Description: EDOUARD MANET
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LA BRUNE AU SEINS NUS
Oil on canvas
24 1/4 by 19 1/4 in. 61.6 by 48.9 cm.
Painted in 1872.
Henri Rouart, Paris (probably acquired from the artist and sold: Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Paris, December 9-11, 1912, lot 236)
Ernest Rouart, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Julien, Denis and ClEment Rouart, Paris (by descent from the above)
Acquired by the present owner in 1978
Paris, Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Oeuvres d'Edouard Manet, 1884, no. 66 (titled Etude de buste nu)
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Fransk Malerkonst fra det 19 Jaarhundrede, 1914, no. 126 (titled Buste de femme nue)
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Retrospective d'Art FranAais, 1926, no. 70
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Oeuvres de Manet, 1928, no. 30 (titled Torse de femme)
Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Manet, 1932, no. 59
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Impressionnisme, 1935, no. 37
Paris, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Quelques MaOtres du XVIIIe et XIXe Si 3/16cle, 1938,
Belgrade, MusEe du Prince Paul, La Peinture FranAaise au XIXe Si 3/16cle, 1939, no. 73
Ostend, Kursaal, La Femme dans l'Art, 1952, no. 4
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Figures nues de l'Ecole FranAais, 1953, no. 125
Marseilles, MusEe Cantini, Manet, 1961, no. 17
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Franzosische Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts von David
bis CEzanne, 1964-65, no. 166
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet, 1983, no. 129
ThEodore Duret, Histoire d'Edouard Manet et de son oeuvre, Paris, 1902,
no. 149, listed
ThEodore Duret, Edouard Manet, sein Leben und seine Kunst, Berlin, 1910,
no. 149, catalogued p. 247
L'Art DEcoratif, Paris, December 5, 1912, discussed p. 347
Thordis Moller, "L'Exposition de l'Art FranAais du XIXe Si 3/16cle 1/2 Copenhague," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1914,
discussed p. 161
Kunstmuseet Aarsskrift, vol. III, Copenhagen, 1917, discussed p. 59
Etienne Moreau-NElaton, Manet racontE par lui m 7/16me, vol. II, Paris, 1926, fig. 208, illustrated p. 35; fig. 348, illustration of the installation photograph of the 1884 exhibition
Adolphe Tabarant, Manet, Histoire
catalographique, Paris, 1931, no. 172, discussed pp. 223-24
Paul Jamot and Georges Wildenstein, Manet, vol. I, Paris, 1932, no. 258, catalogued p. 151; vol. II, fig. 193, illustrated
Robert Rey, Manet, Paris, 1938, no. 144, listed p. 164
Gotthard Jedlicka, Edouard Manet, Zurich, 1941, illustrated opposite p. 206
Adolphe Tabarant, Manet et ses oeuvres, Paris, 1947, no. 190, catalogued p. 201
Michel Florisoone, Manet, Munich, 1947, illustrated p. 66
Jean-Louis Vaudoyer, E. Manet, France, 1955, no. 34, illustrated pl. 34
Denis Rouart, Manet, Paris, 1960, illustrated p. 46
Phoebe Pool and Sandra Orienti, The complete paintings of Manet, London, 1967, no. 161, illustrated p. 101
Kurt Liebmann, Edouard Manet, Dresden, 1968, illustrated pl. 54
(as dating from 1875)
Denis Rouart and Sandra Orienti, Tout l'oeuvre Peint d'Edouard Manet, Paris, 1970, no. 161, illustrated in reverse
Germain Bazin, Edouard Manet, Milan, 1972, illustrated p. 54
Anne Coffin Hanson, Manet and the Modern Tradition, New Haven and London, 1977, discussed p. 101
Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, Edouard Manet, Catalogue raisonnE, vol. 1, Lausanne and Paris, 1975, no. 176, illustrated p. 159
The present work, probably painted during the second half of 1872 soon after Manet moved his studio to a spacious old fencing school at 4, rue de Saint-PEtersburg, occupies a crucial position in the artist's oeuvre. It marks Manet's first return to the nude female figure since the seminal canvases Olympia and Le DEjeuner sur l'herbe of 1863. As in the pictures of nine years earlier, Manet paints his sitter confidently displaying her body to the viewer; however, the pictorial handling and spatial construction of this work demonstrate Manet's development in the intervening time. Doing away with complex settings and meticulous details, in La brune au seins nus Manet achieves a remarkable quality of immediacy and intimacy. The artist simplified the sitter's forms, rendering the nude with great originality, breaking away from academic treatments of this subject. The sensual appeal of this study is heightened by the spatial context in which Manet places his nude. The model is presented close to the viewer, and her sculptural forms brought up to the picture plane, her proximity heightened by the elision of her lower body. Furthermore, aside from the barely distinguishable mirror in the top left corner, Manet surrounds his nude with a graduated area of nonrepresentational color; the whole emphasis is placed on the naked body, unobstructed by detailed surroundings and the black shawl slipping off her left shoulder. The artist gives this nude an almost iconic status by virtue of its total isolation within this colored context.
