Bacchus for this working-class district. The subjects of the decorations were always uplifting: work, marriage, family life, civic virtue. This is clearly one of the more seductive aspects of official decoration, and Thérèse Burollet brings this out in the catalog:
The exhibition that we present is courageous, but perhaps less than it appears. Who knows if the values that our ancestors celebrated in these large decorations which were to accompany municipal life—respect for the family, love of country, admiration for man—values neglected or, worse, mocked in recent years, will not be revealed, on the contrary, as the sign of a “modernism” of the future?
That the rehabilitation of the pompiers can have a political bias should by now be clear.
Burollet is hardly alone in thinking that the revisionist enterprise is a courageous one. The same claim was made recently by Philip Conisbee (recently appointed curator of painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston):
It is not without irony that the continuing public success of the safest of all modernisms, gracing the walls of millionaires and national galleries, is fostered by a lingering affection for the late Romantic notion of the artist misunderstood and in opposition to the status quo, whose art we flatter ourselves still to champion, by somehow keeping it “new.” The Salon artists are now the méconnus and maudits, and in the end it is a bolder policy to champion their art.1
The neoconservative critics are evidently now claiming for themselves the same courage and audacity that was the traditional virtue of the avant-garde artist, but it is less clear in just what the critical courage consists. Artists like Courbet, Manet, and Cézanne, as a result of their intransigence, found their works rejected by the Salon juries and deliberately ignored by the powers that decided on acquisitions for the state museums. They never received the important public commissions that were given to less gifted but more accommodating painters. (It is a pity that these all too well-known facts have, in the present critical climate, to be repeated.) But what are the revisionists risking? Their position is now quite fashionable, and plugging the virtues of a hitherto overlooked or neglected pompier is no obstacle to finding a comfortable museum or university post.
There would no doubt be some courage involved if their opinions were fiery, and if they risked ridicule on behalf of their pompier protégés. Critics of the past went out on a limb to accomplish their revolutions of taste (when Donne and Marvell were proclaimed by T.S. Eliot superior to Milton, for example, or Vermeer as great as Rembrandt). But, as we have said, nothing more tepid, more judicious, than the revisionist camp can be imagined.
It is, however, agreeable to watch them pussyfoot around established values, as they timidly attempt to enlarge the modernist pantheon of great painters. Philip Conisbee observes that there were several painters associated with the Impressionists “whose reputations have survived less well than the major names we now most readily associate with the group, so it is useful to have brought into focus artists such as Cals, Raffaëlli, or Zandomeneghi.” Ah yes. Jacques Thullier contends that Gérôme does not merit the profound contempt in which he is held, but adds, “He is a midget next to Degas” (“ne lui va pas à la ceinture“). Francis Haskell has written that he would not be surprised if somebody someday would once again declare Delaroche to be the equal of Raphael—but it is certain that that somebody will never be Francis Haskell. De l’audace, gentlemen, please.
The neoconservative thesis takes one of three forms, of which only the last is in the least obnoxious: first, that official art is not always as bad as is sometimes thought—and no one’s hackles will rise at that; second, that some of the pompiers had both skill and talent—and who denies it?; and, finally, that there was no real conflict between the modern movement and official art. This last point, obviously a way of making modernism disappear, of smuggling it off the scene while no one is looking, is largely false: whatever partial truth that can be found in it is trivial and of almost no interest.
All artists have a little something in common, and all contemporary artists no doubt have a lot in common. Nevertheless, what makes the avant-garde significant is precisely its attack on authority, an attack which conditions all aspects of modernist art: its subject matter, handling, format, and even framing. (A friendly pompier, in a conversation with Degas, attempted to justify the gaudy and elaborate frames of Salon painting which contrasted with the plain ones preferred by the Impressionists. “After all, art is a luxury,” he said. “Yours, perhaps,” replied Degas. “Ours is a basic necessity.”)
