Monday, December 16, 2019

MANET AND MODERN BEAUTY at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Photo of French painter Edouard Manet (Frontispiece design by Eugene Grasset)
The late works of French painter, Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883), are currently on exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Manet and Modern Beauty includes more than ninety works of art–paintings, drawings, pastels–providing a glimpse into the Manet’s incredible skill as a painter and to his life in his final years. I recently visited the exhibit. Some paintings were familiar, but many I had never seen before. In all, I was awed by his fluid brushstrokes, use of color, and ability to bring his subjects to life.
J. Paul Getty Museum, stairs to Manet Exhibit
As I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the exhibition building, I realized that the vertical portion of each step had been painted to create a giant image of Jeanne, the featured work of the exhibit and a recent acquisition by the Getty.
Jeanne (Spring) was exhibited at the 1882 Salon in Paris, along with Manet’s famous painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergere.
When Manet created the painting, also known as Spring, it was intended to be the first in a series depicting the seasons.The painting shows a beautiful young woman with a flowered bonnet and parasol surrounded by lush greenery. It is the essence of spring rather than a conventional depiction. The series was never completed. Autumn was the only other season Manet painted, and this painting was also in the exhibit--a figure against background inspired by a Japanese silk scarf decorated with a chrysanthemum motif--flowers that bloom in the fall.
Boating, 1881. This painting was begun after Manet began working with the Impressionists
The exhibit is divided into five sections. The first, La Vie Moderne, includes paintings that were first shown at a solo show in 1880 at a Parisian gallery that was connected to a new fashion and culture magazine called La Vie Moderne.
Plum Brandy, 1877
Many of those paintings depict portraits of women in bars and cabarets. Others were of friends and relations or members of Paris society, such as opera singer Emilie Ambre, who was Manet's neighbor in the summer and fall of 1880.
Portrait of Emilie Ambre as Carmen, 1990
The second section, Portraits of an Era includes various portraits, including an example of one he did in pastels. Between about 1878 and his death in 1883, the artist created nearly one hundred pastels, finding the process--which uses sticks of pure color--less demanding than painting.
Portrait of Madame Jules Guillemet, 1880, pastel on canvas
The third section of the exhibit, The Four Seasons, includes the picture of Jeanne, Autumn and others.
In Manet’s final years his health was failing. In 1880 he spent the summer at a spa in Bellevue getting treatments for the pain in his left leg.  The fourth section of the Getty exhibit, Manet at Bellevue, displays illustrated letters written to friends and colleagues from the spa.
Peaches, about 1880
The final section, Flowers, Fruit and Gardens, was one of my favorite parts of the exhibit. The paintings are small, but brilliantly executed, with the peaches in one seeming so real that you want to reach out and grab one to eat. Manet had many friends, and they often visited him, bringing flowers, which he then painted. His paintings of roses, lilacs and other flowers appear as fresh as the day they were picked. And the glass vases holding the flowers sparkle in the light.
Moss Roses in a Vase, about 1882
Manet has been called a “titan of modern art” by the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. This exhibit is a showcase of his brilliance and mastery of the medium.
Plaza at J. Paul Getty Museum
Manet and Modern Beauty was co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. For more information about the exhibit and visiting the museum, click HERE.

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