Developments in the non-literary arts in the latter part of the nineteenth century were as important as those in the content of the novel and poetry which established the impetus towards the revolution in Anglo-American writing in the early 1910s. The interrogation of visual representation, which began in French painting from the early 1860s, introduced a challenging of traditional perspective, and also heralded an introduction of contemporary, and oddly-juxtapositioned, content. This painting very much looks forward to later representations (both painterly and literary) that deliberately jumble up standard perception, and reposition the centre of consciousness of the artwork. Think of Éduoard Manet’s huge rendition, in very flat colours, of the strangely elongated limbs of the naked prostitute in his Olympia of 1863, or the disorientatingly-foregrounded figure of the woman in the pool of his Déjeuner sur l’Herbe of the same year. In both cases, the viewer is challenged to reconsider her or his own sense of perspective and the nature of perception, as well as her or his understanding of the ‘proper’ content of ‘high’ art and of the ordering of social hierarchies. Such pictures are calculated in their affront. The challenge presented by Manet is then carried forward in visual art by the Impressionist painters, with their urgency to capture sights in the instant of time, however that instant might violate the formal framing of the picture; and thence, as we see below, to the further challenge of the post-impressionist artists, who take this logic one step further and abandon ‘natural’ use of colour, or use of perspective within the picture at all.
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