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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Jeanniot's Visit to Manet's Studio, January 1882

Painter Georges Jeanniot visited Manet in January 1882. Twenty-five years later he recalled the visit:

"When I returned to Paris in January 1882, my first visit was to Manet. He was then painiting 'Le Bar aux Folies Bergère', and the model, a pretty girl, was posed behind a table loaded with bottles and victuals. Manet recognized me immediately, and shaking my hand said, 'It's annoying. Excuse me, but I'm obliged to remain seated. Sit over there." I took a chair behind him and watched him at work. Although Manet worked from a model, he by no means copied nature entirely. I remember his sweeping simplifications, he modelled the head of the woman, but his modelling was not achieved by the means that nature offered. Everything was simplified; the tones were made lighter, the colours brighter, the contrasts of values was made closer.

Someone came into the room. I recognized my childhood friend Dr Albert Robin. We spoke of Chaplin [a fellow painter] 'He's got a lot of talent, you know', said Manet as, with small strokes, he painted the gold paper of a champagne bottle. 'A lot of talent,' he repeated. 'He understands a woman's smile, and that's something very rare. Oh yes, I know that some people claim that his painting is too smooth and slick. They're wrong, and what's more it's very good as far as colour is concerned.'

Some other people arrived, and Manet stopped painting to sit on the divan which was against the right-hand wall. It was then that I noticed how much his illness had affected him. He walked leaning on his stick, and seemed to tremble. But, for all that, he remained cheerful and talked about his impending cure. I called on him again during my stay. He used to tell me things like: 'Conciseness in art is essential and a refinement. The concise man makes one think; the verbose bores. Always work towards conciseness... 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... You must always remain master of the situation and do what you please. No school tasks, ah, no! no tasks!... Look here, since you like that sort of thing, go in there,' he said pointing to a door. I opened the door and found myself in a lumber room piled with pictures - heaps of pictures. I saw 'Le Linge', 'Olympia', 'Chez le pere Lathuille', 'Le Christ aux Anges', 'Argenteuil'. I was attracted to 'le Pere Lathuille' which was the best lit. This painting which I had seen in the Salon of 1880, had always remained in my memory as the most astonishing representation of a Parisian restaurant... I stood before this canvas, contemplating the mysterious charm of this most subtle of paintings, and indeed would have stayed there I don't know how long, if I had not been recalled by the voice of Manet. I left this room, crowded with despised masterpieces and rejoined him. While I was telling him, as best I could, what impression his painting had on me, I had the joy of seeing a gleam of emotion in his eyes, the vivacity of which had not been impaired by his illness, which remains to me one of the most precious memories of my life."

Georges Jeanniot, in La Grande Revue, 10 August 1907, quoted in T. Reff, Manet and His Contemporaries, University of Chicago Press, 1983

Suzon

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Chez Le Pere Lathuile, 1880

Manet (Musée des Beaux Arts, Tournai)

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X-ray of A Bar at the Folies-Bergére

Manet (Musée des Beaux Arts, Tournai)

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