Manet's retrospective exhibition, 1867

Paris, May 1867
[Preface to the exhibition catalogue]

Since 1861 M. Manet has exhibited or attempted to exhibit his work.

This year he has decided to present a retrospective exhibition of his work directly to the public.

On his first appearance in the Salon, M. Manet received an official distinction [for (56)], but since then his work has been so often rejected by the jury that he feels that if any attempt to do something new in art involves a struggle, it should at least be conducted fairly, that is, the artist should be enabled to show his work.

Otherwise, the artist could too easily find himself alone, with no outlet for his art. He would be obliged to stack up his canvases or roll them up and put them away in the attic.

The fact is that official acceptance, encouragement and rewards are seen by a certain section of the public as a guarantee of talent, and this public is accordingly predisposed for or against the accepted or rejected works. But on the other hand, the artist is told that it is the spontaneous reactions of this same public that lie behind the jury's negative response to his canvases.

That being the case, the artist has been advised to wait. To wait for what? Until juries cease to exist?

He has thought it preferable to appeal directly to the public.

The artist is not saying: Come and see perfect works; rather: Come and see honest works.

One effect of the honesty of these works is that they may appear to suggest a protest, whereas the artist has been concerned only to convey his impressions.

M. Manet has never wished to make a protest. The protests have in fact been made against M. Manet, who did not expect them. They have had their source in the traditional teachings concerning composition, technique and the formal aspect of a picture. Those who have been brought up on these principles countenance no others, since such principles foster impatience and intolerance. These people acknowledge the value of nothing that falls foul of their theories and instead of offering criticism, condemn it out of hand.

It is a vital matter, a sine qua non for an artist to be able to exhibit his work, since after repeated viewing, surprise and even shock will give way to familiarity. Little by little, understanding and acceptance will follow.

Time, too, works on pictures with an invisible polishing tool, smoothing away their initial asperities.

To exhibit is to find friends and allies for the fight.

M. Manet has always recognized talent wherever found; he has never wanted to do away with the painting of the past or aimed at creating a new kind of art. He has simply tried to be himself and no one else.

Furthermore, M. Manet has found powerful supporters, and he is aware that the opinion of undeniably talented people is growing daily more favorable.

It remains only for the artist to win over the public that has been supposedly turned into an enemy.

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