Monsieur Manet and Monsieur Blanc

Posted on May 27, 2013 by

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Well, well, well. The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) certainly managed to pull off a coup (do I mean scam?). The Manet Exhibition was such a disappointment (do I mean con?). Lord knows how many paintings were there but many were never intended and ought never to have been exhibited. One caption after another stated Not Shown During the Artist’s Lifetime or Unfinished. No wonder. He should have burnt them. Before this non-exhibition we would have remembered Manet for his (glaringly absent) masterpieces. Would the Courtauld not lend A Bar at the Folies Bergère? And what about that painting of the firing squad, The Execution of Maximillian? Where was Claude Monet Working on his Boat? Or The Balcony?

The RA didn’t do Manet any favours. Had we paid for our tickets (more anon) we would have asked for a refund. Himself was far more impressed by the early photographs, one in landscape format which was, I am informed, remarkable for the time as the photographer must have turned his very large, very clumsy camera upside down. Manet often took photographs of his paintings. He was very interested in photography.

Another disappointment. The RA tea room. Paper cups! Pah! Let’s do Fortnum and Mason instead. Or not. What a scrum. Unedifying. Never mind we’ll treat ourselves to F& M famous strawberry jam. Or not. It has a measly 65% fruit! Westmoreland Service Station Home Made strawberry jam has 85%. And the pots are prettier. Oh well. Onwards and upwards. Unable to track down a tea room, we ended up with a Costa Coffee tea bag. Wading through puddles (my how it rained) looking for The Photographers Gallery, sod’s law we stumbled over Yumchaa a real Chinese caff with real Chinese tealeaves in real Chinese tea pots. Aaggghh. The Photographer’s Gallery, like the RA Exhibition, was all fur coat and no knickers (The Emperor’s New Clothes springs to mind). Never mind. A quick whizz round the National Portrait Gallery then tube to Waterloo to pay another visit to South Bank Brasserie Blanc. And how much, pray, did our day in London cost? £17 each for an All Day Rover and all because either we misread some copy or an advertising copywriter somewhere deserves the sack. During a visit to Brasserie Blanc in Cheltenham, we picked up a flyer. This looks good say I. Buy lunch at any branch to get a free ticket to Manet. Working on the principle ‘if something sounds too good to be true…’ he reads it, checks the website, then re-checks. We turn up for our lunch on a Sunday. Tip. Do not go on a Sunday. Children belong in MacDonald’s not Brasserie Blanc. One woman lobbed out her bits to breast feed, another invited her screaming toddler to ‘sit here next to the nice lady’ until she clocked my basilisk stare. Then, a bizarre conversation between us and the manageress.’ No’ she said, ‘wrong way round. You buy a meal and a Manet ticket get it stamped at the RA, THEN get a freebie meal. Unfortunately I have no tickets left’. Non-plussed we paid up and emailed Monsieur Blanc.

Sacré Bleu! In the post a few days later came complimentary vouchers for Manet (Corporate Entrance – no queuing) and a three course dinner. Merci bien Monsieur Blanc. Now. Wing this off to Fortnum and Mason advising them to up their strawberry jam game and to Westmoreland Service Station advising them to label theirs Better Than Fortnum and Mason.

Posted in: Art, Article, Review