The first exhibition held under the name of "Impressionists"

Manet had followed so zealously the experiments of his Impressionist friends that, in 1874, when the group exhibited together and the word "Impressionist" was used for the first time, he too had painted a picture in which the new aspirations were realized. He had visited Manet and his family at Argenteuil, examining Manet's pictures with the keenest interest and learning much from them. Of Renoir, on the other hand, who was likewise at Argenteuil, he said: "Ah, the unfortunate man! What he does is fearful. He will never make anything of it." The "Impressionistic" picture which Manet painted he called "Manet in his studio", though "studio" must here be understood as meaning the boat in which at that time Manet was painting his wife. The picture called "Argenteuil" which he painted there was also in accordance with the precepts of the new school. The raw sunlight and the glaring blue of the water caused the greatest indignation at the Salon.
In the same year, 1874, Manet went to Venice, where he painted several pictures of the Grand Canal; during the following years he produced his "Washing Day" and "The Artist" (the etcher Desboutin), which were rejected by the Salon. For this reason he exhibited them in the Rue Saint-Pétersbourg, and sent out personal invitations to view them. About the same time he painted Faure in the role of Hamlet, the portrait of Mallarmé and the celebrated "Nana". The last-named picture was also rejected by the Salon, or rather removed from it. That a gentleman in a top-hat should be seated by the side of a half-dressed lady, aroused the same indignation as the female nude with the fully-dressed men in the "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" had previously done. The picture itself has the qualities of the subject it depicts, that is to say charm, beauty and elegance, and, like the subject, it appealed to a wider public.
Manet now left the studio in the Rue Saint-Pétersbourg and took another in the Rue d'Amsterdam. By this time he was a famous man, but still not recognized for what he really was and not understood. On the occasion of another international exhibition, his works were once more refused admission. Again he thought of holding a private exhibition, but his means did not allow him to put this idea into execution. He had small worries as well as greater ones. Degas had painted a picture of him listening to his wife who is playing at the piano. Manet thought that he himself had been painted well, but that the figure of his wife was a failure, so he cut it out of the picture. Degas took this badly and sent back a still-life which Manet had presented to him.
Of the important pictures of his last years we must mention the "Greenhouse", painted in 1879. The drawing in this work is fine and the brushwork distinguished. Tschudi mentions the fresh complexion and the soft delicacy of the feminine form; he praises the poise and mimicry of the man, and lastly the "colouristic taste" of the picture. It was evidently a period of artistic creation when it was difficult to say anything but trivialities which might be applied to a thousand other pictures. Nevertheless it is rather distressing to find the word "taste" applied to the painter of "Olympia". The notable impression which the picture produces must be attributed not so much to clearly definable artistic values as to the mastery, the imposing domination of technical devices which is here achieved.
In the same year he painted Clemenceau; in the following year the portrait of his friend Antonin Proust, who in 1881 become Minister of Fine Arts. This is a studio picture with a distinguished bearing, effective in the sparingness of the means employed. It thus forms a contrast to the "plein-air" picture of the same year, "Chez le père Lathuille", in which Manet's clever and purposeful hand is as prodigal with its gifts as his great heart used to be. Air and light emphasize the colour values, create space and introduce movement. And the values of feeling and expression, to which Manet also paid attention in this picture, are realized better than in the "Greenhouse", where two models unsuccessfully endeavour to establish a human relationship.
To this period belong also the Impressionistic "Rue de Berne" and the portrait of Rochefort, and also that of Pertuiset, the lion-hunter, which to a certain extent forms with "Le bon Bock" a category apart and, like the latter, helped to augment his popularity and his fame. It also brought him a medal from the Salon and the award of the Legion of Honour. Under the title of "Jeanne" or "Spring" we also find a portrait of a delightful Parisienne which pleased the public.

Mail Us