In my last blog I looked at the painting Afternoon at the Tuileries Garden by Adolph Menzel which he completed in 1867. He had visited Paris that year and attended the second Exposition Universelle and it was during this stay that he completed a number of sketches of the Tuileries Gardens. On returning to his home in Berlin he completed this work. When it was exhibited, he pointed out that the painting was all done from his memory of the times when he walked around the Gardens watching the weekend promenading of the bourgeois. However, there is a train of thought that believes his work was not just based on his memories but was very much influenced by a painting he saw, when in Paris, by Édouard Manet, which was completed in 1862 entitled Music in the Tuileries Gardens. This is My Daily Art Display featured work today and I will let you decide whether Manet’s painting had any bearing on Menzel’s work.
Music in the Tuileries Garden,s like the Menzel work, hangs, in the National Gallery, London. The work depicts a fashionable Parisian crowd promenading and socialising in the Gardens as they listen to music played by a band, albeit Manet has not included the musicians in the painting. The Jardin des Tuileries lies between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, and it was the favourite place for people to idle away their leisure time. The way in which people spent their free time in the capital became one of Manet’s favourite subjects for his paintings. Manet’s close friend going back to his childhood, Antonin Proust, the politician and journalist, often recalled the many times he witnessed Manet walking along the Parisian boulevards in search of interesting aspects of city life, which he could depict in his paintings. Manet and his companion, the poet, Charles Beaudelaire, could often be seen in the afternoons, strolling through the Tuileries Gardens, a favoured gathering place for the beau monde, who wanted “to see and be seen”. Manet completed numerous sketches of these “beautiful people” as well as the working nannies, who were spending a pleasant afternoon with their little charges.
This was Manet’s first major work on this theme. The Tuileries Gardens were created for Catherine de Medici who, on the death of her husband King Henry II of France, decided to move her home to the Louvre Palace. She then had built a separate new palace with gardens modelled after the gardens of her native Florence. These were the Tuileries Gardens and were opened to the public in 1667 and became a public park following the French Revolution. As we look at the people in the scene we can imagine the enjoyment they were having whilst they socialised and listened to the music. Leisure time and recreational activities such as listening to music in a park on a Sunday afternoon was all part of this newly quoted term, modernity.
Menzel’s work is far more detailed than Manet’s painting. If we compare the two works there are some similarities but Menzel also maintained some differences. Both depict families enjoying their leisure time. Look at foreground and slightly right of centre of today’s painting by Manet. There is a man with the top hat bending down in conversation with a lady. He is almost the same character, in the same pose leaning against a tree, we saw yesterday in Menzel’s work. The theme of both paintings is similar – bourgeois Parisians at leisure but as I have just said there are also some differences in the two works. Menzel’s depiction of what is happening is somewhat more realistic.
In his work we saw children in the foreground playing with a bucket and spades but they are not dressed in their “Sunday best” clothes and look somewhat dirtied by their playing on the ground. Now compare that with the children in Manet’s painting. They too have buckets and spades but these children, like their adult counterparts , are dressed in their best clothes and are behaving much more demurely. Also in Menzel’s work we witnessed a small child being dragged off screeching by a woman, probably her mother. We also saw dogs skirmishing but in Manet’s work there is no such unsavoury incidents happening, which would otherwise shatter the beautiful tranquillity of the scene.
Manet has included the portraits of many of his friends into the lively social gathering, some of whom are fellow artists. Manet has painted himself at the far left of the painting partly hidden by the figure of Comte Albert de Balleroy, the wildlife artist, seen here holding a walking stick, who shared a studio with Manet. Another artist also included is Henri Fantin-Latour, best known for his flower paintings. Manet has added portraits of his brother Eugène, who was the husband of the Impressionist painter, Berthe Morissot. Several cultural figures of the time are featured in the painting such as the French poets Baudelaire and Théopile Gautier and the travel writer Baron Taylor. Other intellectuals who have found their way into the painting are the art critic Champfleury and the bearded sculptor Zacharie Astruc who sits at the table and behind him stands the journalist Aurélien Scholl. Two women sit facing us in the foreground. The younger of the two, on the left, is Madame Lejosne, the wife of the Commandant in whose house Manet met Baudelaire and the fledgling painter Frederic Bazille. The other lady is Heminie d’Alcain, the wife of Jacques Offenbach. Offenbach is the bespectacled man with a moustache who sits in front of a tree to the right of centre of the middle ground, between Eugène Manet and the painter, Charles Monginot who we see doffing his hat to a lady .
Menzel’s work was far more detailed and with his painting your eyes darted from place to place surveying different incidents. In some ways this painting, by Manet, as did Cezanne’s Large Bathers ( My Daily Art Display March 13th))have an “unfinished” look about them but this is all to do with their style of painting. So what did the critics think of this work by Manet when it was first exhibited in 1863? It received very mixed reviews. On one hand, many of the artists who were soon to be known as the Impressionists, like Claude Monet and Frederic Bazille, were delighted with Manet’s depiction of the Parisian scene. However the conservatives among the art critics were less than complimentary. Paul Mantz, the art historian and art critic, who would later become Director General of Fine Arts and a member of Supreme Council of Fine Arts was particularly ruthless in his condemnation stating that Manet’s composition struck him as being disorganised and formless, while the broken play of light that animates its surface with such an eloquently restless quality roused him to declare that “this is not colour, but the caricature of colour”.
I have had a number of comments added to the Large Bathers blog strongly disagreeing with my assertion that Cezanne’s work had an unfinished look to it and therefore I will not dare comment about the finish of this work. Emile Zola explained the “unfinished” look of Manet’s painting, countering such criticism, saying:
“…You are to imagine a crowd of people, a hundred characters perhaps, moving about in the sunlight under the trees in the Tuileries; every character is simply a blot of colour, hardly given form at all, and the details are only lines and black dots. If I had been there I should have asked the amateur [observer of the painting] to move away to a respectful distance; he would then have seen that the patches of colour were alive, that the crowd was speaking, and that the picture was one of the characteristic productions of the artist, the one picture in fact in which he had most loyally obeyed his eyes and his temperament…”
As with most of the Impressionist works of art, the best view you get is if you stand back from the work to see its exquisiteness. Close up one just sees brushstrokes but at a distance one discovers the true beauty of the work.
So which painting do you like best, the one by Adolph Menzel or the one by Édouard Manet?