A Close Look at Édouard Manet at the National Gallery of Art: An Examination of His Bold, Expressive Brushstrokes & Slashes of White Paint

Yesterday, I returned to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and my plan was to spend most of my time reexamining Van Gogh’s paintings there, but for some reason, I walked into the gallery from a different direction, and I found myself drawn to the paintings of Édouard Manet. It was like I was seeing Manet for the first time, and I realized how very much Manet paved the way for the Impressionists, for Van Gogh, and for much of the art of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

I grew up in the South, in a rural region that is far removed from significant art museums, and I was past 50-years-old before I first visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The National Gallery is an immense space, and it contains more art than any person could truly swallow in one visit. When most people visit an art museum, however, they simply meander around the space and enjoy what they see. For me, the experience is different, I go to museums to study the art, and my research for an exhibition begins weeks before I actually get there.

 Long before I first visited the National Gallery of Art  for the first time, I knew that I would like Vincent Van Gogh, and before I made the trip there, I researched all of the Van Gogh paintings that were in the National Gallery’s permanent collection. After that, I researched the other paintings that were displayed in the same room with Van Gogh–in Gallery 83. Before I ever stepped foot in the National Gallery of Art, I had decided that my main focus there would be Gallery 83, and for several visits to the museum, I didn’t venture far beyond that. Yesterday, however, I allowed myself to seriously examine some of the other artists, there, and I was especially captivated by the paintings done by  Édouard Manet.

Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris)
Oil on canvas
15 7/16 x 18 7/16 in.

Manet’s work is considered as Realism, and he never fully broke away from the traditions of exhibiting with the Paris Salon, but he studied in the Netherlands and was influenced by the paintings of Frans Hals, who used a lot of black ad white on his canvas and who used his brush to slash his strokes into place.

Related image

Frans Hals (Dutch, Antwerp 1582/83–1666 Haarlem)
Portret van een Heer, half-lengte
Oil on canvas
31.2 × 23 in

Frans Hals was a contemporary of Rembrandt, and he painted 200 years before Impressionism, but when you examine Frans Hals’ brushstrokes, you clearly see that he was a pre-Expressionist. The simplification that is required to slash in broad areas of colors became the footwork for Impressionism, too.

File:Manet Toreador Washington September 2016-1.jpg

Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris)
The Dead Torreador
Oil on canvas
29 7/8 x 60 3/8 in.

On many canvases, Manet also used a lot of black and white, but he also began experimenting with color. He continued painting expressionistically. His paintings continued to be painterly.

Édouard Manet Detail Painting Oysters

Édouard Manet Detail Painting Oysters

Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris)
Oil on canvas
7 1/2 × 9 1/2 in

Manet Pears Detail


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