Posts in Baroque
Tiepolo Is Not a Decorator

It seemed like a compliment when, Michael Levey, former Director of the National Gallery (London) described Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Venice, 1696- Madrid,1770) as "the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman."[note]Michael Levey. Painting in Eighteenth-Century Venice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 193.[/note] (And, Levey was certainly a life-long advocate of Tiepolo.) But, for many the terms "decorative" and "craftsman" seem to indicate a lack of seriousness — a missing gravitas reserved for an Old Master. Because much of his work was made for and installed in architectural settings — and limited to three geographic locations (i.e. Venice, Wurzburg, and Madrid) — Tiepolo is not always given the attention, I believe, are befitting his remarkable gifts for composition and narrative.


Above is a raw audio recording of a discussion between me and a group of professional artists discussing Tiepolo's development and major work. With only 90 minutes we could not hope to approach all his works; nevertheless, we covered a lot of ground.

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The Sartorialist Channels Old-Master Painting by Carracci

I've been following Scott Schuman's Sartorialist blog for a long time. He is famous for capturing street fashion trends. But, occasionally he'll include capture images that seemingly nothing to do with fashion and capture a remarkable sense of place. Today, he posted an image of a "young butcher" in Asni, Morocco.

Maybe it's just the art historian in me; I was immediately reminded of "The Butcher Shop" (c. 1580) by Annibale Carracci (Bologna, 1560 — Rome, 1609). While Annibale and his brother, Ludovico, are often remembered for their Classical Baroque work, this painting demonstrates his remarkable range of experimentation.

Caravaggio and His Legacy in Los Angeles . . . errr what you doing here?

Does Baroque art burn more calories than other genres? What did that couple in leather pants say about Mary Magdalene looking hot?  Was Luca Giordan0 the first street artist? Is linseed oil more environmentally friendly than egg tempura?

These are questions that naturally occur when seeing a Caravaggist exhibition in LA.  I'm kidding . . .  sort of.

In the past two days, I have visited the Los Angeles Museum of Art twice to see Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy  ( 11 Nov 2012 - 10 Feb 2013). It is a remarkable exhibition, for eight works by Michelangelo Caravaggio on view and even more for the large body of Baroque works on load from over a dozen international institutions.  (Whether or not you are able to attend, the exhibition catalogue has good illustrations–at a reasonable price–of the remarkable gathering of works at the show.)

I've heard a lot of bellyaching about there "only" being eight Caravaggio's. Hogwash. There are at least two dozen paintings that, alone, would be worth the price of admission.



Born this day: Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642)

 Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642) is one of the more important figures in the Pantheon of art history. He was born shortly after the Council of Trent, where the Catholic Church proposed sweeping changes to the arts in an attempt combat rising Protestantism. Reni became a leading proponent of a new aesthetic that clearly told stories through the use of  large-scale religious and historical figures.

The mid-sixteenth-century Mannerist artists that dominated Catholic tastes exemplified the kind of extravagant pomposity that many Protestants associated with the errors of the Catholic Church. The Council of Trent proposed art become a more popular and personal medium, where average people could understand the subjects. (At a time when less thatn 25 percent of the population was literate, painting was a remarkably effective means for communicating doctrine and propaganda.) The result was a flowering of new artists that looked towards the more-orderly compositional ethic of the high renaissance, in particular Raphael, Titian and Michelangelo. Guido Reni was a student at one of the most successful school of art, the Accademia degli Incamminati, that came to dominate the new artistic climate.

Members of the Accademie championed a new aesthetic of full, heroic-sized figures that filled canvases from top to bottom. By comparison to artists working just decades before, Reni's paintings seem remarkably bare, usually  featuring only one or two figures whose identities are made known through small, symbolic gestures.

A student of the Carracci Brothers, who founded the Accademie, Reni was perhaps the school's most successful alumnus. In his lifetime, he was patronized by cardinal and popes. In death, his works were among the most widely collected of all the Old Masters, ensuring that his personal aesthetic influenced several successive generations of artists.

Happy Birthday, Maestro.

