The March lecture to the members of the Stratford-upon-Avon Decorative and Fine Arts Society was delivered by Lizzie Derbyshire who explored the famous Manet painting which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882. She identified three strands of his style which contributed towards the final version: figure painting, still life, and the immediate environment.
In figure painting, Manet’s ‘The Spanish Singer’ of 1861 shows a left handed musician playing a right handed guitar! He was not worried about such problematic details. He painted portraits of many ladies such as in ‘Les Dejeuner sur L’herbe’ of 1863 and ‘Young Lady’ in 1866. His still life depictions of flowers were admired by others such as Van Gogh. Manet’s ‘Still Life with Salmon’ includes a reflection in a glass vase which is repeated in the Folies Bergere canvas and has roses displayed in it. His painting of ‘The Balcony’ shows his representation of the immediate environment. ‘The Masked Ball at The Opera’ of 1873 is another example and here can be seen a pair of legs dangling down just as a similar pair dangle in the Bergere picture! Suzon, the model for the girl in the painting, worked at the Folies Bergere. Her reflection in the glass is odd; she has put on weight and is leaning forward. There are many other problems such as that of the balcony and the bottle reflections. Manet deliberately painted them this way and showed Suzon as distanced from the viewer as he wanted her to be perceived as an icon of modern Paris. Things frequently do not add up in his paintings. Manet likes to make us work for our pleasure and we certainly have to in order to fully appreciate ‘A Bar at The Folies Bergere’.