These drawings testify to Manet's interest in the most varied techniques (black lead, black pencil, red-pencil drawing, wash-drawing, water colour, gouache, pastel), and his liking of all forms of expression, from the most schematic outline to the most accurate drawing. They also illustrate the evolution of an artist trained by studying the old masters, observed closely as he visited the Louvre and during several trips abroad (Italy, Germany, Holland, Spain).
Throughout his life, Manet outlined on paper the ideas which crossed his mind as he was elaborating his painting skills. In the same way, he was prompt to commit to paper more or less thoroughly the picturesque scenes that drew his attention in the street, in cafés, etc. These drawings demonstrate an acute sense of observation that made it possible for him to capture in a few strokes the moment of a gesture, the characteristic feature of a face or costume.
As Antonin Proust put it to Mme Manet : "there is not in these sketches, (...) a single useless trait, an unjustified accent. Everything is set in its place with an unflinching hand that reveals both a deep science and a passion for truth which is the dominant tone of his genius."