Three Paintings by Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) for Christmas

When Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) made these three paintings, he was between 19 and 20 years old. All three were owned by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640), and were bought from his collection by the Spanish royal family after Rubens' death. That Rubens had them in his private collection says a great deal about his admiration for Van Dyck. Rubens was 12 years older than Van Dyck and had hired him to work as his chief assistant in his studio. "Assistant" doesn't do enough justice to Van Dyck, who was young but extremely competent. Even today, scholars have a difficult time distinguishing between the two artists' work during the period they worked together. Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) The Capture of Christ or Judas Kiss (c. 1618-1620) Oil on canvas. 344 cm x 249 cm. Prado Museum, Madrid.

In this first work, Christ is betrayed by Judas, who leads a crowd of Suducees and Pharisees (i.e. member of the ruling Jewish priesthood) to take Christ into custody. Christ had just offered his interceding prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, while three faithful apostles (Peter, James and John) had fallen asleep keeping watch.

Van Dyck brilliantly creates a torrent of action swooping in towards Christ, the only figure with two feet on the ground, effectively stopping the large crowd by himself. The contrasting patches of dark and light, red and black  create an emotional upheaval. It's an unsettling painting, and, with figures at almost real-life proportions, imposing.

Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) Crowning Christ with Thorns (c. 1618-1620) Oil on canvas. 224 cm x 197 cm. Prado Museum, Madrid.

Looking at this painting, its hard to know whether you are in the prison, and therefore an accomplice, or, like the figures in the top left of the painting, looking through a window. In either case, you have a front-and-center view of the scene. Christ is being crowned with thorns by Roman soldiers.

Van Dyck uses an astounding arsenal--especially given his young age--for his cast of characters. Armor, dog fur, the weakened, pale skin of Christ, the young, healthy skin of the Roman soldiers, wood, sky, rope . . . up close (click on the image for a much larger version) and in person, the brushwork is incredibely varied and the pallet rich.

Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) The Brass Serpents (c. 1618-120) Oil on canvas. 205 cm x 235 cm . Prado Museum, Madrid.

Though not overtly Christian to us today, this painting would have been an obvious reference to Christ's saving role. It depicts a story from Number chapter 21 in the Bible. Jehovah sent poisonous sepents among the Israelites, and many were bitten. He then commanded Moses to create a brass serpent and put it on a pole. Any person who would look at the brass serpent would be instantly healed. Many did not look, and died. According to the book of John chapter 3 verse 14: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

Van Dyck painted this for a very Bible-literate audience that would have understood the reference to Christ. All three of these paintings hang in the same room, but separately, at the Prado Museum, but I don't know if there were meant to hang together. Sometimes I wish The Brass Serpents were hung to the right of the The Capture of Christ. The symmetry and dates of the three makes me wonder if they were meant to be together, perhaps with the Crowning of Christ with Thorns in between.

In any case, have a wonderful Christmas.

Drawing Is Not the Only Way to Paint (e.g. Velázquez)

In several of my posts, I have pressed the importance of drawing. But it is important to know that not all the greats drew. One artist, in particular, who did not was Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660). Simply known as "Velázquez," he was the greatest painter in the history of Spain and admired everywhere by academic and non-academic painters alike.

As mentioned in a previous post, Leon Bonnat, who became Director of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, regularly sent his students to Mardrid to study Velázquez's works. Thomas Eakins said he was the "greatest painter who ever lived." Painters as diverse as Millet, Manet, Sargent, Degas, Courbet, and Whistler admired and studied Velázquez's paintings. They alll may have been surprised to learn what modern technology has taught us about Velázquez's working method.

We know of only about 100 paintings by Veláquez, 45 of which are kept in the Prado Museum in Madrid. There, they have undergone chemical analysis of his pigments and a barrage of tests to show what lies under the paint. In the book Velázquez: The Technique of a Genius, Jonathan Brown and Carmen Garrido publish some of these findings.

Velázquez does not seem to have started with a fixed idea for a composition, but rather preferred to see what happened as he worked, making adjustments as he painted . . . The contours of figures overlap as their position in the composition changes or as elements are added or subtracted. Even within the forms of individual figures changes can be observed. The positions of hands and sleeves are adjusted, collars and lace are shifted, as are other parts of costume.

