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It Speaks to Me: Rebecca Campbell on Édouard Manet's 'The Ragpicker' at the Norton Simon

March 30, 2011 | 10:00 am

F196809PRebecca Campbell on Édouard Manet's 'The Ragpicker' at the Norton Simon Museum:

Manet was sort of a dandy, so I don’t know what he could have possibly known about the reality of being a ragpicker or homeless person. This is a very outside-in look at a subject. But for me what’s really compelling is that there’s a tiny still-life in the left-hand corner: a painting within the painting. You can make out a shard of glass, a lemon peel, a bit of garbage — but it looks like he’s only touched the canvas a few times. That brevity is something I find compelling about Manet. People think of him as a painter of great beauty, but when you see some marks up close, they are stingy and thin. Also, the palette is so restrictive: Everything has been stripped away. It’s like a man of few words. You have to take what he says and unpack it yourself.

— Artist Rebecca Campbell,
as told to Jori Finkel

Image: Édouard Manet's "Ragpicker," circa 1865-70, from the Norton Simon Foundation