Manet and The Meadowbrook Unit, Oxford

Mlle Claus feminismOver the past 7 weeks, the Ashmolean and Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus has been working with Meadowbrook College, a pupil referral unit based at The Harlow Centre Oxford.

Based at Meadowbrook College is the Vision Artz Centre, a space where preconceptions, self-confidence and social skills are addressed through creativity. An inspirational approach to learning and art, the centre uses the arts to enrich the lives of its students and the wider community. Dionne Freeman is a local artist and director of the arts centre.

Working together, the young people have really got to know the Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, Manet, Impressionism and the Ashmolean. The consistent hard work and enthusiasm the young people have demonstrated has been overwhelming. They have an insightful approach to Mademoiselle Claus and really taken the different themes; feminism, the concept of image, celebrity culture, 19th Century fashion and society, and run with them. A popular approach to the painting was modernising the sitter, her clothes and the setting whilst recognising the similarities between Manet’s world and our own.

As well as visits to Meadowbrook, some of the young people visited the museum. Here’s a short summary.

‘I like the idea of having my work on display- nobody else can say they have had their work up in the Ashmolean.’

‘I love art, I’ve been here lots of times with my schools. I’ve never been here with my family though. I would really like to bring my mum. ‘
blog post P1050124One student approaches her work with artistic flair; she clearly vocalised her inspiration and personal connections with paintings she saw at the Ashmolean. Her favourite painting amongst the French Impressionists was Pissarro’s The Tuileries Gardens, – explaining it through very personal connection of spending time with her mum and dad, or A Garden Urn by Manet. ‘”If I was going to draw a vase, it would be like that.”

‘I didn’t think I could just come in here, the building is so old. It’s lush’.
blog post P1040673Another student approaches art, Manet and the Ashmolean with careful consideration and thoughtfulness. Whilst walking around, we chatted about art history, wandering through the galleries, looking at the changes in styles through time, the themes, their narratives. She took a long time looking at Manet’s portrait – we studied the brush strokes, the areas of detail, areas which even lacked paint; the canvas showing through. She also warmed towards the Pisarro The Tuileries Gardens as her favourite. A painting which captured the exact weather outside the museum the day and also captured the atmosphere – quiet, heads down, contemplative.

‘I hate museums, I’m devastated we are here today.’
When meeting another student at Meadowbrook, we had a 45 minute discussion on Manet, Impressionism, composition, the art market and she succinctly commented on the similarities between Manet and Banksy – how they pushed boundaries and used new styles in art.
blog post P1050126The visit to the Ashmolean started with her stating she hates museums. But she still came. Whilst walking around the museum, she observed and commented on the artwork she saw, making personal connections with other artists and paintings, having preferences on styles and clearly explaining the reasons behind her preferences.

“It was bet

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