What is significant about the Realist movement is less that the state refused to buy any of the pictures but that painters of the acknowledged skill of Courbet, Manet, and Degas consistently refused to compromise and paint in an acceptable style—this in spite of their patent desire to have their pictures accepted. The “official” artist on the other hand courted the established power and profited by its support. These different attitudes to authority are expressed directly in the works. This is an opposition that cannot be found with such clarity and intransigence in the previous history of art, and it makes the opposition between academic and modernist style essentially different from earlier warring camps, like the Poussinists against Rubenists, or Venetian against Florentine. In these older cases, the value of each group does not reside so completely in what sets it off from the rival group.2 Modernist art, whatever the individual political opinions of the artists, took its vitality and justification from its assault on the centralized authority. It does not matter, for example, that Degas was a rightwing militarist; his work embodies a consistent attack on established values—social and moral values as well as aesthetic ones. (For similar reasons, T.S.Eliot—Anglo-Catholic, classicist, and royalist—published in the left-wing Partisan Review in order to find a sympathetic public.)
The collection of the Musée d’Orsay is a proof of this implacable opposition. As the director, Françoise Cachin, writes in her preface to the museum’s Guide: “Until around the 1920s, the state had a policy of acquisition linked to an Ecole des Beaux-Arts that was hostile to independent art—of Courbet, Manet, the Impressionists, and what followed—and consequently it was thanks to the private donor that they entered little by little into the public collections.” These donations created at first a considerable outcry from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the more reactionary press. Even today some of the gaps are irreparable. Seurat in particular is barely represented at the Musée d’Orsay: it is thanks to the generosity of an American, John Quinn, that one can at least see The Circus, an important but unfinished work. The museum has very fine Cézannes. Nevertheless the large pictures of bathers, the most ambitious canvases of his last years, have all left France. Not only was the intransigent hostility of the government to modern art very active after 1848; even today the museums of France suffer from it, and will suffer permanently.
Other exhibitions of academic art have accompanied the opening festivities at Orsay, including two shows at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where we can find displayed the work for the student competitions from 1800 to the reform of the Ecole in 1863. The first, already presented in New York and reviewed in these pages,3 hung all the pictures that won the yearly competition for the Grand Prix de Rome. These are large finished works on assigned subjects. The second show assembled the works submitted for the semiannual “sketching” competition. The students were given a subject and had to produce a sketched composition in one day. All the winning entries are preserved at the Ecole, and the curator has been able to locate a few of the unsuccessful efforts for comparison.
The exhibition of sketches, neither interesting nor stimulating, was enlightening—although not about an aspect of nineteenth-century art that touches anyone very deeply. The sketches of most artists may not be better or more satisfying than their finished works, but they are generally livelier and more personal, and one might have thought that this would be true of the students competing for the Prix de Rome. In fact the sketches are much more monotonous than the finished pictures, entirely dependent on a limited range of formulas. Conventions are no doubt necessary, otherwise art would be unintelligible, but here the repertory is so reduced and what the jury expected was so narrowly defined, that whenever two or three entries are preserved from the same competition, the results, arrived at independently, are disconcertingly similar, as with the different versions of Abraham With the Three Angels. Even the handling of figures is standardized with very little leeway for individuality. If one examines the sketches attentively, one can see the students registering, with some delay, the novelties of the art world, like the impact of Ingres in the 1830s, but these distant echoes of the vital art of the times are all but imperceptible.
The notion put forward in recent years that it was the academic instruction in sketching that produced Impressionist technique could not be more spectacularly disproved. The young men at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts were not necessarily without talent, but they submitted to an astonishingly constraining drill, usually for economic reasons, being too poor to afford an independent education.
They were in every way slaves to a system. The modernist tradition was created largely by artists with an independent income like Géricault, Delacroix, Manet, Degas, and Cézanne, all from comfortable middle-class backgrounds. They had no need for the prizes and fellowships of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, or for the recommendations of its academicians. The less fortunate were obliged to follow the academic line; we see some of them reappearing among the decorators of the city halls, but not a single one broke away to make a name for himself in what we call modern art.
The presence of such large deposits of dreary work may easily induce a mood of despair, which can only be magnified by the inauguration of the Musée d’Orsay with its accumulation of pompier works. Nothing is to be thrown away anymore; the past is to become indestructible. Student exercises, lecture notes, mimeographed syllabuses, odd doodles—everything will be preserved, and this hoarding will now be extended by our archives of photographs, microfilms, and tape recordings. Museums proliferate, the new Picasso museum as well as Orsay is only a beginning; and each new museum is an irrevocable act, each a structure permanently withdrawn from the active life of the present. In a century, perhaps much sooner, all of central Paris will be a museum, with a few apartments for the custodians and hotels for the tourists.
