TJ Clark, Manet, and Hidden Messages of Academic Support

In my readings this semester I have noticed, on several occasions, some embedded notes of support in art historical texts. Yes. Could they be purposefully included by the author, knowing their reader is probably overtired, overstressed, and one moment away from a jump off the bridge (for the fresh air!)? My decoding of certain passages had led me to believe that the author IS addressing me specifically, and all art historians in training, offering cheeky encouragement for the road. Here is one passage, from TJ Clark's otherwise tortuous The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers: Manet, the great Realist painter, discusses his own self-doubt/self-pity with French poet Baudelaire.

Manet: I really would like you here, my dear Baudelaire; they are raining insults on me, I've never been led such a dance...I should have liked to have your sane verdict on my pictures, for all these cries have set me on edge, and it's clear someone must be wrong...In London, the academy has rejected my pictures.

Baudelaire: So once again I am obliged to speak to you about yourself. I must do my best to demonstrate to you your own value. What you ask for is truly stupid. People are making fun of you; pleasantries set you on edge; no one does you justice, etc. Do you think you're the first to be placed in this position? Have you more genius than Chateaubriand and Wagner? And did people not make fun of them? They did not die of it.

Jamie: This exchange between friends Manet and Baudelaire, though, perfectly describes the emotional climate of my graduate program, always high stakes, always high drama. If only I could shout his words around the department like some kind of aural apotropaic.

Olympia (1863)

by Edouard Manet
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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