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The Lure of the Gaze and the Past

The Lure of the Gaze and the Past

A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Edouard Manet’s Works

ersch. November 2024

Hardcover. Schutzumschlag. Fadenheftung. 320 Seiten. 70 Abb.. englisch
ISBN 978-3-89581-623-9

ca. 42,– € *

Psychoanalyst Jeanne Wolff Bernstein analyzes the works of the French painter Édouard Manet (1832–1883) from different perspectives. Instead of speculating about Manet’s biography, she links only historically available data of the artist’s life to his paintings. His numerous references from the history of painting are subsequently explained as re-interpretations of these historical works and as interpretations of his painterly genealogy. With this method it becomes clear how Manet expresses the contradictions inherent in his era and also subtly criticizes his social milieu at the same time. The primary text for an understanding of the enigmatic relationship between artist, painting, and viewer is Freud’s essay »The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious« (1905), in which the teller of a joke invites his listener to complete his joke through an absent, but imagined third person. In a similar way, Manet incorporates the unconscious processes of his spectators to complete the scenes depicted on his canvases.

Jacques Lacan’s theory about the gaze, in particular his realization that the picture is in the eye of the beholder, but that the beholder was already fore-seen in the picture, is relevant for an understanding of the identificatory processes taking place between painting, beholder, and artist.

These three perspectives upon Manet’s work open up a new psychoanalytic approach to the study of painting which can also be used for other fields of aesthetics.