The main organizers of the Musée d’Orsay acknowledge the supremacy of the avant-garde tradition. They have made this clear, especially Françoise Cachin, the new director, who has remarked ironically about the rooms housing the pompiers, “We have only the best bad painting.” (She is not quite right; Baudry, for example, is not well represented.) As we have said the staff sternly refused to exhibit avant-garde painting next to the academic grandes machines, to put Manet with Bouguereau, or to juxtapose Monet and Gérôme. They have maintained the integrity, and the continuity, of the modern movement, as well as its greatness. It was, however, necessary also to give some account of the complex artistic situation that surrounded the rise of modern art, the art opposed to it, and the various compromises among artists who like Gervex or Bastien-Lepage exploited the new effects of Manet and his friends for fundamentally conservative ends.
In order to realize this conception, the staff conceived an organization of the rooms that is ingenious and always intelligent. The confrontations are imaginative and stimulating. Common sense prevailed. The history of the modern movement is clearly preserved, with Realism and its continuation into early Impressionism up to 1870 installed on the left side of the lower level; then full-fledged Impressionism resumes its course at the very top of the building, where there is more natural light. The Impressionists are followed by rooms given over to Van Gogh and Cézanne, then to Neoimpressionism, Gauguin and his followers the Nabis.
The realization of this scheme, however—indeed, the general impression made by the museum—is disappointing, mostly because of the building and its new decoration. The Italian architect Gae Aulenti, who was put in charge of the interior design after the basic architectural planning had been done by the French group ACT Architecture, was determined to make a big splash. “Well,” she is quoted as saying, “are we fixing up the attic of a country house or are we making the most beautiful museum in the world?” She has indeed managed to impose her “look” on the vast building. What is most striking is the central avenue one sees on entering; it is like a grand city street richly decorated with multicolor geometric shapes reminiscent of Egyptian, Babylonian, and above all art deco models. But her ceaseless ornamental details are distributed everywhere in all the rooms. In particular, rows of little holes puncture the upper and lower parts of all the walls with a strident rhythm. They may be useful for hanging the pictures and holding the labels on the walls, which are made of bare stone, but the holes are visually very aggressive; and the hanging of nineteenth-century paintings on bare stone walls often seems jarring and inappropriate.
Many effects of the installation are mannered and insistent, as though the pictures needed a staging to attract the viewer’s interest. Puvis de Chavannes’s great Women by the Seashore, for instance, is shown against a low partition so that the frame sticks out in the air. Sometimes the devices seem perversely provocative. Cormon’s Caïn, a monstrously oversize pompier canvas inspired by Victor Hugo, is shown against a stone partition set up directly in front of one of the original painted decorations of the railroad station; only the upper part of the original painting, which is also by Cormon, is left visible. Why be so deliberately frustrating? For displaying the sculpture on the first floor Aulenti has designed polychrome pedestals with a stone lining that leaves visible some of the interior stone, which is of a different color. This conceit of superposition, like a reference to Aulenti’s own superposition on Laloux, is ingenious; but this complicated motif is repeated throughout the building, and it quickly becomes tiresome.
The eye is constantly pulled in various directions by the designer’s busy details; one finds it hard to concentrate on the exhibits. In spite of the violent contrast between their ornamental vocabularies, Aulenti and Laloux are very close in their sense of decoration. They both cultivate scenic decor, ornamental excess, a fashionable, aggressive, and expensively indulgent kind of art.
The stagy decor affects the impact of the works displayed within. Both Michel Laclotte and Françoise Cachin, the previous and the present director of the museum, prefer the modern tradition. The general arrangement of the museum substantiates this, and if we look at the diagrams in the guidebook, we can see that the modern movement is consistently given precedence over official art; but it is not clear that the visitor will come away with this impression.
The case of Courbet is significant. His work is to be found on the ground floor, where the space to the left of the grand alley is given over to the Realist movement before 1870. The movement is rightly shown in all its complexity and with all its compromises. Jules Breton and Meissonier are there as well as Millet and Daubigny. Nevertheless, the singularity and the importance of Courbet have been emphasized. His work has been installed in a sort of large transept at the center of the gallery, between the main alley and the Seine. In this gigantic space in which the museum’s architects have left the original vast height of the station unbroken, Courbet’s pictures make unhappily little effect. The smaller ones, like the marvelous Man With a Leather Belt, are lost, and even the large canvases are dwarfed by the immense expanse. Above all, the two most important works, The Artist’s Studio and The Burial at Ornans, hung not on the dark red walls that held them in the Louvre but against cold stone blocks, seem misplaced.
