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“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” by Édouard Manet

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet

“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” by Édouard Manet depicts a scene in the Folies Bergère nightclub in Paris. This painting shows Manet’s commitment to Realism in its detailed portrayal of a contemporary scene even though he has experimented with perspective and points of view.

The central figure of the barmaid stands before a mirror, facing the gentleman we can see in the reflection on the right. In the mirror’s reflection, we can see the world the barmaid surveys in front of her. In the mirror reflection, she seems engaged with a customer, whoever in full face, she appears protectively withdrawn and remote. In the reflection, she appears to lean in and engaged with her customer. In the other reality, she is ambivalent to the scene.

The painting is rich in details which give many clues to social class and the era portrayed. The woman at the bar was a real person, known as Suzon, who worked at the Folies-Bergère in the early 1880s. The inclusion of a dish of oranges in the bar suggests that the barmaid is also a prostitute. Manet typically associated oranges with this symbolism in his paintings. Other details of note include the pair of green feet in the top left-hand corner, which belong to a trapeze artist who is performing above the restaurant’s patrons.

Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life and was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterpieces caused much controversy and served as an influence for the young painters who would create Impressionism. In the last two decades of Manet’s life, he developed a style that had a significant impact on future painters.

Background Facts about “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”

  • The Folies Bergère is a cabaret music hall in Paris, France. It was built as an opera house and opened in 1869 as the Folies Trévise, with light entertainment including operettas, comic opera, popular songs, and gymnastics. It became the Folies Bergère in 1872 and reached the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s’ through the 1920s.
  • Folies Bergère Revues featured extravagant costumes, sets and effects, and often nude women. In 1926, Josephine Baker, an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, caused a sensation at the Folies Bergère by dancing in a costume consisting of a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas and little else.
  • The Folies Bergère is still in business and continues to be a potent symbol of French and Parisian life.
  • The Folies Bergère Performers have included: Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Édith Piaf, Elton John, W. C. Fields, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Aznavour, Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, and Maurice Chevalier.
  • The Folies Bergère inspired the Ziegfeld Follies in the United States and other similar shows.
  • Though Manet did several preparatory sketches on location, he worked on this masterpiece in his studio.
  • To the right of all the bottles, is a brown bottle with a red triangle on its label, this was the UK’s first registered trademark. It represents the logo for Bass Brewery, established in 1777 and still in production.
  • X-rays scans revealed Manet made some significant changes during the painting of this artwork. Manet originally painted the barmaid with her arms crossed at her waist. This original pose more closely reflected the early sketch, than the final painting and suggested a more obvious vulnerability.
  • In 1882 when this painting made its début at the Paris Salon, Édouard Manet’s health was fading as he struggled to complete this painting. Manet died at age 51 the following year with “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” at his studio.

Reflections

  • What is her secret?

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

  • Title:                    A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
  • Français:              Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère
  • Deutsch:              Bar in den Folies-Bergère
  • Español:              Un Bar en el Folies-Bergère
  • Artist:                  Édouard Manet
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Date:                   1882
  • Dimensions:        96 × 130 cm (37.8 × 51.2 in)
  • Museum:             Courtauld Gallery

Édouard Manet

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Édouard Manet Quotes

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“There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another.”

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“If I’m lucky, when I paint, first my patrons leave the room, then my dealers, and if I’m really lucky I leave too. ”

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“One must be of one’s time and paint what one sees.”

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“I paint what I see and not what others like to see.”

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“It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us, imagination is worth far more.”

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“In a face, look for the main light and the main shadow; the rest will come naturally — it’s often not important. And then you must cultivate your memory because Nature will only provide you with references. Nature is like a warden in a lunatic asylum. It stops you from becoming banal.”

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“I would kiss you, had I the courage.”

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“There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another. ”

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“There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. When you haven’t, you begin again. All the rest is humbug.”

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“The country only has charms for those not obliged to stay there.”

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“No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else. ”

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“I am influenced by everybody. But every time I put my hands in my pockets, I find someone else’s fingers there.”

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“He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him, please, to give up painting.”

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“There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another.”

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“One does not paint a landscape, a seascape, a figure. One paints an impression of an hour of the day.”

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Color is a matter of taste and of sensitivity.”

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“No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.”‘

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“He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him please to give up painting.”

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“No one knows what it feels like to be constantly insulted. It sickens and destroys you… The fools! They’ve never stopped telling me I’m inconsistent; they couldn’t have said anything more flattering.”

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“One must be of one’s time and paint what one sees.”

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“You must always remain master of the situation and do what you please. No school tasks, ah, no! No tasks!”

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The attacks of which I have been the object have broken the spring of life in me… People don’t realize what it feels like to be constantly insulted. ”

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You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real. ”

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“One who fears to suffer
suffers from fear.”
 

– French Proverb

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Photo Credit: Édouard Manet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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