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In Response to Thinking About John Houses In Front of Manets Bar: Subverting the Natural and Albert Boimes Manets

Bar at the Folies-Bergre as an Allegory of Nostalgia Bar at the Folies-Bergre, one of Manets most famous works that is made with rich and powerful aesthetic component, which also contains an overloaded amount of information. In the center of the painting, a barmaid looks directly at the viewer with almost no expression, various bottles of alcohol and a bowl of orange are realistically portrayed in front of her. The sketchy background via the use of visible brush strokes, broken color and impasto evokes an impressionistic sensation. There is no doubt about the fine aesthetic value of this painting, but, what does this painting mean? Taking a closer look, one will discover a man standing on the upper right corner of the painting, and after recognizing the women in conversation with that man is the barmaid, one realizes that the silhouette of the man is a reflection in the mirror on the back of the wall, so are all the figures in the background. Possessing such knowledge, one might start questioning the strange position of the figures reflection in the mirror and the perspective point of the viewer. It seems that even with such a stunning, highly aesthetic painting, the distorted space and blurry narrative might still cause viewers to feel lost and confused. However, through interpretations of art critics, viewers will be able to get a clearer understanding of the painting. According to Boimes interpretation of Bar at the Folies-Bergre, this painting attempts to embrace the scenic totality of the Folies as a construction of multiple views and states of

mind, in other words, its about afterimage, memories and nostalgia. Boime believes that Bar at the Folies-Bergre is about Manets wistful longing for his time as a flneur, before he caught syphilis, the time when he was a connoisseur of the street who observed and explored the urban. Instead of reading them as one single image, Boime argues that the double exposure or the multiple views of the mirror are actually two separate states of reality depicted simultaneously. One in real-life with a customer strolling past the bar, and the other, like an afterimage that is held in a mirror, a conversation that only exists in the imagination. Furthermore, the barmaid also resembles Manet at the moment of demanded performance, immobile and confined, in terms of how she is stuck behind the bar, unable to participate as a spectator in the communal pleasure. Boime see such a parallel as Manets way of merging his subjectivity with the barmaid: in this way, Manet creates the female equivalent of himself the flneuse. Instead of analyzing the painting on its aesthetic or technical bases, Biome revealed the embedded meaning and message of the painting, and in term coheres the distorted piece in the painting. By suggesting possible explanations to parts of the painting that viewers find confusing, and by connecting the painting back to the artists life and the artists frame of mind, Biome brings viewers closer to the piece. I think this is why interpretation comes to dominate the study of art as it provides viewers with in depth knowledge of the work. Moreover, Boimes article is only one of the four articles we are assigned to read in class about this painting; all four articles came from Bradford Collinss Twelve Views of Manet's Bar. I think this power to enlighten and reach diverse audiences on a personal level is exactly what makes a painting work as art, and through interpretation, art work will not merely contain aesthetic quality but also depth and meaning.