In this encounter between one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophical minds and an artist fundamental to our understanding of the development of modern art, Michel Foucault explores Manet's importance in the overthrow of traditional values in painting.
Translated into English in 2009, this widely acclaimed commentary on thirteen of Manet's paintings is now published in paperback for the first time. The text was originally delivered as a series of lectures in Tunis in 1971, at a time when Foucault was both intellectually and politically engaged, and is both readable and accessible in its conversational style. Far from painting being an insular and bourgeois pursuit, Foucault saw it as a place where power's insidious workings were disclosed and therefore could be challenged.
At the same time, this work is part of the larger history of representation that informs all Foucault's major writings, a stage in the development of his concern for le regard, or the gaze, which was to become a major feature of twentieth-century French phenomenology. In paintings like "Un Bar aux Folies-Bergere", Manet used the mirror to imply the multiple gaze of the waitress, the viewer and the man at the bar who may or may not be the artist, to produce a new, self-conscious kind of painting, or painting-object, that was about painting itself. It was these qualities that fascinated Foucault, who used Manet as a basis for a wider exploration of culture.
Featuring an introduction by leading French critic Nicolas Bourriaud and a note on the translation by Matthew Barr, this is a significant text for all those interested in or studying modern philosophy and art history.