In the catalogue for the major 1983 Manet retrospective in New York and Paris, FranAoise Cachin celebrates the beauty and the mystery that imbues the present work: "This superb nude study, with the breasts presented in the manner of an eighteenth-century sculptured sphinx, poses more than one riddle. The model, whose identity is unknown, was probably a professional, as in The Blonde with Bare Breasts (cat. 178, [see fig. 1, MusEe d'Orsay, Paris]). The almost identical dimensions of the two works suggest that they are a pair, as was noted by Moreau-NElaton, who dated them both 1875 and was followed in this by the early catalogues raisonnEs. Although it has been thought that one woman posed for both paintings, it is hard to believe that the model is the same; here the face appears heavier, the neck shorter, and the style is evocative of an earlier period, both in handling and in the use of constrasting values. Tabarant dates the canvas 1872, relying on a photograph reportedly taken by Godet that year. This is, in any case, the date used in the 1884 retrospective, and the one to which we subscribe. The woman is turned away from an oval mirror, sketched at the upper left; a black ribbon, with ornament, recalling the black ribbon of Olympia (cat. 64), accentuates the whiteness of the neck and sets off the dark beauty's somber gaze. The high-piled coiffure is the link between that of a Constantin Guys prostitute and the chignon of a Toulouse-Lautrec" (Manet 1832-1883 (exhibition catalogue), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983, pp. 333-34).
Whilst the younger members of the Parisian artistic avant-garde held Manet in great esteem, he was continually reproached by critics and officials at the Salon for 'sketchy' handling of the composition, and for the implausible realism which, by concentrating attention on painting itself, in fact inaugurated Modern art. "It was he," said Renoir speaking of his own early training, "who best rendered, in his canvases, the simple formula we were all trying to learn, by attending best." Matisse echoed this thought: "He was the first to act by reflex, thus simplifying the painter's mEtier... Manet was direct as could be... a great painter is one who
finds lasting personal signs for the expression of his vision. Manet found his' " (ibid., p. 18).
Beatrice Farwell - in her discussion of Courbet's Bathers - attributes to Manet the invention of the new and modern nude, a subject that would fascinate artists such as Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec (see fig. 2), and later Bonnard, Picasso and Modigliani. Looking at the development of nineteenth-century lithographs of women dressing and undressing, often attended by maids, from eighteenth-century images of Bathsheba and Suzanna, Farwell suggests that Manet and Degas may have developed their intimate 'girl-watching' themes explored in this work from this tradition. In view of Manet's and Degas's dependence on other kinds of popular imagery for their paintings, it seems likely that they would have used such sources. However, Degas's first depictions of half-clothed prostitutes and women dressing, executed in pastel over monotype, date from circa 1877-79 (see fig. 3), post-dating the present work and its companion canvas in the MusEe d'Orsay.
Despite the general acceptance of Manet as the father of modern art, his work was remarkably different to that of his contemporaries, the Impressionists, with whom the terms 'modernity' and 'avant-garde' became increasingly associated. Throughout his work, Manet retained an independent vision, and pursued his own ideas about light, color, compositional structure and pictorial space. Manet's clumping of dark and light forms into distinct areas, his rejection of plain-air painting in favor of the studio and his persistent dependence on precisely placed lines, clearly distingush his style from that of the Impressionists. The Impressionists, as Charles Moffett has noted, "were landscapists who concentrated on plein-air subjects as purportedly realized through an objective transcription of the actual experience of color and light. In contrast, Manet was primarily a figure painter who was fascinated by subjects from modern urban life" (ibid., p. 29).
This work was acquired, probably during Manet's lifetime, by the manufacturer, art collector and painter Henri Rouart (1833-1912), who exhibited with the Impressionists in 1874. He was a childhood friend of Degas', and his son Ernest was to marry Berthe Morisot's daughter, Julie Manet. Ernest Rouart bought this painting for FF97000 at his father's first sale in 1912, and it remained in the Rouart family until 1977.