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Nymph CC

Dear Readers,

Over the summer I was fortunate to visit the stimulating city of Buenos Aires.  I had heard of its architectural grandeur and stylish inhabitants, but I had not anticipated the high quality of art, all around, especially in the public museums.  The permanent collection of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, for instance, contains paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, El Greco and a large number of significant Argentinian artists.  But I couldn’t believe it when I turned a corner and saw Edouard Manet’s Surprised Nymph (1861) – it was like bumping into a dear, old friend – for I’d once spent days standing in front of her, studying her twisting, undressed form when the painting was on loan in New York.

Here, Manet, always the rebel, breaks with tradition and suggests to his viewers that the intrusion upon this Bather’s privacy is undesired and somewhat inappropriate.  She does not appear to dwell in the tantalizing myths of the ancient Greeks.  Rather, with her contemporary clothing cast aside, her double strand of pearls, and arresting gaze, she manifests a sense of bold modernity.  Unlike her mythological counterparts, this woman is imbued with self-possession and individuality.  An unusual way to depict a naked nymph.  It was a joy to glimpse this art work again. Its paradoxical beauty leaves the viewer inspired, intrigued, and yet, slightly abashed.