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MANET’S FAREWELL TO PARIS
THE ARTIST & THE ART OF SELF-HEALING
I shouldn’t mind reading, while I’m still alive, the splendid article which you will write about me once I am dead.
Edouard Manet, letter to art critic Albert Wolff
Today A Bar at the Folies-Bergere is recognized as Edouard Manet’s crowning achievement, the grande finale of an exceptional career. But when it debuted at the 1882 Salon, the masterpiece was misunderstood by the critics as well as the public. Like so many of the artist’s groundbreaking works such as The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which had inspired Monet, Degas, and other future Impressionists some 20 years before.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere though, was Manet’s last chance to prove himself to the art establishment. For syphllis was ravaging his body, leading to the amputation of a leg and, ultimately, death the next year. Faced with his own mortality, he created this mesmerizing testament to Parisian night life, based on countless hours of memories. Somehow, in spite of his increasing weakness, achieving virtuoso brushwork, particularly evident in the brilliant display on the bar: the multi-colored bottles, the lucious oranges, and the exquisite vase of flowers.
Yet, Manet also challenged posterity to decipher A Bar at the Folies-Bergere and its meaning: from the identify of the sphinx-like woman dominating the foreground, to the members of the rowdy crowd reflected in the mirror behind her (including the truncated trapeze performer to our left), to the unexpected presence of the gentleman on the painting’s edge.
Dates of Edouard Manet (1832-1883).
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