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Video transcript

we're in the of the National Gallery in Berlin and we're looking at one of my favorite paintings by Edouard Manet in the conservatory now conservatory is like a greenhouse it would be attached to a home and would allow for plants to survive the winter and the woman who takes up most of the painting seems like a hothouse flower herself I mean look at her dress and hat she was actually the owner of a boutique and so fashion was important to her and his wonderful sort of reminder of the way in which Paris had become such a showplace for the bush was he being observed and observing were critically important activities especially for somebody like MANET she has that air about her being above it all she does seem detached I read it as her aloofness and his desire for intimacy the center almost literally is their hands hers casually draped on the back of this bench but his holding a cigar which seems to inch towards her she looks out past him and so you're absolutely right she's the object of his attention perhaps of his desire and she seems to be elsewhere completely that man is her husband Jules game a typical of MANET have this open brushwork this loose handling of paint you're right there's a kind of speed with which his hand is moving across the surface of the canvas I love the way that the bench functions is a barrier between them except of course at its top where the hands almost meet and so often many does give us a sense of the momentary the sense of something caught by our eye and I almost have that sense here as though we were walking by and caught this moment formerly the painting is so interesting she looks off to the right and although we don't have a sense that she's looking at something specific we do see her gaze enter an area that we don't have available to us the man is looking at her but we can't quite see his eyes in mayonnaise usual way there is a kind of flattening that takes place here the figures are very close to the foreground and the verticals of the back of the bench help to emphasize through their rhythm the two dimensionality of the surface the relative lack of differentiation in the greens in the background in the foliage create as an even field and a kind of shallow space and it's this flatness and it's also the problems in the narrative I think would have upset nineteenth-century viewers most academic paintings would have offered us a narrative that was entirely understandable and this one just isn't we can't firmly say what's going on with these figures we don't know what's just outside the frame to the right so this is kind of ambiguity not only in the style of painting but there's a kind of ambiguity in the relationship as well all of which was antithetical to the strong narratives of the Academy this allege ability is such a beautiful expression of the ambiguity of modern life and MANET was one of the first artists to recognize this and make this central to his art