Why Sebastian Smee Won A Pulitzer

Last week Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, as the Globe was happy to report:

Sebastian Smee, art critic of The Boston Globe, yesterday was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

In announcing the award, the Pulitzer board pointed to Smee’s “vivid and exuberant writing about art’’ and his knack for “bringing great works to life with love and appreciation.’’

Exhibit A in Smee’s brief for a 2012 Pulitzer is his Sunday Globe review of the Édouard Manet retrospective at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

Representative sample:

To 21st-century eyes, Manet’s way with paint seems more ravishing than ever. He used rich blacks to set off an otherwise light palette, nonchalantly disregarding intermediary tones. There was something sensual but also violent in this nonchalance, as if one way of thinking of love were as a glancing blow.

Edgar Degas, for one, was impressed by the ease with which Manet, “whose eye and hand are certainty itself,’’ committed his feelings and impressions to canvas. “Damned Manet!’’ he once complained to his English protégé Walter Sickert. “Everything he does he always hits off straight away, while I take endless pains and never get it right.’’

Manet’s brush strokes epitomize what the Italians called “sprezzatura’’ — a kind of studied effortlessness. They conjure a dream of erotic ease, a smooth and unimpeded sensuous delight in the world.

Smee is just a joy to read.

Do so.

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