This lithograph, produced by Mark Attwood of The Artists’ Press, references Édouard Manet’s well-known painting, Olympia (1863). First exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, Manet’s nude with confrontational gaze and motifs linking her to the demimonde scandalised French society. The figure of the reclining nude is not new to art: Manet based his work on a study of Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538). This process of quotation and recycling is apt. William Kentridge’s practice has long been energised by the modernisms that emerged in early twentieth-century Europe, notably German expressionism and Russian constructivism – he has frequently quoted these sources.
Scholars of Kentridge do not discuss the influence of Manet, a proto-impressionist who rescued French painting from academicism. This is understandable: Kentridge has expressed dim views on South Africa’s strongly impressionist tradition of landscape painting. Yet Kentridge clearly holds Manet in high esteem. A 2008 chine collé lithograph, Manet (Heating and Ventilation), references the barmaid in Manet’s famous picture, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882). Test for Manet (2016), a hardground etching and aquatint, is based on Bouquet of Flowers (1882). Kentridge’s exhibition O Sentimental Machine (2017) at Marian Goodman, Paris, included four ink drawings derived from Manet’s late flower paintings.
Rose Korber Art Gallery, Cape Town, 2009.