First traces of an illness


Since 1880 Manet had been aware of the first traces of an illness which brought a disturbing element into his life and his work--symptoms of paralysis in one of his legs. This explains the fact that from then on he painted more often than before flowers and still-lifes, and especially pastels of friends, acquaintances and beautiful women. At that time nobody wanted to possess or pay for these pastels, which to-day are much sought after and of considerable value. At this point we may mention that there exists by Manet's hand a not very large number of lithographs, and also etchings, for instance of the "Lola" and the "Olympia". Drawings, too, have been preserved, in which he recorded the characteristics of a moment.
In 1882, when his illness grew more serious, he rented a villa at Rueil, taking his mother and his wife to live there. Wrong treatment of his disease and a lack of resistance which may be traced back to his descent from an old and exhausted family, hastened his end. After the amputation of a leg, which he was too ill to realize, he died on April 30th, 1883.
He painted one more great work at the end of his life, one year before he died. This was the "Bar at the Folies-Bergère", a brilliant piece of fireworks, with colours and harmonies scattered all over the canvas, in which the clever use of a mirror revealed hitherto unsuspected spatial values. It is the work of the greatest virtuoso of his time, who was also one of the greatest creators of all times.
The picture had no success on account of the absence of narrative content, which the public is so unwilling to dispense with. Albert Wolff, the foremost critic of the time, wrote of the picture with reserved appreciation. Manet thanked him, and added that before his death he would like to read his obituary notice written by the same hand.
We find this obituary notice in the "Figaro" of May 1st, 1883, the day after Manet's death. It ends with the words: "To have left two pre-eminent pictures, worthy to be saluted with the applause of French art, that is sufficient fame for any artist." The two pictures, in the opinion of the writer of the article, were the "Child with a sword" and "Le bon Bock".
We, however, prefer to say that Manet, with his "Lola de Valence", his "Olympia", his "Balcony" and many other admirable paintings of the highest quality, has inscribed his name in the history of the painting of all times and all nations. There it will remain for ever and above it one might place the words:
"Manet et manebit."



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