During the first seven years of my artistic practice I painted landscapes or illusions of it. This last approach became gradually more important. From the middle of the nineties on I started to focus more on the figure and storytelling. I experimented with the possibilities of paint to create atmospheric illusions. One of the methods I used is visible in this painting, the gessolayer is two-toned ,on it I poured a liquid yellowish brown paint.
There must have been a suggestion of this female figure visible in the wet paint which I manipulated to become even more visible. The woman reminded me of a Pieter de Hoogh painting , earlier I copied a lot of his paintings in ink drawings. After enhancing the female form I began to think about a suitable partner for her. It had to be some sort of man, but then in an artificial way. Based on the pose developed in the sketch I tacked some clothes on the studio wall and painted them as real as possible . As a head I drew a silhouette on paper and painted this as well.
At the time I regularly read issues of The Burlington Magazine. In the November 1994 issue I found an article by Peter Rudd; ‘Reconstructing Manet’s Velasquez in his Studio’ . Rudd weaves an elaborate web of Manets’ working method and influences. Refering to Germain Bazin he writes ; ‘For Bazin, Manet’s engagement with the art of distant masters exemplified the museum’s rise as a site of artistic instruction. The variety of the museum collection, he argued, promoted stylistic freedom, substituting choice for the tradition of apprenticeship to a single master’.
‘Velasquez in his studio’ is known today only by fragments of the original canvas. According to Rudd it must have been a reference to both Velasquez’ ‘Las Meninas’ and Courbet’s ‘Atelier’ with Manet as the painter taking the place of Velasquez. Further in the article he compares this way of working with Manet’s ‘La Pêche’, a painting which cites a landscape by Caracci and again Courbet (this time ‘the Desmoiselles du Village’) . In ‘La Pêche’ Manet paints himself as Peter Paul Rubens, walking arm in arm with his future wife Suzanne Leenhof. Both of them wearing 17th century costumes
The still life painting of the tacked clothes didn’t produce the effect that I had hoped for. The picture needed more, extra layering. Motivated by reading Rudd’s article I decided to paint one of Courbet’s sisters from the ‘Desmoiselles’ over the maid of de Hoogh, but I left half of her visible.At the same time I painted in the dog, ‘a frightful little bastard , according to reviewer s of the 1852 Salon who incorporated the innocent animal in their critiques.
Rudd, in his essay adds another interesting, formal, observation; ‘Like those of Rubens and Courbet, Manet’s landscape includes a curious dog sniffing at the middle distance as if pointing out its very lack of recession, its telescoping of remote objects up against the foreground plane. Manet’s reprise of Courbet’s quizzical dog announces his flatness as a wilful ineptitude which, like his verdant pigment, asserts a rejection of the museum’s enshrined standards’.
Stijn Peeters, Nr 695, 200 x 130 cm, 1996. Present whereabouts unknown, sold in 2001 to Collection van den Ende, Essen