Musée d'Orsay: Still lifes by Manet

Still lifes by Manet

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painting
Edouard ManetWhite Peony Branches and Secateurs© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Still lifes represent almost one fifth of Manet's production, a much higher proportion than is the case with the other artists of the "New Painting" (with the exception of Fantin-Latour and Cezanne). Contemporary critics recognised their importance at once, whether their presence in a number of figure paintings of the 1860's – the bouquet in Olympia, the books, the lemon and the glass on the table in the Portrait of Zacharie Astruc (Bremen Kunsthalle) or the tray on the tabouret in the Portrait of Théodore Duret (Paris, Musée du Petit Palais) – or in the independent still life pictures the artist was to exhibit at the Galerie Martinet in 1865 and at his private exhibition of 1867, on the Avenue de l'Alma.

This was the part of his work that received the warmest welcome. "The most vociferous enemies of Edouard Manet's talent grant him that he is good at painting inanimate objects" noted Emile Zola in 1867. Indeed, his detractors never said anything else : if Manet had any talent at all, it was limited to his transcriptions of these "inanimate objects," otherwise he degraded everything he touched. The painter who, from scandal to scandal, had acquired, as Degas put it, a reputation à la Garibaldi, was no more than a technician skilled in rendering bouquets, laid tables and all sorts of "things".

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