This well structured and highly readable essay makes an important contribution to the literature on Meissonier and illuminates a hitherto underexplored aspect of French art criticism in the late nineteenth century. The discussion surrounding the proper viewing distance for Impressionist paintings is quite well known; but that this was also an element in discussions of more conventional art will, I think, come as a surprise to scholars, as will Meissonier’s apparently highly conscious play with the discourse. The author has clearly read the criticism with great conscientiousness, and looked at the paintings themselves with equal care. His use of contemporary theory (Fried, theories of performativity) is sophisticated and apropos; his analyses and conclusions are convincing. I recommend the publication of the essay wholeheartedly.


Having said this, however, I do feel that the author has missed an important opportunity by concentrating solely on ›reception-aesthetical‹ questions. Of course it is very interesting to demonstrate how the ways in which Meissonier’s works were viewed was conditioned by the works themselves [p. 6]. In doing so, however, the author very nearly falls into a neo-formalist trap as he neglects to explain ›why‹ this is important in a broader context. Surprisingly – considering the author’s previous work (Das Relief der Farbe. Pastose Malerei in der französischen Kunstkritik 1850-1890, München 2007) – there is no in-depth discussion of the class implications of the different types of seeing/looking he describes. Particularly given the political connotations of some of Meissonier’s subject matter (e.g. his ›ancien régime‹ interiors) and the discussions surrounding the masses at the Salon there seems to me to be a lot to say on this matter. Concentrated viewing for the connoisseur and ogling at the details by the masses – this phenomenon deserves a more socio-political analysis and link with larger questions of reception and the perception of class. Also interesting, but sadly not further explored, are the ramifications of Meissonier’s apparent acceptance of being compared to a goldsmith while seeking in every possible way to distinguish himself from a sign-painter. Clearly an association with certain kinds of craft was viewed as positive and this may well tell us something about artistic self-conception in the period.


None of this, however, detracts from my admiration for the author and his achievement. It is more a ›desideratum‹ for the future. I read this essay with great pleasure and it contributed to my own thinking on matters of execution and artist’s strategies regarding showing/hiding their creative and painterly processes.


On the author

Rachel Esner is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Amsterdam. In the past she has published, among others, on the reception of German art in France (Menzel in particular), French art criticism, and on Van Gogh. She is currently co-editing a volume on Van Gogh, the canon and (Dutch) national identity. Her current research focuses on (representations of) the studio in the nineteenth century, its phenomenology, and relationship to notions of the artist and artistic autonomy in modernity.
Mail to: Art History Institute, Herengracht 286, 1016 BX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Email: r.esner@uva.nl



Jedermann darf dieses Werk unter den Bedingungen der Digital Peer Publishing Lizenz elektronisch über­mitteln und zum Download bereit­stellen. Der Lizenztext ist im Internet abrufbar unter der Adresse http://www.dipp.nrw.de/lizenzen/dppl/dppl/DPPL_v2_de_06-2004.html

Empfohlene Zitierweise

Esner R.: Review on Matthias Krüger: Ernest Meissonier und der Blick durch die Lupe - Fern- und Nahsicht im französischen Salon (Kunstgeschichte. Texte zur Diskussion 2008-3). In: Kunstgeschichte. Texte zur Diskussion, 2009-39 (urn:nbn:de:0009-23-19434).  

Bitte geben Sie beim Zitieren dieses Artikels die exakte URL und das Datum Ihres letzten Besuchs bei dieser Online-Adresse an.


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