I don’t see the point of playing this game unless I make it a variant on the one where everybody owns up to the book he or she is most ashamed never to have read. The fallen idol whose fate leaves me by far the most uneasy—uncertain, that is, whether the fall is his or mine—is Manet. It keeps happening without my being wholly aware of it. This spring in Chicago, for instance, I realized at the end of a morning in the Art Institute that I had spent long minutes absorbed in the naiveties of a Delacroix lion hunt—wondering at the way the absurd wish-fulfillment called “North Africa” managed to focus and concentrate the painter’s energies, producing a green and blue like nobody else’s—and I’d never looked, for more than a moment or two, at Manet’s street-people on the opposite wall of the gallery. “Velazquez kitsch,” I found myself murmuring when I did. Whereas what Delacroix had done with Rubens! I think the process began some years ago in Munich, where Manet’s Luncheon in the Studio hangs—or did then—next to an early, simple-minded Cézanne called The Railway Crossing. I remember feeling a little guilty at the depth of my boredom with the Luncheon, and then abandoning myself, guiltless and gleeful, to Cézanne’s preposterous piece-by-piece assembly of a world.
more from Threepenny Review here.