Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-1882
Oil on canvas
38 x 51 in. (96 × 130 cm)
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Courtauld Gift, 1934

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This is Édouard Manet’s last major painting and the culmination of the artist’s prestigious, and at times controversial, career. It represents the spectacular interior of a famous Parisian cabaret, the Folies-Bergère. A fashionable barmaid at a marble countertop occupies the center of the picture; behind her a continuous mirror reflects the dangling green boots of a trapeze artist, a shadowy figure of a male customer speaking to the server, and the hustle and bustle of the audience in the crowded space. Through its cropped composition, quick broken brushwork, and colorful, shimmering surfaces, the artist suggests the experience of an urban leisure environment. Manet also sets up an intentionally ambiguous and unresolveable pictorial conceit by having the female figure appear twice – but slightly differently – within the same scene.
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