Seduction and Mass Consumption in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere!

Selling Seduction in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Morgan will be our guide on this article, which I found very interesting in light of our previous readings on the gaze and women in frames and the commodity culture of the 15th-century. Just a few queries:

1. In what various media does the author trace the appearance of the discourse of mass consumption?
2. Were you surprised to read about the Salon in the second half of the 19th-century as characterized by the author?
3. What elements of Manet’s painting may be compared to contemporary department stores, expositions, and the novels of Emile Zola?
4. I loved Iskin’s characterization of Manet’s painting as an “urban still-life.” Discuss!
5. In what ways are the marchande in the painting and the artist analogous?
6. What is the role of female spectatorship in this article?
7. What is the role of the crowd in Manet’s painting? The viewer?
8. Benjamin’s characterization of modern spectatorship particularly resonates with Manet’s painting in my opinion. Do you agree?
9. Despite the agency afforded women as spectators/consumers, what role can they not avoid?
10. Why is Manet’s painting an ode to the discourse of mass consumption, seduction, and modernity?


6 responses

  1. 5) Manet collapses the distinctions between painting/painter and commodity by arranging a scenario analogous to that of artists selling on the open market and by placing his signature on the label of a wine bottle. By taking visuals cues from contemporaranous advertising, Bar at the Folies-Bergère departs from western still-life tradition as a means of capturing the reality of Modern society and culture.

  2. 7) The crow of Un bar aux Folies Bergère is depicted as a reflection on the mirror. As a result the viewer, crowd, looking at the painting in the Salon coincide with the one on the painting.

  3. I also have some questions to ponder over for this article:
    1. The author, Ruth Iskin, acknowledges that her interpretation of the painting is different from more conventional scholarly interpretations. How does her argument hold up for you? Are you convinced people are reading the interactions too simply?
    2. In what evidence does Iskin argue this is a “modern” painting?
    3. How have crowds evolved in 19th century Paris?
    4. How did art get involved in the “mass marker consumer culture”?
    5. How did the principle gaze change?

  4. I never regarded Manet’s Bar aux Folies-Bergere as an ode to modern life before reading this article. I find several parallels between 19th century Parisian display culture and contemporary mall experience: overwhelming advertising and physical thrusting new novelties in your face, using allure (“Sex sells”) to draw in consumers of a product, restless eye syndrome, indifferent crowds of exhausted shoppers…especially during the holiday season!

    Manet identifies with the marchande as a kind of salesperson. Being outside of the Salon’s promotion he sought clientele in the market–he must put on a show to appeal to the growing middle class and wealthy spectators who may buy his work if it is indeed a commodity. In this “still life” of luxury items he perpetuates public consumption with mass produced serial bottles, mandarins and decorative roses detailed in the forefront–directly in front of the viewer to appeal to lust of the eye…

    Female spectatorship lends women of the era of crowds some agency in this article. Female gaze was critical to modern culture. Women employed a variety of gazes depending on social status (a testament to increased social mobility in urban areas). Women were more present in the public sphere in spite of the cult of true womanhood and Victorian era constraints. Ladies browsed pensively, participated and interacted with one another and with the salesperson, avoiding direct eye contact in public. Or as saleswomen, they utilized a combination of etiquette and transgression to entice customers at the counter. Modern women could not avoid being “good mothers”…and of course this gaze as consumer is still being readily manipulated in our very visual, instantaneous microwave culture (I think online shopping, billboards, magazines, department stores, the mall as an epicenter of commercial activity…)

    The crowd is posited as us, the viewer, in terms of a mass public and multiple distracted gazes at once. They are shown reflected in the mirror behind the marchande

  5. I liked Iskin’s section on looking beyond the male gaze. Instead of presenting the guy propositioning the counter girl as a move of sexual and social dominance, she inserts him in Manet’s frame as just another consumer of exposition…She relates this to men’s changing social roles: he is not an aristocrat, and his gaze isn’t privileged. Interesting

  6. While Isken claims that the man’s gaze isn;t privileged, the bar maid’s expression towards the viewer almost imposes the privileged male gaze onto the viewer. The placement of the figures implicates the viewer as the perpetrator of the male gaze.

    This painting is disconcerting because the viewer becomes a part of the crowd that is reflected in the mirror behind the bar. It really blurs the lines of viewer vs. subject matter of the work.

    P.s. I hate this painting.

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