“A pattern of privacies”

Marginal Utility Annex

I randomly came across art critic T.J. Clark’s “Modernism, Postmodernism, and Steam” and decided to read it because it had some analysis of one of my favorite paintings, Manet’s Le Chemin de fer:

le chemin

Clark points out what has always struck me most about it, the uncomfortably short distance between the viewer and the figures depicted: “The girl and the governess are put in a space that is more like a cage than a terrain vague. From railings to picture plane there are no more than two or three feet.” No wonder the woman looks annoyed, as though we’ve interrupted her reading and now we’re crowding her by looking. I like how Clark wants to give an optimistic read of this but then talks himself out of it:

The governess is reading and dreaming. For a moment she may be all outwardness and facingness, but she still has two…

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