Manet Exhibition: Portraying Life

Okay, so I went to the Manet Exhibition today that’s held in Royal Academy of Arts in London.
It was absolutely packed with people due to that fact that

1. it was the opening day of this exhibition and

2. it’s Manet.

Anyway, I got the ticket two weeks ago because on the website itself recommends an individual to book prior to visiting and my art history teacher scared us that if we don’t get a ticket and if we don’t get the chance to visit, we’re doomed.

The thing about London that shocks me every time is that, whenever I go to big art exhibition or anything related to things that will culturally enrich you, there are so many elderly people queued up in the line and my goodness, today I arrived at Royal Academy at 10 am and all the people (already) who lined up were gorgeous white-haired age-gifted people. Loved their various coat colours as well  but that is another story I guess so let’s go back to Manet.

Manet Exhibition

Manet ExhibitionSo,

let’s talk little about ‘Impressionism.’

Although we may have heard of it a lot but we may missing on little bits and pieces so I read some information that might help you to understand better about this era and the movement and of course about the artist himself.

Impressionism was 19th century movement that was originated in Paris, France.

The term ‘impressionist’ (we all have to know this was the movement that was hugely denied by the contemporaries) was coined by Louis Leroy, the critic who wrote columns for Parisian newspaper Le Charivari (the comic journal), satirically wrote a review after the visit to the independent artist’s exhibition in 1870s and labeled those artists after the Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise).

Claude Monet

Claude Monet: Impression, soleil levant, 1872

This period of 19th century is highly known as the Romantic era as well as the period when the ‘realism’ slowly appeared in the paintings, now the artists were freed and developed their own drawing, painting technique that doesn’t belong to the prior generations. They concentrated on capturing ‘now’ rather than any other historical events that happened million years ago.

If the prior artists tried their best to idealize the sitter and to make their paintings without any brush strokes, impressionists were daring and fearless. They intentionally made their works with ‘unfinished looks’ and left such a visible brush strokes that made the critics and viewers of 19th century outraged. They came up with their own colour palette and they tried their best to capture the lights in the nature and to convey it to the viewers.

Manet wasn’t a impressionist from the beginning of his career as an artist.

Édouard Manet














Born into an upper class household with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting.

In his early career, he was influenced by the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.

You can clearly see these influences when you visit  the gallery.

I was very much surprised to see the works of Manet that were so much alike that of Goya’s and Velàzquez’s because I’ve always recognized him as a ‘impressionist’ with sketchy brushstroke and light colour palette. He was much more than that.

In the main gallery (where this exhibition is held) in RA, there are nine rooms full of works of Manet and while I was browsing through his works, I’ve realised that  he was definitely not an impressionist in the beginning. Some has opposite characteristics of Impressionistic paintings like detailed, loose, yet quite neat brushstrokes that is definitely not what I’d call ‘impressionistic.’

For example, this is the comparison between Velazquez’s portrait of the king’s jester Pablo de Vallodolid and Manet’s <The Tragic Actor (Rouvire as Hamlet)>.

valladolid velazquezManet_TragicActor








































As you can see here, this is not the colour palette of the impressionist. And also look how (relatively) neat his brushstrokes are. It’s sketchy yet compare to his later works, this paintings could be even described as painted in “invisible” brush strokes if you know what I mean.  Manet was said to be amazed by Velazquez’s use of black. He studied how he used and manipulated the colour ‘noir’ and adapted this technique into his painting. We can see his clever use of black in his another piece, which is portrait of Berthe Morisot, his unofficial pupil (who is also known as his ‘secret’ lover).













After all these artistic phases in Manet’s life, I was able to see the pieces that seemed like Manet’s, you know, with sketchy brush strokes and light colour palette.

AutumnLe Déjeuner sur l'herbeEd DuranThe Croquet Game
Music in the Tuileries gardens




























While listening to the audio guide I couldn’t help but to giggle and I’ll tell you why.

Manet hated the countryside. He was born in Paris and he was just the man of the city. He hated the greenery of the countryside and the only nature he could afford to approach was his garden. So if you look at the last painting that’s located right above this pharagraph, by the critics, this painting is said to be impose a satirical undertones. Monet in the left backside is taking care of his garden, or he is arranging the garden so that it’ll look nicer in Manet’s painting and the boy in centre who is laying in his mother’s lap seems like he’s bored to death. It’s just the opinions of the critics, it’s not validated opinion from Manet but it makes sense and it’s funny to think that artist would convey his boredom and slight hatred of countryside into his work like that.