Landscape and neutral interior backgrounds were added, generally speaking, after the contours of the figures had been established.

(Jonathan Broan and Carmen Garrido, Velazquez: Technique of a Genius. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 18.)

One of my favorite paintings by Velázquez, The Forge of Vulcan, is a good example of this improvisational approach. Originally, the head of Vulcan, the older man in the left-hand side of the painting, was turned away from Apollo.

To the left of Vulcan's head, we can see a dark patch of brown paint where the back of his head used to be. In addition to this change, Velázquez enlarged the canvas. Over time, the pieces that were glued on became separated from the original piece and lines on the left and right of the canvas have become visible (See the first image.)

Not having drawn out the composition before hand, Velázquez created more work for himself. At the same time, it allowed him to go where his creativity led.

The results are stunning.

Obviously, drawing isn't everything.

The Discovery of Velázquez by Thomas Eakins

Since I am now here in Madrid I do not regret at all my coming. I have seen big painting here. When I had looked at all the paintings by all the masters I had known I could not help saying to myself all the time, its very pretty but its not all yet. It ought to be better, but now I have seen what I always thought ought to have been done & what did not seem to me impossible. O what a satisfaction it gave me to see the good Spanish work so good so strong so reasonable so free from every affectation. It stands out like nature itself. [sic.]-Thomas Eakins, in a letter to his father, Benjamin, dated December 2, 1869.

Saying that everything he had seen before "was pretty" but "not enough" is surprising. Eakins had just left the studio of one of the greatest painters of his day, Jean-Leon Gerome (French, 1824-1904), and lived in Paris, then capitol of the art world.

Eakins' trip to Spain was a watershed for his personal development, and an indication of the draw Spain had for many painters working in Paris.

At the time Eakins visited Spain--during of the Winter of Spring of 1869 and 1870--it was considered a backwater, years behind civilized Europe in the arts and economics.

Yet, Eakins and a number of other important artists (e.g.. Eduoard Manet, Mary Cassat, John Singer Sargent) traveled to Spain works by Spanish masters in the Prado Museum. In 2003, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, featured an exhibition on French artists in Spain. Titled Manet and Velázquez and with 200 works, the exhibition discussed a newfound love of Spain that grew out of the French invasion by Napoleon's armies in 1808 and the Mariage of Napoleon III to, Eugénie de Montijo, a Countess of Spanish Royal blood.

Eakins travelled to Spain shortly after the country's government was overthrown. Despite the chaos, he was able to visit the Prado Museum and a number of galleries throughout the country.

He was especially impressed by the work of Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Spanish, 1599-1660). Eakins claimed Velázquez's painting, The Weavers, was "the most beautiful piece of painting I have seen in all my life."

"Here is how I think the woman tapestry-weaver was painted . . . [Velázquez] drew her withouth giving attention to the details. He put her head and arme well in place. Then he painted her very solidly without seeking or even marking the fold of the draperies, and perhaps he sought his color harmonies by repeated painting over, for the color is excessively thick on the neck and all the delicate parts . . ."

This kind of careful attention to technique was absorbed into Eakins' own work.

According to M. Elizabeth Boone, author of Visitas de España: American Views of Art and Life in Spain, 1860-1914, it was shortly after seeing these that Eakins made his first original painting: Carmelita Requeña . In it, Eakins mimics Velázquez's subtle use color and shadow, using very closely-related tones and small gradations of light to dark.

Besides, The Weavers, Eakins was inspired by Velázquez's Crucifixion, painting a version of his own.

In the past decade, a great deal has been done to re-assert the influence of Thomas Eakins and France on American painting. With that in mind, it would seem necessary to explore the role of Spanish painting on these painters.

The Rubens That Loved Me: My James Bond Adventure with an Old Masters Painting

Note: To protect privacy, the names used in this story have been changed.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640). Head of Medusa (c. 1617) Oil on canvas.

What started as a simple trip to Madrid to do research became a story worthy of Ian Flemming. Ferraris, international real-estate deals, London, Madrid, and world-renown Old Masters art dealers combined in a week-long painting adventure.

