Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Manet: impressions from an exhibition

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.

Related resources

Musée d'Orsay
Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity
5 April - 17 July 2011


Ana said...

I read your post about "Le Déjeuner sur L'herbe" and I didn't understand why do you want to put realistic rules in the work of someone who was no longer using this paradigm.
I really don't see the painting the way you do and I can't see the trees without roots.
I saw in Paris, not only reproductions.

Benoit Philippe said...


I suppose that once I "see" something, it is difficult not to see it. One day, I was painting in watercolour a row of trees, someone told me: "it's funny, this tree looks like the squirrel's head." and after that, the only thing I could see in this painting was the squirrel's head...

Coming back to "Le Déjeuner sur L'herbe", Manet probably did not want to make a "realistic" painting, but what broke for me the "suspension of belief" is that the bathing lady is out of scale and throws away the perspective. This is my personal view and perception and I respect your own views...



Ana said...

What your friend saw at your painting is pareidolia.
So you must hate Olympia.
I didn't make the comment to disrespect your view.
I'm sorry if you feel this way.
"Mental note: never express your views on Benoit Philippe's blog."
Sincerelly yours,
Ana Luiza lima

Benoit Philippe said...



No, no, please carry on commenting. I loved your comment. I think it was really refreshing and I am sorry if my answer came across the wrong way.

Art is so personal that we are all entitled to our own views.

Have a great day.

All the best,