In the Louvre they made sense, placed logically at the end of the series of large works by David, Gros, Géricault, and Delacroix, and one understood the tradition from which they came. After the glorification of classical antiquity and of Napoleon by David and Gros, followed by Géricault’s ennobling transformation of that sordid contemporary scandal, The Raft of the Medusa, and Delacroix’s romantic visions of the exotic Orient and of modern revolution, we arrived at Courbet’s representation of matter-of-fact, everyday existence in the same dimensions, large as life. We saw what he wanted to be compared with and whom he considered his rivals; we understood what he rejected in their work—the rhetoric of gesture, the conventional poses and groupings—and what he wished to keep—the elevated tone, the great sweep, the expressive intensity. Even the presence in nearby rooms of the most ambitious works of Veronese, Titian, and Rubens made Courbet more intelligible—and, indeed, look more successful. There was a proper measure of his greatness.
At Orsay, he is confronted by a huge work of Thomas Couture, the famous Romans of the Decadence, which one could hardly make out in the Louvre, hung as it was near the ceiling and covered with layers of grime. It is now the visual center of Orsay; carefully cleaned and restored, it is in the main alley facing the transept containing the work of Courbet. These Romans seem thoroughly at ease in the opulent frame created by Laloux, who got his ideas of decoration from the same antique sources as Couture. Confronted by this flashy art, a little empty but remarkably skillful, the large works of Courbet seem pale, not so much diminished as incomprehensible.
Orsay has its successes and if the museum is less than satisfying, it is never dull. Daumier is better installed here than anywhere else in the world. He is represented in all his variety as painter, lithographer, and sculptor; it is a special pleasure to see the recently acquired little clay busts, wicked caricatures of all the prominent politicians of the day. The section of decorative arts is magnificent, and does not suffer from the designer style of installation. In less than ten years the curators of the Musée d’Orsay have succeeded in putting together a representative collection of international decorative art starting practically from scratch. Sculpture on the whole is well installed. Indeed, Carpeaux may be said to be the hero of the museum with all his major works present and beautifully visible.
On the top floor, Impressionists, Monet above all, are flattened out by a harsh illumination and by the light, flecked walls on which they are hung. On the other hand, the room given over to Van Gogh is dazzling. Gauguin and the Nabis make a fine impression in spite of a barrier of poles behind which one first glimpses them. Degas’s pastels are stunning and rightly exhibited in a shadowy atmosphere for reasons of conservation. This has the advantage of preventing the viewer from noticing the details of Aulenti’s decoration.
In the end the lavish decoration of Laloux and Aulenti weights heavily on the collections. Late nineteenth-century modernism made itself understandable only as an opposition to the art already in place, an art of insolent luxury, of ostentatious display of wealth, of self-indulgence. This official art has considerable panache and, in its excesses, a disquieting foretaste of death. Even when it interests us, it is aesthetically incompatible with the modernism of the time. Laloux constructed the most sumptuous if not the most distinguished of railroad stations. In trying to make the “most beautiful museum in the world,” Aulenti played the same game more aggressively. The visitor who walks into the grand central alley will surely be impressed; of its kind it is exciting. But the great sculpture of Rude, Napoleon Awaking to His Immortality, pushed to the side of the central alley and crushed between the busy elaborations of Aulenti, still seems to sleep.
February 26, 1987
In a review of Charles S. Moffett, The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886, in the Times Literary Supplement (August 22, 1986), p. 916. ↩
In real life, things are never simply black and white, but recent attempts to qualify the confrontation between pompier and avant-garde have not been able to shake the essential distinction. It is not true, as Thullier claims, that if Manet had been given the commission to decorate the Paris Hôtel de Ville, “the opposition between ‘avant-garde’ and ‘pompier‘ would have been singularly compromised”—and in any case there is not the slightest reason to think that the city contemplated granting him this commission. ↩
By Bernard Knox (September 27, 1984). ↩