I find portraits the most interesting of all forms of art, whether it is a light as a feather sketch of a face, or a detailed oil painting – the defiant nature of another human gazing challengingly out from a canvas at you – or in all their vulnerability laid bare to be gazed at… is sublime.
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting ‘Manet Portraying Life’ at the Royal Academy which is the first ever retrospective devoted to the portraiture of the 19th Century French Painter Eduard Manet.
Luminous and bold the exhibition is arranged thematically exploring Manet’s landscape of nineteenth century Parisian society – from portraits of his family to his artist friends and literary and theatrical acquaintances, it is a glimpse into a lost and rich world.
If it’s possible I think it was the first time I had visited the Royal Academy, but maybe it felt unfamiliar because of the unusually large crowds – this exhibition has been branded as a Blockbuster by some critics. However, there was a sense of excitement in this museum that I’ve only ever felt in the grand galleries of Paris or Florence – each room was packed and buzzing, the benches in the centre of the rooms were filled with people chatting casually and loudly – and in one room the RA had created an installation of bistro tables and chairs for visitors to sit and pore over art books – it felt lively and relaxed and well… not very British!
Manet Portraying Life is on at The Royal Academy of Arts until the 14th of April 2013. Tickets are £15 and booking in advance is strongly recommended.
The catalogue is available in softback and hardback, 150 illustrations, £21.95. You can buy it online here.