Recently, I flew to Spain on a research project. Getting off the plane at the Madrid, Bajaras airport, I was approached by a distinguished Englishman, John Jacobs. He was on his way to a business meeting near the Prado Museum and had overheard me talking to someone in Spanish--Jacobs didn't speak the language.

"Would I mind sharing a taxi?" he asked, "I could use the help and it would save us both money." My hotel was near the Prado. So, Jacobs and I got in the cab and got to know one another.

The ride was about thirty minutes. I learned that Jacobs was a consultant for a large British real-estate company working on a multi-billion-dollar deal that involved a group of Spanish investors. We didn't go into much detail about either of our careers. Stepping out the cab, he asked for my card, and I went on to my hotel without much thought about it; that is, until I got a call from Jacobs the next day.

"I met today with a very wealthy Spanish businessman. When I told him that I shared a taxi with an art historian, he wanted your number. Apparently, he has a Rubens painting and wants you to sell it," was Jacob's message. A businessman from Madrid with a Rubens? I'm curious.

(As an art historian, I am approached regularly about paintings inherited from grandparents and found a yard sales. It is highly unlikely that any of these turn out to be masterworks or, even, a minor work of any worthwhile value. But, the possibility, no matter how minute, that someone in Arkansas has purchased a Titian from a Church charity sale makes every art dealer and historian want to at least take a look.)

On day three in Madrid, I get a call from Marcelo, the businessman with the Rubens. He asks to meet me at the Ritz Hotel in a few hours, where I could see an image and documentation of the Rubens painting. Rather than making me less suspicious, the idea of meeting at the Ritz seemed like an attempt to impress beyond a more disappointing reality. At least, that is what I thought before Marcelo stepped out of his Ferrari to shake my hand. (The likelihood that he rented a Ferrari in the few hours between the call and the Ritz, in an effort to impress me, was slim.) Having a Rubens now seemed credible.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640). The Holy Family with Saint Anne (c. 1628) Oil on canvas. (This is not the painting I was shown. For legal reasons, I am unable to show an image of the piece discussed in this post.)

He showed me the image of a Rubens modello (i.e. preparatory oil sketch) for an important altarpiece located in Northern Italy, along with a certificate of authentication from an art historian in Beverly Hills, California. "The painting is not actually mine," Marcelo explained, "I have a client that is doing a major real estate deal. He needs more cash and would like to sell the painting. He is not a painting expert, and neither am I."

In other words, there are several degrees of separation and supposed ignorance that made the situation seem simultaneously less credible and more credible. (Almost all Old Master paintings have a long history, but beware of complicated histories of ownership that include anyone that is cash poor, let alone a businessman from Texas.)

Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most prolific of the Old Master painters. Born in Antwerp, his formative training took place in Italy, where for several years he copied Renaissance painting and ancient statuary. Before returning to Antwerp, Rubens painted a number of altarpieces and other religious works. His working method included submitting a small sketch (modello, which literally means "model") of the intended painting to a patron for approval. Having received approval, he would use the modello as a map for the much larger, final work.

Marcelo's client wanted the modello sold in London to a dealer, but not an auction house--more alarm bells. And, Marcello planned to be in town to see Wimbeldon. "Could we meet with some dealers before or after one of the matches?" he asked.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640). Drunken Silenus (1618) Oil on canvas.

Arriving in London a few days before Marcelo, I took a photograph of the painting, along with certifying documents and met with two of the worlds foremost dealers in Old Masters paintings. (Though I will not mention their names, each has a gallery in St. James's Place in Westminster.)

These dealers are Olympians of the art world, with the ability to look at a painting and, within moments, place it in time and space together with its likelihood of authenticity. The first dealer looked at the photo for about 30 seconds, looked up at me and said: "Rubens didn't paint hands like that," and "the cherubs surrounding the Virgin look too thin to be by Rubens." His final judgments was it was authentically from the period, but more likely from a follower of Rubens.

The second dealer had sold a similar Rubens painting a few days earlier to the Getty Museum in California. He remarked on the hands of the modello too and said the overall composition "lacked a cohesive Rubens approach" with the figures being too separated in action from one another. I called my Ferrari-driving friend from Spain telling him the news: It's not a paintings by Rubens. He brushed off the bad news and invited me to Wimbledon.