So from now on,

I want to introduce my favourite pieces by Manet from this exhibition (yay).

First one is this.

1. The Railway

Édouard Manet

This was the very last piece of this exhibition and I was totally captivated by the gaze of woman (name of this model is Victoriane Meurent, she also modeled for Olympia, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, Street Singer and so on). I am not sure but this is more weird and creepy than Mona Lisa (for me). I moved left to right and right to left but her eye seemed like it was following me. Wherever I was standing, her gaze was fixated on me and it was very, very creepy but so thrilling at the same time. I love the colour palette here in this painting as well. I am not sure what Manet had in mind when he painted this but one thing I know for sure is that he wanted the viewers to be a bit perplexed by this painting. This is named ‘the Railway’ and there is smoke but there is no train, which is very strange. And some critics call this a double portrait but the little girl is showing her back to us so is this a portrait?        Je ne sais pas. Mais, I am fascinated by this painting. Absolutely love this one.

2. Autumn















This one, I love it because I can see how Japonism has finally influenced Manet. This reminds me of the two paintings by Van Gogh. One because of the colour palette and another for it’s similar feel to it. This also applies to the third favorite of mine (the portrait of Emile Zola). 1854 was the year when Japan opened their culture and cultural goods to western countries, which obviously affected so many artists and in my personal opinion I think impressionists fused the Japan culture so finely into their own works. It affected and influenced the art of that time but with a just right amount.
















3. Portrait of Emile Zola


When standing right in front of this piece,  I think one can’t help but to fall in love with this piece. This one is not monumental (size-wise) but it’s almost the size of real figure. What I love about this one is that there are so many visible brush strokes yet his fingers and the metal pieces in the chair gave me such an ironic feeling because it seemed so real. There is no microscopic details like Van Eyck’s works but somehow this gave me the feeling that I was actually standing in front of Emile Zola. I know it’s bit strange but what made me fall in love with this one is the booklet in the back of the right hand side. That patch of blue-ish hue gave me such a nice feeling, it almost made me sigh with relief. And the same hue exists right above the booklet, which depicts the Japanese samurai. Those little frivolous parts harmonizes so nicely with the black palette of this painting.

4. Interior at Arcachon

Standing in front of this piece made feel like I was actually looking through that window. Those colours, it was impossible for me to not fall in love with this one. Rather small this one is, but it feels like I’m drinking something minty while I was gazing this piece.

5. Portrait of Eva Gonzales


This one in particular I liked it because of what the audio guide told me. Manet was very much influenced by Goya with this piece and there are lot of ironies in this painting. Here this woman is painting with oil but she is wearing a white muslin dress which is very inappropriate for her to wear with this particular act she’s doing. And if you look on the canvas, the painting is already framed. Also there is a fallen flower on the ground that looks like it just fell of from the canvas and the half rolled up canvas on the down right of the painting with Manet’s signature on it. So it makes you wonder, is this about Eva Gonzales, the sitter? or about Monet, the painter himself. It was just very interesting to see this piece.

6. The Luncheon, 1868 manet-luncheon-1868-granger

Strictly because of the colour palette and how he used the brush with this one, I love this. The boy in the front is Manet’s wife’s illegitimate son Leon. And behind him on the table there are objects placed like dutch still life. There are oysters and lemon, which are the foods that goes very well together but lemon is pilled in a swirly way that is not appropriate to eat with oyster. So one could assume that it was intentionally placed like that. The size, colour, and techniques used in this painting, all harmonized so perfectly for me. It was a perfection.

It took me four hours to finish the tour. The exhibition goes until  14 April 2013.

If you could get a chance, I highly recommend for you to visit here. It would be a great chance for individual to really absorb what Impressionism is and what the vibe of 19th century art was like with Manet’s subjects and techniques.

They borrowed pieces from Museé d’Orsay and other many great museums all around Europe.

Thank you for finishing this long entry 🙂



This entry was published on January 27, 2013 at 4:57 am. It’s filed under Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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