Dearest Cleo

Sorry to have missed you this weekend, but I really did have to pay a short visit to my mum’s before I went to France. Mum was fine as always and was asking about you and Auburn.

I have been researching Manet who is acknowledged as “The First of the Moderns” but maybe that title belongs to Courbet or Millet or even Delacroix. Manet was, however, the first to break with the old Academy painting style of layering and glazing and paint alla prima, painting wet into wet in oils, paving the way for the impressionists.

Manet style emphasised the two dimensional aspect of the canvas, with high key lighting, generally from the front with minimal modelling of his forms giving an almost photographic modelling to his forms. His compositions were influenced by the old masters but he updated them into contemporary Parisian life, following the exhortations of his friend Baudelaire that a painter can only paint representations of Contemporary society.

Manet achieved depth in his paintings by emphasising the main subject and painting the parts of the painting that were in peripheral vision sketchily, he often used a tight background to give his composition a narrow depth of field.

His use of the wet in wet technique encouraged the ebauche or bravado brushstroke, prefiguring the work of Sargent and Whistler.

While Manet was at the front end of Impressionism, Seurat was at the back end, and while he painted many impressionist works he is perhaps most famous for inventing pointillism painting in dots of colour and allowing the optical mixing of the dots to take place in the eye of the viewer.

It was a technique that prefigured the early colour printing of the American comics and the paintings of Roy Lichtenstein, whose process was a development of this printing technique.

Seurat was an avid follower of the Renaissance technique of the Golden Ratio and applied this technique in many of his paintings consciously. There is an excellent site by Gary Meisner (cited below) exploring Seurat’s use of the golden Ratio in his compositions.

Gary is of course the proprietor of I have one of his tools and find it an invaluable compositional aide, interestingly Dongwei Di applies it to Starry Night but perhaps the most surprising is this drawing by Van Gogh with the golden section applied.

Figure 1 Van Gogh drawing with Golden section superimposed

I will write more when I get back from France,

My love as always

Mickos xx

Gallery visits and Exhibitions

Courtauld Gallery, Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat

Musee D’Orsay

National Gallery

National Gallery, Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne

Royal Academy, Manet: Portraying life.


Grabsky, P. and Harding B. (2013) Manet: Portraying life. Brighton: Seventh Arts.


Courtauld Gallery, The. (2015) Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat. London: Ridinghouse and The Courtauld Gallery.

Neret, G. (2016) Edouard Manet: The First of the Moderns. Koln: Taschen.

Robbins, A. (2018) Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne. London: National Gallery Co. Ltd.

Royal Academy, The. (2013) Manet: Portraying life. London: The Royal Academy of Arts.

Internet research

Artable (s.d.) Edward Manet. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Dongwei Di (2016) When Golden Spiral applies to Starry Night. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Hamilton, A. (2011) The colour of Manet. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

Marder, L.(2014) Painting Techniques and style of Edouard Manet. At:

Meisner, G. (2014) Seurat and the Golden Ratio in Art Composition. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

The Art World (s.d) Manet painting methods. At: (accessed 9/11/18)

The Khan academy (s.d.) A beginners guide to Realism. At: (accessed 9/11/18)