In sharing my experience with a long-time art dealer from the United States, he said that my story was familiar. Apparently, there has been a long practice of trying to sell supposed Old Master paintings to less-than-public buyers who are more likely to be ignorant of dubious works.

In my case, I was able to avoid being caught up in the a potentially huge mistake by taking the painting to two experts. It was a good lesson that, thank heavens, did not come with a price. The best advice I got came from the second of the two dealers: "Don't trust certified documents from art historian in Beverly Hills."

Neuroesthetics: The Science of Art and the Brain

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) The Triumph of David. Oil on canvas. 118.4 BY 148.3CM. Dulwich Gallery, Dulwich, UK. Poussin is remembered for his highly structured paintings that influenced generations of artists looking for a more scientific approach to their painting. Three geometric analysis of this work are included in this article.

Over the past decade a new field of neurology has emerged, Neuroesthetics, with the intent of mapping the brain's reaction to the fine arts.

The term "neuroesthetics" and the field was pioneered by Dr. Semir Zeki, who is the first Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London, founder of the Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London and the Minerva Foundation at UC Berkley, where he is an adjunct professor. The website of the Institute defines its work as seeking "to establish the biological and neurobiological foundations of aesthetic experience."

The notion of scientifically quantifying art might seem opposed a central purpose of art, which is subject to individual experience with an original work of art. In his long essay, What is Art?, Leo Tolstoy said it another way:

The activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man's expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it. To take the simplest example: one man laughs, and another, who hears, becomes merry; or a man weeps, and another, who hears, feels sorrow . . . And it is on this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling, and experience those feelings himself that the activity of art is based.

(Leo Tolstoy. Aylmer Maude, trans. What Is Art? Bridgewater: Baker & Taylor, 2000. p. 48)

Tolstoy's way of describing art seems like a set up for a scientific experiment.

Geometric Analysis 1: Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) The Triumph of David. Oil on canvas. 118.4 BY 148.3CM. Dulwich Gallery, Dulwich, UK.

A scientific approach to art is not new. Many artists, most notably those of the Renaissance, approached art with a rigorous scientific mindset. The fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian schools of painting, especially in Florence and Rome, were concerned with geometry and the Golden Mean and were epitomized by the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael. European artistic training and up until the end of the nineteenth century, included classes in geometry and scientific theory. Impressionist and Divisionist artists, though rejecting traditional art, embraced new discoveries in color theory. In the twentieth century, the Futurist art movement applied current scientific understanding to effectively portray speed and movement on a canvas. Rothko was intensely concerned about the affect of color on the brain and was concerned about where his paintings would hang in case they would have an adverse results on the viewer (e.g. he believed that red was good for dining areas). I could think of a number of other examples.

The point is: science and art have been bedfellows for some time. So, it follows, why don't we use science to futher improve our understanding of art?

Geometric Analysis 2: Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) The Triumph of David. Oil on canvas. 118.4 BY 148.3CM. Dulwich Gallery, Dulwich, UK.

In 2004, Dr. Zeki and his colleague Dr. Hideaki Kawabata published a study titled Neural Correlates of Beauty in the April 2004 J Neurophysiol journal of the The American Physiological Society. The study reports on an experiment where ten woman, with at least one college degree, were asked to rate paintings on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being beautiful and 1 being ugly. (Note that the test controlled for a subjective experience with each painting, allowing personal preference and not scientific judgment to intervene.)

Each woman was placed in an MRI scan and, then, shown the paintings they rated in random order. The brain patterns of the women were mapped to determine whether or not the brain has has beauty or ugliness centers.

The conclusion of the study states:

The results show that the perception of different categories of paintings are associated with distinct and specialized visual areas of the brain, that the orbito-frontal cortex is differently engaged during the perception of beautiful and ugly stimuli, regardless of the category of painting, and that the perception of stimuli as beautiful or ugly mobilizes the motor cortext differentially.

(A PDF of the the full, published study, along with other studies by Dr. Zeki, can be found on the Wellcome Institute's website:

In other words, setting aside a personal interpretation of beauty, the brain has established neuro-pathways that are triggered when looking at a beautiful or ugly work of art.

