A security guard at the Musée d’Orsay says visitors regularly ask to see works that don’t exist, like “Olympia at the Lily Garden,” confusing the names and oeuvres of the two Impressionist masters. (image by Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

A recent comment card submitted by a visitor at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris deriding an alleged typo in a wall label attributing “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” (1863) to “Manet instead of Monet” was the final straw for venerated painting curator Timothée de Pamplemousse.

“It seems two semesters of Art History 101 in the ‘80s at Vassar College makes everyone qualified to think they know better,” de Pamplemousse told Hyperallergic, twirling his mustache in visible frustration.

But the unwashed masses are not alone in this criticism. In fact, a poll showed that 83% of all visitors to the renowned French institution think that Édouard Manet and Claude Monet are the same person. A petition to change Manet’s name has already garnered thousands of signatures as well as the fervent support of the American Embassy in Paris, which issued a statement “pleading” that the French “do something about this once and for all.” 

A gallery guard at the Musée D’Orsay, who spoke to Hyperallergic on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from a group she described as “the Impressionist mob,” said that trying to explain the difference to visitors only sows more confusion.

“They were both modernists, they were both white men, they both painted nice gardens and people in hats,” she said. “It’s exasperating.”

Several prominent scholars have also backed the motion, citing recent revisionist trends and even suggesting Manet’s removal from the canon altogether.

“Students have complained that there are simply too many artists,” said an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University. “Manet wasn’t even that good. We in academia welcome this long-overdue populist change.”

Emboldened by the positive coverage of the removal of the Sackler Family name from museums and galleries, the movement to change Manet’s name has been gathering steam as numerous hallowed institutions in Europe sign on. Representatives from museums in the United States are on the lookout for other names that could be changed as well.

“Our visitors have a hard time pronouncing the names of most foreign artists,” said a spokesperson for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We are considering amending László Moholy-Nagy to simply ‘Larry Smith.’”

Finally, with works by Monet fetching record-setting prices at auction in recent years, Sotheby’s has jumped on the bandwagon, advancing a counterproposal to attribute all of Manet’s works to Monet in advance of their spring Impressionist sales, which will feature several Manet masterpieces.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is Co-Editor of News at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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