20 October 2009

Verrry interesting

"Many writers have remarked that Manet's dark-and-light tonal separations resemble those of contemporary photographs. Farwell was the first person to think about this resemblance carefully and to frame it in studio terms, focusing especially on the issue of lighting. She began by observing that a large group of Manet paintings, including nearly all his best-known, breakthrough images ( Olympia Dejeuner sur l'herbe The Fifer and 16 others) were lit in an unusual way: the depicted light shines forward , from the viewers' position. Lighting professionals sometimes refer to frontal lighting as "flat lighting" because of its peculiar effects: shade concentrates at the edges of forms; light areas bleach; surface texture and detail are suppressed; backgrounds go dim or black. Art historians had noticed these effects in the paintings, but interpreted them as stylistic choices--Manet's famous "elimination of middle tones," his flatness, his Hispanicism. Of course, they were stylistic choices--but they were also consequences of a prior choice, a studio decision. Frontal lighting should have been recognized long ago as a precondition of Manet's breakthrough style. It gave Manet's early images their startling, nocturnal brightness. Frontal lighting made possible the look that we associate with Manet."

- "The Lost Photographs of Manet," Alexi Worth Link

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