Edouard Manets Bar At The Folies Bergere

1691 words - 7 pages

Edouard Manets Bar at the Folies Bergere

Edouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergere was completed in 1882. This was to be the last major work Manet would complete before his death. The painting was intended for the Salon, and because of his recently awarded Legion of Honor, Manet could be sure this piece would be accepted. This painting would be considered from the impressionistic style.

That Manet’s Bar is a masterpiece can hardly be argued, but the intent of the piece however is the source of much debate. The following evidence will show that this is a null point; it will show that the artist in fact did not intend to provoke any emotion or thought besides aesthetic emotion. ...view middle of the document...

Manet asked her to sit in his studio to model for the painting, and when she consented it was only on the condition that her boyfriend be allowed accompany her (Iskin 25). To model for a painting is not something a prostitute would have had any problem with, especially in that day. For Suzon to insist on her boyfriend accompanying her shows how absurd the assumption is that she was a prostitute. This should show her good intentions, however the reputation of the bar and the frequent prostitution and sexual availability of the women is too well known for many to assume she has chaste intentions. More evidence pointing towards the fact that the barmaid is not being used to convey anything specific besides a pretty face is in Juliet Bareau’s work, exhibited in “The Hidden Face of Manet” which was held at the Courtland Institute in April-June of 1986. This work showed through X-ray images that Manet previously included a barmaid who was not Suzon at all, but is very close to the subject of some earlier sketches and studies. The painting that can be seen today then covered up this barmaid that was originally to be used. In the version discovered by X-rays the barmaid is facing left and has her hands at her waist. The viewpoint was originally farther right and lower than in the end product. With these conditions the reflections for the maid, and customer, would be in appropriate positions, the mirror’s reflection would be true to life and would not have the seemingly mysterious intentions that it accidentally happened upon in its current condition (de Duve par. 16). This evidence points to the fact that Manet did not have the painting planned out when he began, rather it states rather strongly that the painting matured throughout its execution. The ideas changed as the painting progressed, and they did so drastically enough to show that there could be no distinct meaning in the things he was so vastly changing. The barmaid, throughout the conception of the painting, has changed from a profile view to a frontal view; hands have moved from her waist to her sides; and the identity of the woman changed from a unknown barmaid to Suzon. She is not meant to portray sexuality, nor is the man in the reflection meant to be searching to purchase her sexual favors. These are just two subjects in a bar, whose relationship with each other has become unintentionally skewed through the changes the piece underwent through its conception.

Manet’s composition in this painting has the kind of direct appeal to the observer that was common in the posters and illustrations of the time (Iskin 30). These posters emerged as a new modern way to advertise products to the masses and were quite prominent in the last half of the 19th century. Manet knew a good deal about these posters, for he had himself produced lithographs and posters, the most well known being his poster for Les Chants, a 1868 book by Champefleury (Iskin 36). Through his experience of...

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