Manet and Monet and Marx and Freud


by T.J. Clark

In which all outstanding problems of art history are settled to everyone’s satisfaction

What mattered more for Manet and Monet,
That Manet had money or Monet had manners?
Mattered to what, pray? Mattered to whom?
To Monet’s manner, or just Manet’s mother?
And what do you mean by that bad-mannered ‘just’?

What matters more to a man than his mother?
What matters more to a manner than money?
We know Monet’s manner was dependent on Manet,
Maybe even his manners; and his manners meant marriage,
And money for Manets and many things more.
So did Manet matter more to Monet than mother?
(I mean Monet’s mother, though Manet’s might do.)
It depends, does it not, on the meaning of ‘matter’,
And what money meant to a man without means.

We know Madame Monet was once painted by Manet
(The Madame I mean was the first Monet married,
The one without money, the one that died young);
She was shown with her son on the grass in the garden,
The proud mother of Monets, as Monet looked on;
And the picture was done in a manner like Monet’s,
Or a manner his mother would not have thought Manet’s,
A manner, indeed, she might have thought mad
(I mean Manet’s mother, though Monet’s might do).

Maybe maternity always is manifold,
And manners are matters that mothers decree,
In which case this painting’s not Manet’s or Monet’s,
But Madame’s or mother’s. (And what matters more
Than putting an end to that mad either/or?)
Better say simply he did it for Monet
(Though the market that moment had moved Monet’s way).

Marx would have said these are all money matters,
Freud would have said it depends what that means.
There is never an end to the meanings of money,
The madness of matter, the meanness of mothers,
Otherwise why would man ‘A’ be a Manet,
And man ‘B’ be a Monet, manner and all?

Manet and Monet may be nothing but manners,
But what manners! What Monets! What need there be more?
What’s money? What’s Manet? It’s Manets that matter:
The way that their matter is made to have meaning,
Manually, maddeningly, matter-of-factly.
What matters is manner. It’s manner that means.

“Manet and Monet and Marx and Freud” is republished here by permission of T.J. Clark. It first appeared in The London Review of Books, 31 March 2005, p. 18

About the Author

T.J. Clark is a British art historian and poet. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern Art at UC Berkeley.


Edouard Manet, The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, 1874 (detail)