Édouard Manet - A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Édouard Manet - A Bar at the Folies-Bergère - 1882
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
This was Manet's last major work. This painting exemplifies his commitment to realism in its detailed representation of a contemporary scene. Yet he includes a mysterious divergence from this approach. The central figure stands before a mirror. In the mirror reflection there seems to be a conversation transpiring between the barmaid and gentleman. The man stands outside the painter's field of vision, to the left, and looks away from the barmaid, rather than standing right in front of her. As it appears, the observer should be standing to the right and closer to the bar than the man whose reflection appears at the right edge of the picture. This seems to be an optical trick and an unsusual departure from the central point of view usually assumed when viewing pictures drawn according to perspective. To see the original: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Ed Wheeler

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