International industrial exhibition, Eva Gonzalès, Berthe Morisot

In 1867 an international industrial exhibition was held in Paris, but Manet was excluded from the section devoted to painting. He followed Courbet's example and exhibited his pictures close-by, in a wooden hut by the Pont de l'Alma. "Nothing but Spaniards", said Courbet, on seeing them. The catalogue comprised fifty items and an introduction written by the painter himself, in which he proclaimed his artistic sincerity. This exhibition was completely unsuccessful. In the same year Manet painted a "View of the International Exhibition" and also the celebrated picture of the execution of the Emperor Maximilien. In the following year he painted the portraits of Zola and Duret, and the "Woman with the parrot". He spent the summer in Boulogne and from there paid a visit to London. The sea and the Folkestone-Boulogne steamers appear in several of his pictures.
About this time two women played an important part in his life. Both of them frequently sat to him as models; both were pointers themselves and drew inspiration from his work. Eva Gonzalès was definitely his pupil. Her life was not a long one and the number of her works is small; but several beautiful pictures by her have been preserved, notably the "Loge" at the Louvre. The other, Berthe Morisot, who could not altogether free herself from jealousy of her rival, herself ranked high in the world of art. From Manet she took only what was suited to her own strongly marked personality, and she in her turn influenced him. Her beautiful pictures are quite in accordance with the spirit and tendencies of the time, but their importance is greater than that of contemporary interest and they hold their place in the history of great painting. Paul Valéry has left us a description of this distinguished and intelligent woman: "Everything in her habits and appearance denoted distinction. As for her character, it is well known that she belonged to the rarest and most retiring class of women; she was aloof in her nature, and, unconsciously, she kept herself curiously aloof from all those who approached her, unless they happened to be the foremost artists of her time."
The year 1869 was one of the most important in his life for the art of Édouard Manet, for it brought with it both fulfilment and in a certain sense conclusion. Fulfilment, because all the elements which go to form his greatness were assembled once again in the powerful manifestation of his "Balcony". The brilliance of youth which appeals to us in the "Lola de Valence", the grandiose spontaneity of the "Olympia" are found again here, but in a more conscious form, simpler and more mature, and also richer and more concentrated. The great melodic values are piled one upon the other. Two different browns, each more precious than the other, appear in the chair and in the head of the dog, and these browns are crowned by the barely perceptible pink of the train, which in turn contrasts with the supernaturally beautiful grey of the dress worn by the seated woman, who is supposed to be Berthe Morisot. And this dress, adorned with a divine frill, contrasts at the top with another brown, that of the boy in the background; while the other shoulder stands out against the black of the male figure. In addition to this there are colour values, such as the pinkish light-yellow, of unusual beauty. In short, an abundance of the highest artistic values such as is rarely found in one picture. To find as many values as are here assembled, one would have to spend hours in the Louvre searching among the works of the very greatest masters.


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