Monday, January 14, 2013

Argenteuil, Les Canotiers

Edouard Manet,Argenteuil, les Canotiers, 1874 
(Musee des Beaux-Arts Tournai, Belgium)


When we look at this painting of a couple sitting in front of boats by the water, at first sight it looks like a typical middle class courting couple, out for a day of leisure on the beautiful, blue waters of the Seine. Upon closer inspection, we can see clues which counter this first assumption.

There is a sense of disconnect between the couple. While the man has his arm behind the woman and is turned towards her in a gesture of trying to creep into her space, she seems to be distant in her own world, staring out towards us. Clearly the man is trying to encourage the woman to come boating with him. But he is dressed for boating and she is not.

She has agreed to come with the man on a date. They strolled by the side of the river, but then he made a suggestion that horrified her and shocked her to her very core. He wants to go sailing!!!

What will become of this couple? Will the man persuade the woman to share his passion for sailing? Will they win the French National Cinq O Cinq Championship in a few years time?

Or will she reject his courtship and walk away on her own carrying her parasol and bouquet?

Or will love triumph? Will they marry and live happily ever after for decades and have a brood of grandchildren? Will she stay at home on the weekends and cook delicious meals for them in her French country kitchen while he sails his Laser in the frostbite races?

Here, Manet gives us a small portion of life, a slice of his vision. He has given us a sense of what Argenteuil was like in the 1874 with all its incongruity, the current fashions of the lower-middle classes, the mobility and search for leisure of the petite bourgeois, and the eternal tension between male and female, sailor and non-sailor, horizontal stripes and vertical stripes...

9 comments:

Perry said...

nice one!

Keep Reaching said...

Ah, maybe not so simple. Your elegant scholarly analysis takes into account only the visual elements, but entirely neglects the title - LES Canotiers. It is plural. Canotier means either a boater or a type of hat and since one sees 2 different types of hats, it would not be illogical to conclude that Manet's reference is to the 2 people - both of whom are boaters. What you refer to as her parasol might be a tiller extension.

O Docker said...

I think your question was answered by another French artist in this photograph.

Tillerman said...

Brilliant O Docker!

Tillerman said...

Clearly Manet's title was meant to be taken ironically. Those Impressionists were big on irony.

my2fish said...

she should have known better with him wearing a pair of late 1800's Sperry Top-Siders.

Tillerman said...

Yeah, and he should have known better when he saw that hat she is wearing.

meech said...

She is wondering if she really should believe his statement that the Laser is big enough for the both of them. Doubtful. Perhaps she should head to Renoir's party out on the balcony and where the men don't bother with stripes and have taken the latest fashion of wearing under-shirts...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dejeuner-canotiers.jpg

Tillerman said...

Those aren't under-shirts. Those are the new rashguards that were the height of fashion in the 1881 season and all the French Laser team were wearing them.

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