As the field of Neuroesthetics expands it may eventually influence the art world. As an art historian, I am curious about what makes a work of art or an artist have a lasting impact. To find out art theorist often uses a highly subjective and, therefore, uneasy mix of soft science. Having a more scientific approach to what makes a painting work, would be a welcome tool in my belt.

Geometric Analysis 3: Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) The Triumph of David. Oil on canvas. 118.4 BY 148.3CM. Dulwich Gallery, Dulwich, UK.

The effect of this kind of research on working artists could be useful or damaging, depending on the intent of the artist. If an artist wants to learn what affects her work is having on her viewers-- and, therefore, understand how to better hone those intended results--it seems very useful to use the ideas supported by neuroethetics. On the other hand, the last thing I would want to purchase it market-tested works of art. Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be the intent of Dr. Zeki's work.

Dr. Zeki has a blog, which he regularly updates: As the founder and leaders of the field of Neuroethetics, it is a good place to learn about his latest thinking.

Masters & Pupils: The Artistic Succession from Perugino to Manet (1480-1880)

Masters & Pupils by Gert Rudolf Flick

Cover of the book by Gert-Rudolf Flick

Many would be surprised to learn that Manet, considered by many to be the first artist of the modern period, was the last in a long line of teachers going back to Perugino. In his book Masters& Pupils: The Artistic Succession from Perugino to Manet 1480 to 1880, Gert-Rudolf Flick traces the artistic genealogy of Manet connecting him to Carracci, Raphael and many of the greatest artists in Western history.

From the inside flap:

The line of descent that connects Perugino with Manet is made up of just eighteen artists. Some are household names such as Raphael and David. Others, for example, Horace Le Blanc and Louis Boullogne, have fallen into obscurity. All are connected by a common bond: the belief that art could be taught and learned, and that skill and knowledge would be passed on from an older artist to a younger. With Manet, the succession came to a halt, marking the end of a great tradition but also the beginning of the modern art wold, in which the desirability of teaching art has been thrown into question.

Flick traces the genealogy with an in-depth exploration of each artist in the line--eighteen in all--together with examples of each artist's work.

These days, we do not talk much about the dynastic traditions carried down from one artist to another. For example, we talk of philosophical connections between Warhol and Banksy, but not where they studied. The idea of training an artist seems counter to the freedom inherent in our conception of "artistic expression." How can an artist be trained by someone and, then, be expected to create something worthwhile?

The idea that tradition and training stifles an artist's god-given talent may have begun with Manet. Together with other artists of his day, he had an antagonistic relationship with the art establishment in Paris. In the last half of the nineteenth century, the annual Paris Salons were the premiere showcase for painters. Over 20,000 people would visit the Salon daily. Artists whose work appeared in the show were much more likely to be commercially successful. For every painting shown in the Salon ten were rejected.

A group of elite people, a mix of government appointees and past winners judged the Salon and accepted or rejected paintings. These judges were often teachers in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and would reward their own students. It was a system that had tremendous stakes for artists who felt artistic merit was often subject to nepotism and rigid decisions. (For a very entertaining and accurate description of this struggle in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, I suggest reading Ross King's The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism.)

It was, I believe, this institutional favoritism--teacher favoring student--in the academic system that led to the ultimate downfall of the master and pupil system. It bred a resentment in Manet's generation, ultimately resulting a series of artistic movements (e.g. Impressionism, Divisionism, Futurism, etc.) that opposed academic training. By rejecting the system and encouraging others to do the same, Manet laid the foundation for its destruction.

Flick remains even-handed in his approach to the topic; not casting doubt on the idea that artists are born not trained. Reading the book, it is difficult to not come to the conclusion that the system should have been reformed rather than lost.

While it is true that there are many talented artists today, few of them can participate in a system that allows them to instill that talent in another generation. As a result, each generation discovers painting for themselves. This leads to a lot of fresh ideas, but severs them and us from the experience that leads to deeper understanding.

If Newton "stood on the shoulders of Giants," where do the artists from Manet to today place their feet? That is the question that haunts this book and one that we need to have a serious debate about.