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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Robin Leung

on 29 March 2013

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Transcript of A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Édouard Manet A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
[Un bar aux Folies Bergère]
(1882) Quick Facts Title: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (Un bar aux Folies Bergère)
Artist: Édouard Manet
Origin: France
Style: Impressionism
Material: Oil on canvas
Size: 96 cm x 130 cm (37.8 in x 51.2 in)
Description: A barmaid, named Suzon, standing behind bar and in front of mirror at the Folies-Bergère.
Distinctive Feature: The barmaid displays an expression, body language, and positioning contradictory to her reflection in the mirror. Background Information Impressionism officially originated from a group of Parisian artists called the "Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs" in the year of 1874.
The inspiration of impressionism happened to be from the artwork of Édouard Manet.
The features that give impressionist work its distinct look is the appearance of being in an incomplete state, the use of short brushstrokes, and the use of vibrant, unblended colours.
Initially, leisurely activities in rural France were commonly subject to impressionist paintings. Impressionists later branched out to painting more urban leisure activities involving people from a spectrum of social classes. About the Artist & His Works Manet's paintings often incorporated a cross of impressionism and realism. The subjects of his artwork were usually people from a diversity of social classes such as Gypsies, beggars, singers, prostitutes, and people in cafes. Manet's artwork was considered contemporary art due to the outlining of subjects in black, studio lighting, and a "roughly-painted" look.
A distinguishing characteristic of Manet's paintings was the liberal use of black; a technique rather uncommon in impressionism.
Despite his influence on Impressionist groups, he did not closely affiliate himself with them.
The depiction of prostitutes was a prevalent theme in Manet's work, as seen in this painting; A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Some other paintings depicting prostitutes by Manet are "Olympia" and "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe". At the time, prostitution was a taboo subject that was rarely touched upon. An Objective View on "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" Subject: A barmaid and implied prostitute, named Suzon, standing behind a bar and in front of a mirror at the Folies-Bergère.
Style: Representational/Impressionism/Realism
Use of Elements:
Line: Short, loose and heavy brushstrokes; "roughly" painted, outlined in black.
Shape/Form: Organic and open
Space: Bar and bottles overlap Suzon, dissonant perspective and depth(Suzon and her reflection)
Colour: This painting uses primarily cool, muted, tertiary colours. Though upon first impression, the painting appears to be a lively scene, the colour adds a sombre tone to reinforce the body language expressed by the barmaid.
Texture: This painting incorporates simulated textures that are familiar to us in reality, such as the softness of Suzon's fur collar and the solidity of Suzon's locket.
Light and Dark: The brightness of the nightclub lights coexists with the dark colour of Suzon's dress and the outfit of the man in the reflection.
Motion: Though there is minimal motion in this painting, it is evident upon inspection that the lines around Suzon are blurred due to movement, which is another contridiction in the painting. Suzon's reflection is leaning towards the man and appears to be within an intimate range, which is not conspicuous if viewed in the inferred perspective of the man. Principles of Design Balance: The painting uses appropriate symmetry, with the main focus (Suzon) being in the centrepoint of the painting. Suzon's reflection and its darker colours add more weight to the right side (along with the man), and the brighter tones on the left side add equilibrium to the painting.
Scale & Proportion: The viewer's eye definitely will not miss Suzon since she occupies most of the central area of the canvas. Her scale in comparison to everything around her assists to emphasize her importance. The proportions of subjects in the painting are accurately painted in order to emulate reality.
Emphasis & Focus: As previously stated, the emphasis is placed on Suzon because she is placed right in the center of the painting and is painted as the largest subject in the painting.
Repetition & Rhythm: There is minimal repetition in this painting, with the only repetition being the reflections in the mirror and the guests of the nightclub. There is also minimal movement and rhythm in this painting. The only evident movement is in the reflection
Unity & Variety: The variety and contrast of this painting is subtly displayed in the reflection of Suzon. Her reflection contrasts the body language of her actual self. This is a quality that leaves a striking impression and feeling of uncertainty in the viewer. Analysis and Interpretation Symbols:
- Bowl of oranges; a symbol of prostitution
- Pink rose; a symbol of grace and divine love
- White rose; a symbol of purity
(Roses are also known to be used in paintings of Virgin Mary)

Interpretation and Opinion:
The first thing that caught my attention in this painting was Suzon and her hollow facial expression. At first, I did not realize that Suzon's reflection was her's because of the difference in body language between Suzon and the posture of her reflection. Upon closer inspection, I realized this was intentionally done by Manet to convey a message. This painting speaks to me because it tells a story without words. From Suzon's disengaged facial expression, we can tell that though she is working in the Folies-Bergère, she feels as if she belongs somewhere else and she does not fully enjoy the nightclub scene. There are hundreds of people at the Folies-Bergère, but Suzon seems to feel isolated and alone, though her reflection states otherwise. Suzon's reflection tells us about a different side of her; a side that isn't truly her though it appears to be. Her job is to please male customers and act as if she reciprocates their pleasure. However, Suzon seems to be torn between her two sides. Possibly she is truly a pure woman, but she has to reluctantly rely on her disguise of sensuality and lust to live, survive and make a living. Seeing the Painting with the Five Senses Sight: The entertainment of the night is a trapeze artist (visible in the upper left corner), swinging amongst the bright glittering lights of the busy nightclub, filled with many people from a variety of social classes. Some people are here for the food and entertainment, others for the barmaids/prostitutes. A barmaid stands behind a nearby bar, yet she seems so far away. The look in her eyes is cold and hard, contrasting with the texture of her dress which is bound to be removed by the end of the night.

Hearing: The music and the roar of the crowd can be heard as the trapeze artist performs, as well as the commentator who narrates the list of tonight's entertainment. Amongst all the cheer and noise, the barmaid seems to hear none of it and appears to be in her own solemn and silent world.

Taste: The taste left behind is the remainder of the alcoholic beverage the barmaid served, as well as the faint taste of her saliva from the French kiss.

Smell: The whole nightclub radiates an aura of raging hormones and an olfactory mixture of Guerlain parfum, sweat, alcohol, flowers and the tangy citrus scent from the bowl of oranges.

Touch: A buzzing sensation from the plentiful glasses of wine is present as well as the warm lingering touch from the barmaid with the cold solemn expression. Evaluation Overall, I did like this painting and found it interesting in terms of appearance as well as the story behind it. Visually, I thought that the colours were beautifully painted with the right textures and combination of bright and sombre colours.

Texture-wise, I liked how Manet drew Suzon with more realism than her surroundings and her male customer in her reflection. My interpretation is that the glamorous, joyful environment around Suzon (leans more towards impressionism) is a façade and contrasts with her true emotions. Suzon's reality is evident on her expression and the way she is drawn; a style that leans more towards realism.

The colour selection was nicely done because the bright, vivacious colours of the nightclub scene contrasts greatly with the sombre colours of Suzon's dress, which gives her an even more unsettling ambience.

What I liked about the message of the painting is the way it indirectly states that women are often objectified by society against their will. Unlike objects, women are humans and have opinions and emotions, which Suzon expresses clearly in this painting.
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