Always something to  learn when retracing


the visual steps of the old masters through a careful scrutiny of their works.

I’ve always loved that ceramic cup in the corner with the lemons in front of it.  Here (above) I was making a copy using crayons, and I was mixing colors on the paper and getting slightly different color effects than one sees in Manet’s more subtle and monochromatic but beautifully colored canvas where silver gray predominates.  I was able to copy the objects almost the same size as they appear in the painting, but I chose just the right hand corner for my small notebook. Below you can see what I was copying and its context in the painting as a whole.

Some art teachers will pester you about getting ellipses correct. And I urge you, Reader,  to notice how out of kilter Manet’s plate and cup are!  And yet — for some mysterious reason, perhaps known only by Manet’s astute visual imagination, the painting as a whole is immeasurably better, more dynamic, more psychologically intriguing by virtue of these “mistakes.”  Clearly he knows how to draw things in perspective.  Just observe the wonderfully foreshortened fork.  But the plate and the cup are a thousand fold more lovely by virtue of the quirky perspective.  Trust your instincts.

You can draw Manet’s picture too, even if you’re far from the museum by using Gallery’s zoom feature at their website.  But not yet!  The links are redirects ….

EXCEPT — when you wish to zoom on the ceramic cup which ends up being covered by part of the zoom widget itself.  However, never fear — WikiArts to the rescue.  A large version of the image is available here — click on the picture to access:

Between the two sources you can get a lot of visual information about the painting.




4 thoughts on “In front of Manet’s still life

  1. Hi Aletha! Beautiful imaginative use of color. I know from experience how difficult it is to see color in a different way once it has already been translated to canvas by another artist. I like your use of yellow and blue, and that darkish purple behind the cup is superb. Your style for sure.

  2. Thank you, Fritz. Some of the color effect is due to the medium. I was copying the Manet using a set of 12 water soluble crayons. Not being able to mix colors as one does with oil paint, I had to mix on the paper through layers of color. So where I was seeing Manet’s beautiful grays, I was trying to figure out ways of getting various optical grays through the use of complementaries. Since each of the colors retains some of its character, mine ends up being more colorful than Manet’s. It’s a feature of what I like about using different media, that they translate their own peculiar effects to the image. So it’s definitely an interpretation.

  3. Just Love the article… just what I wanted to read today … when you say there is no hard and fast rules to art…:)

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