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Norwich pays tribute to Manet

— March 2015

Associated media

Edouard Manet, Portrait of  Mademoiselle Claus, 1868, oil on canvas © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery

‘Homage to Manet’
On now until 19 April 2015
including work by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, Walter Sickert, Gwen John, William Orpen, Vanessa Bell and others

The major loan exhibition ‘Homage to Manet’ at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, which opens at the end of January 2015, explores the influence of one of the most important and controversial artists of modern times, the French artist Edouard Manet (1832–83).

Central to the exhibition and the undisputed star of the show is Manet’s stunning Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus recently acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.  Painted in 1868, the same year that Manet visited London, this is a fully realized portrait which led towards one of his greatest masterpieces Le Balcon of 1868-69 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). 

Exhibition Officer and Project Curator Heather Guthrie said:
While Manet’s legacy is undisputed, his impact on artists working in Britain seems relatively unexplored as the subject for an exhibition. By placing his Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus within the context of selected works by fellow artists and supporters such as Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Philip Wilson Steer we are tracing a network of influences which flowed from Manet to the British art world. In 1886 the Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus was brought to London by John Singer Sargent, echoing a significant change of direction for artists of the next generation.

Focusing on the period from 1860 until c.1914, the exhibition comprises approximately 40 works including oils, prints and drawings on loan from national collections, such as Tate, the British Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as regional and private collections.

Displayed thematically they seek to explore what Manet’s legacy in Britain has been.  In addition, as a man who relished portraying women, how did Manet’s vision influence the way that other artists depicted female subjects? And how did his art change the way that we look at women in art today?

The exhibition takes its title from the work Homage to Manet of 1909, on loan from Manchester City Galleries, by the Irish artist, William Orpen (1878–1931). This significant painting shows eminent critics, connoisseurs and artists of the Edwardian art world discussing Manet’s portrait of Eva Gonzales of 1870 (now in the National Gallery, London: Sir Hugh Lane Bequest) which hangs on the wall above them. Among the artists depicted are Philip Wilson Steer (1860–1942) (centre) and Walter Sickert (1860–1942) (far right) who immortalized East Anglia and London respectively through their vision of British Impressionism. Nearly 30 years after Manet’s death, this painterly homage by Orpen highlights Manet’s considerable influence on the artistic milieu of the time and shows him to be a keystone in the development of modern art in Britain.

The emergence of the progressive, liberated woman is also explored by raising interesting comparisons between Manet and other artists’ treatments of female subjects, including those by women artists such as Gwen John (1876–1939) and Vanessa Bell (1879–1961).

‘Homage to Manet’ is an intelligent, thought-provoking, as well as visually stunning exhibition, which succinctly summarizes Manet’s legacy and reputation as one of the most important artists of modern times.

For more information go the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery website

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