So Manet Colors

The Kimbell's got this mastered

Ah, the enthusiasm of youth. Sure, some prefer to use the synonym "folly," but we enthusiastically disagree. See, in our more tender years, we were all about the passion: caring about politics, thinking that love wasn't a complete bullshit scam invented by Hallmark and studying art history. Yes, we took a humanities course in high school, most notably in this writer's case because of an upcoming trip to Europe he managed to afford by selling his extensive Sega collection on eBay. At that impressionable point in life, it was cool, neat and downright spiffy to know the difference between baroque and neoclassical art, and with so many artistic stops on the overseas itinerary, the "how" behind the "what" seemed that much more meaningful to learn. When we finally arrived in France, we were so well-versed in Impressionism that we made the Musée d'Orsay our bitch. We identified famous tombs, recognized varying trends in classical music and understood how brushstrokes could reflect an artist's troubled psyche. You get the idea.

Years later, however, our view of the world shifted a wee bit. We've come to accept what little political control we can exercise in the oligarchy of America. We are so jaded with love that we can't listen to Color Me Badd's "I Adore Mi Amor" without a single teardrop glossing our collective cheek. And, of course, we've forgotten all that art history stuff. Every so often, we're reminded of our recent artistic infertility, particularly when walking through local museums and trying to impress dates with what little knowledge hasn't been loosed and destroyed by years of neo-alcoholism. When we go home alone afterward, face still warm from a slap, thanks to a poorly told Van Gogh joke, we wistfully recall the olden days in humanities class.

But this pointillist-sunset of knowledge doesn't have to vanish into the dotted night sky, thanks to this fall's Early Modern French Masters series. The Kimbell Art Museum begins its art documentary DVD program Sunday at 2 p.m. with Les Silences de Manet, and the DVD series continues every last Sunday of the month through December. Each of the four programs focuses on a different set of painters who helped popularize early modernism in French art, and while later documentaries will feature such luminaries as Monet, Pissarro and Cezanne, this week's free presentation spotlights 55 minutes of Manet seulement. Eduoard Manet's importance in art history sits largely with his bridging of realistic and modern art forms, for he is often cited as a crucial segue for later French Impressionists. His experimentation gave younger artists inspiration to distance themselves from convention and focus on color, technique and forms. Or, in indie-rock terms, Manet could be the Pixies to the other painters' Nirvana. We could go on by comparing Sonic Youth to Jackson Pollock, or Cat Power to Georgia O'Keeffe, but that might get ridiculous.

"Man in Blue Smock" by Cezanne, one of the Kimbell's masters
"Man in Blue Smock" by Cezanne, one of the Kimbell's masters

The feature in question is a 1989 documentary available in stores on DVD, but we figure most people would prefer a free one-time dose of Manet on film, especially since we've read reviews of the flick. Opinions vary on the educational merit of Les Silences de Manet, but everyone seems to agree that the soundtrack is atrocious. There's nothing like the folly of '80s documentary soundtracks, right?

 
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