The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the only east coast venue celebrating the work of the French painter Edouard Manet alongside complementing works of other famed artists, including Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir.
In “Manet and the Sea,” the museum captures the essence of the painter from the historical setting to his inspirations.
Manet was a late 19th century painter and printmaker known for his ability to capture French culture in his artwork. From street life to caf concerts, Manet depicted moods and movements of the French in a timeless swipe of the paintbrush.
Manet was born in Paris, the son of a high-ranking government official. From the beginning, he was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and study law. Instead, he turned to art. Under the direction of Thomas Couture, Manet began his first painting lessons. He soon dismissed both his teacher and academic painting in favor of the inspiration offered by modern life.
Initially a painter of realism, similar to the works of Gustave Courbet (also featured at the exhibit), Manet’s early paintings were dark and surreal. Manet’s first painting, The Absinthe Drinker, was a portrayal of a solitary man on the shadowy backstreets of Paris. This 1858 painting reflected the debauchery and hidden sullenness of the Parisian man.
In the next few years, Manet’s work changed rapidly, beginning to reflect his love for the sea. Although this fascination developed in his teenage years on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, the first appearance of the sea in his artwork wasn’t until 1864’s historic painting, The Battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama. This paved the way for a new series of paintings including The Kearsarge at Boulogne and Steamboat Leaving Boulogne.
From wartime to leisure time, Manet’s obsession with the sea continued, including works such as The Beach at Boulogne in 1868. The moment captured on canvas was complete with people relaxing under parasols and enjoying the salty air.
“One of my favorite Manet paintings is Departure of the Folkestone Boat,” said Amy Krivda, a senior Biology major. “I was just walking around the exhibit until I saw this image of a mass of people waiting for a boat to launch from sea. It captured the excitement and nervousness.”
Manet’s later works, beginning in 1873, were incorporated into the new movement of French Impressionism. Impressionism is a form of art focused on displaying visual reality through the use of light and color. He became a pioneer in this new genre, which would later include famed artists like Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir.
“Manet and the Sea” showcases 100 paintings, drawings and watercolors from 60 private and public collections across the United States. Manet’s fascination with the sea is depicted in 40 of these paintings, allowing the visitor to trace the painter’s history through his art.
“The exhibition is exploring, for the first time, the importance of Manet’s pictures of the sea, their impact on younger artists and how this very active and creative group of artists set a new course toward pure painting,” said Norman Keyes, Director of Public Relations.
Tickets for the exhibit are $20 for adults, $17 for students with an I.D. and $10 for children. For exhibit hours and discounted ticket information, call (215) 325-SHOW or visit the Web site at www.philamuseum.org.
Pooja Shah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org