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In this encounter between one of the 20th century's greatest philosophical minds and an artist fundamental to our understanding of the development of modern art, Michel Foucault explores Manet's importance in the overthrow of traditional values in painting. Originally delivered in Tunis in 1971 as part of a conference on Manet, this powerful critique takes the form of a commentary on thirteen of Manet's paintings. It was written at a time when Foucault was both intellectually and politically engaged, taking part in struggles in the streets as well as on the page. For Foucault, the connection between visual art and power was clear. Far from painting being an insular and bourgeois pursuit, he saw it as a place where power's insidious workings were disclosed and therefore challenged. At the same time, this work is part of the larger history of representation that informs all Foucault's major works, a stage in the development of his concern for le regard or the gaze, which was to become a major feature of 20th century French phenomenology. In paintings like Un Bar aux Folies-Bergere, Manet used the mirror to imply the multiple gaze of the waitress, the viewer and the man at the bar who may or may not be the artist, to produce a new, self-conscious kind of painting, or painting-object, that was about painting itself. It was these qualities that fascinated Foucault, who used Manet as a basis for a wider exploration of culture. Translated into English for the first time with a newly commissioned introduction by leading French critic Nicolas Bourriaud and a note on the translation by Matthew Barr, this is a major contribution to the fields of both modern philosophy and art history.
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