MANET'S BAR AT THE FOLIES-BERGÈRE
By 1874 Manet's reputation as experimental artist and leader
of the Impressionists was firmly established. The Cafe Guerbois, near Manet's
studio, became the gathering spot for Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas and Pissaro
and although Manet presided over the regular meeting and debates held at the
cafe, he was not enthusiastic about his role as leader of the avant-garde.
In 1874, when the Impressionists held their first exhibition at Nadar's studio,
Manet refused to participate. He chose instead to remain focused on the Salon.
He never exhibited in any of the eight Impressionist exhibitions and yet by
no means did Manet abandon the Impressionists. He worked closely with Monet
in Argenteuil during 1874 and often gave financial support to his friends
who needed it. In his last great masterpiece, Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882),
Manet returns again to studio painting, a somber palette and eliminated mid
tones. The cafe concert is a theme which Manet had been treating in the late
70's in paintings such as Corner in a Cafe Concert and The Cafe. But here
at Bar at the Folies-Bergere, we are no longer spectators, but participants
in the painting. While the Barmaid occupies the center of the piece, the painting
is filled with a menagerie of characters from seated couples to trapeze artists.
Glittering chandeliers and electric lights fill the upper portion of the work.
Here, as in Dejeuner sur l'herbe, optical contradictions abound.