The past week has seen London heaving under the weight of tourists visiting from across the globe. 17 million people visit London every year, the majority will visit at least one gallery or museum whilst in the capital- with The British Museum and National Gallery taking the top spots. In this series I will explore the most famous works of art currently on display in London’s most popular museums and galleries. Who were the master behind these masterpieces and why are the pieces so adored even today?
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I discovered that this piece was in a collection in London. I assumed it was in Paris, so imagines my surprise to turn the corner and see it hanging triumphantly above the fire place. ‘A Bar at the Folie-Bergere’ is the last major work by Edouard Manet before his death a year later in 1883. This piece is a masterpiece of realisim, to a degree that is has been achieve by few artists since.
This is one of the first Impressionist paintings which makes a working woman the primary focus. Impressionists are renowned for depicting the new socially mobile middle-class and their leisure activities- See work by Seurat and Renoir. The popularity for this piece originates from the melancholy expression and sullen posture, this painting signifies a new stage of realism where sadness and depression are prominent. The figure floats arbitrarily between the viewer and the mirror- a haunting representation of her empty vocation.
My main theory for the popularity of this masterpiece is its precision. The detail of the faces and the intricate brushwork of the reflection has been admired by artists and critics alike. Manet maintains the impressionist strokes typical of his contemporaries, yet with the intricate detail of realism.
‘A Bar at the Folie Bergere’ is currently on display at The Courtauld Gallery on The Strand, London.