Friday, April 17, 2009

A Single Shoot

            Manet painted one small asparagus stem on a miniature canvas and sent it to a collector who had paid two hundred francs more than the painter had asked for his picture of a bunch of the stems. 

If you look closely, this one shoot, pale, plump, lying across the canvas like a nude, holds every color of the rainbow: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and rose.  All his life Manet wanted to be accepted and couldn’t understand why such an apparently simple aim proved beyond his grasp.  But this tentative stem that appears after the first spring rains, stretches, a frail rainbow of hope over the edge of a marble (cutting?) slab, reaches out to us like the innocent, hopeful finger of Michelangelo’s Adam.