Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)

Quatre personnages au théâtre

Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Quatre personnages au théâtre
signed with initials 'E.M.' (lower right) and stamped 'SUCCESSION DE Mme Edouard Manet' (Lugt 1781d; lower left)
brush and India ink on paper
5 x 7 1/8 in. (12.7 x 18 cm.)
Painted in 1880
Estate of the artist.
Mme Edouard Manet, Paris (by descent from the above).
C & M Arts, New York.
Acquired from the above by Achim Moeller Fine Art on behalf of John C. Whitehead.
Achim Moeller Fine Art, ed., From Daumier to Matisse, Selections from the John C. Whitehead Collection, exh. cat., Achim Moeller Fine Art, New York, 2002, p. 16 (illustrated in color).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, From Daumier to Matisse, French Master Drawings from the John C. Whitehead Collection, April-May 2010, pp. 12 and 30, no. 8 (illustrated in color, p. 31).

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

This work is included in the archives of the Wildenstein Institute, Paris.

The present work belongs to a series of vivacious drawings Manet executed around 1880 which depict the seated audience at what appears to be a performance at a café-concert (Wildenstein, vol. II, nos. 519-528), the popular variety shows staged in larger venues in central Paris. The artist has positioned himself close to his subject, separated only by one or two vacant seats, deploying his skill as a caricaturist as he summons to life the four spectators, three female and one male, all apparently enraptured with the events on the stage. “The crowd is his element,” wrote Baudelaire in The Painter of Modern Life, imagining his ideal in the role, “as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite” (trans. J. Mayne, New York, 1964, p. 9).
In common with his fellow Impressionists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Manet maintained an enduring fascination with the dramatic arts and, in particular, the audience drawn to spectacles. However, unlike his colleagues who often favored the more rarified world of the patrons of the opera house and ballet performance, Manet focused much of his attention on the crowd attending the more earthy entertainment offered by the café-concert.

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