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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Fact or Fiction

One of the many debates among academic art historians provoked by Manet's painting concerns the question: is the picture fact or fiction? For instance, is the barmaid a portrait of the model who we know was called Suzon and who worked as a barmaid at the Folies Beregre, or is she a 'character'? As in many of his paintings, most notably 'Music in the Tuileries', 'A bar' is peopled with the painter's friends. The man at the bar is Gaston Latouche; in the balcony sit Mery Laurent (in the yellow gloves) and Jeanne de Marsy and Henri Dupray. The question is whether we are meant to see them as themselves or as characters in a kind of pictorial novel created for us by the artist. For it is almost impossible to deny that some kind of story is being told. The impossible reflections insist that what the viewer is looking at is not real, but 'made-up'.

WPW

Suzon
Friends
Mery Laurent

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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, detail

Manet

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Model for the barmaid of 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergère', 1881

Manet

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