This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – May 2011.
While in Paris (France), I had the chance to visit (although quickly) the Manet exhibition at the Orsay Museum, as it remains open until 9:45 pm on Thursdays.
The exhibition is organised around themes and different periods of Manet’s life. The artist’s works are placed in context with works of other contemporary artists on display on similar themes to show influences and contrasts.
The exhibition featured some of the well known large works: The luncheon (which never did it for me, read here why), the Olympia and The balcony. For me, one missing work I was hoping to see was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.
Manet was a master of the grey: Manet’s deep grey backgrounds, as for The Fifer, are remarkable yet often overlooked. They create contrast while being more luminous than dark backgrounds used by chiaroscuro painters. The exhibition had a section on still life paintings. Of two vases of flowers, nearly identical, one was standing out: Carnations and Clematis in a Crystal Vase. The reason was the grey background in this painting made it luminous.
Le Fifre (The Fifer) 1866, by Édouard Manet - Souce: Wikimedia
Carnations and Clematis in a Crystal Vase, Musée d'Orsay, 1883 - Source: Wikimedia
A rich touch: Before he explored Impressionism, Manet maried classicism with the vigour of Delacroix’s brushwork. The touch was rich and forceful. Another signature effect of Manet’s during this period was the use of frontal light with very short projected shadows.
Impresionist period – The women’s influence: In Manet’s Impresionist work, you can feel the influence of Berthe Morisot. The touch is light, the brushwork weaves thin lines of colours and most of the works have a blue bias.
Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity
5 April - 17 July 2011