Musée d'Orsay: Edouard Manet Musicians in the Orchestra

Edouard Manet
Musicians in the Orchestra

Musicians in the Orchestra
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Musicians in the Orchestra
Indian ink wash
H. 21,6; B. 27,8 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage

Group of seated figures, from behind

Musiciens à l'orchestre [Musicians in the Orchestra]

This drawing is of great interest because it gives us a better understanding of Manet's creative process. In fact it is his later version in ink of a rough pencil sketch he made on two pages of a small notebook whilst at a concert, seated just behind the front rows of the orchestra. From these initial, concise sketches, he later produced this larger ink drawing, with its more detailed composition.

Manet threw himself into Parisian social life, capturing scenes in a few rapid sketches that he would then use later to produce works in different media. In fact there is an autographic print (a printing process where a drawing is traced out in special ink) called La Belle Polonaise in which the bow of the violin on the left reappears, along with the profiles of two men, the one at the top on the far left and the small bearded one on the far right. In the painting Corner of a Café-Concert (1878-1880, London, National Gallery), we recognise the profile of the bearded man, partly obscured by the waitress' left shoulder, and this time holding a double bass. We can also see the same layout of the footlights in the background and the outline of the trombone on the left.

This demonstrates how, once back in the studio, Manet would compose scenes and "furnish" the middle distance using drawings made at the time or, as here, reworked in the studio. Although Manet's sketches are preparatory notes, they are also, at least in the case of this Indian ink wash, a brilliant example of his characteristic vigorous line and feeling for conciseness.

Manet Dossier

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