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Artwork Review: A Bar at the Folies Bergere by Manet
Posted by Graphica on 12/7/2008 1:38:49 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
 
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This painting, Manet's last major work, was exhibited at the Salon of 1882, a year before he died. Although he was severely handicapped by illness, every portion of this large canvas demonstrates his painterly delight in the scene. His sharp observations are recorded with vivid brushwork, in subtle harmonies of blacks, greys and flesh tints, broken only by the colour accents of fruit and flowers.

A Bar at the Folies Bergere - Manet

A BAR AT THE FOLIES BERGERE (1881-82)
Oil on Canvas

The mirror reflects a glittering scene, a sensuous world of pleasure; yet the painting offers some puzzling compositional contradictions. If the barmaid's figure were mirrored accurately, her back would not be seen off to the right but would be reflected directly behind her. Moreover, the head of the top-hatted gentleman is disproportionately large since he is even farther from the mirror than she. Manet may have taken these liberties with perspective to widen the panorama, providing a fuller, more lively image of the nightclub.

The distinction between actuality and mirror image is cleverly blurred. Thus, the girl's corsage finds its reflection in the roses in the glass before her. Manet's vigorously painted still life of bottles and the compote with oranges adds a colorful horizontal plane balancing, in almost equal distinctness, the upper area filled with merrymakers -- a mirrored reflection.

Celebrated author Philip Pullman gave one of the best reviews of Manet's ambiguous masterpiece A Bar at the Folies Bergère at London's Courtauld Gallery. Listen to entire discussion.

 
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