Manet will always seem the enigma - the putative father of contemporary painting. His admiration of and his pure academic understanding of Velasquez is the source of his greatness. As an objective study of how modern art cannibalised other historical art, understanding the personal alienation conveyed in his work is a real visual challenge. Insofar as he was a superb draughtsman, he is difficult for any contemporary sensibility to fully appreciate..... except in terms of the distancing he made all his own.
Cumming writes:"The woman and the child are locked in their famous triangle, one looking into the station as the train departs, leaving white steam in the air, the other looking up from her book with an inquiring eye, noticing that she's been seen. A parade of railings spans the whole picture, coming between the portraits and the pure whiteness beyond – an abstract dimension, the very signal of modernity." I.e. Manet draws attention to the picture plane.
Richard Dorment is very negative at the at the Sunday Telegraph and Waldemar goes as far as to take him to task for this on twitter. Dorment is often wrong about everything, he takes pains to see what others miss and in the process misses everything of significance. This is what's wrong with his piece, when he writes:"Surely this is what the novelist Huysmans was driving at when he identified Manet’s talent for enveloping his characters “in the atmosphere of the world in which they belong”. That’s very different from saying that he explored character or got under his sitters’ skin." This doesn't explain or indeed see the Manet that most of us see.
tempted to think, about this master’s own disconcerting lack of consistency and, perhaps, of any deeply held aesthetic convictions."
The FT review by Jackie Wullschlager is as would be expected plain and balanced.