Many of Manet's still life paintings of the 1860's are complex, large-scale compositions. After 1870, his intent for the most part changed. He now isolated fruits, vegetables, or flowers, which he set on a neutral support, against a neutral background, disdaining other objects including the usual crockery. It was not that he neglected the still life, but it had taken another turn. It had acquired greater softness along with transparency and fragility.
The small paintings now have the lightness and softness of the watercolours of the admirable letters he sent to his women friends (of which some twenty are on view). These qualities are also to be found in the bouquets painted in spring of 1882, with which the exhibition comes to a close.
The flowers stand in crystal vases which permit us to see the tangle of stems as a kind of "backstage" view of the chromatic visions that bloom above the narrow neck of the vase. They proved to be Manet's farewell as he was to die a few months later.