Today is the anniversary of Édouard Manet’s death

In our collection you will find:

Édouard Manet (1832-83)
Baudelaire en Face, 1865
Etching, 30 x 8 cm

Édouard Manet was born in Paris on January 23, 1832, to an affluent and well connected family. His mother, Eugenie-Desiree Fournier, was the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte, from whom the current Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge who expected Édouard to pursue a career in law. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and often took young Manet to the Louvre. In 1845, following the advice of his uncle, Manet enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts, and a subsequent life-long friend. At his father’s suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro. After twice failing the examination to join the navy, the elder Manet relented to his son’s wishes to pursue an art education. From 1850 to 1856, Manet studied under the academic painter Thomas Couture, a painter of large historical paintings. In his spare time he copied the old masters in the Louvre. From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velazquez and Francisco Jose de Goya. In 1856, he opened his own studio. His style in this period was characterized by loose brush strokes, simplification of details, and the suppression of transitional tones. Adopting the current style of realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, he painted The Absinthe Drinker (1858-59) and other contemporary subjects such as beggars, singers, Gypsies, people in cafes, and bullfights.
Charles Baudelaire, de Face owes its beginnings to a rather tentative portrait etching it is believed Édouard Manet created in 1865. In 1869, two years after Baudelaire’s death, Charles Asselineau’s completed book, Charles Baudelaire, sa vie et son oeuvre, was published. Before publication Manet wrote the author, “My dear Asselineau,
You are busy just now, aren’t you, on an edition of the works of Baudelaire? If you are inserting a portrait of him as a frontispiece … I have a portrait of Baudelaire in outdoor clothes, wearing a hat, which perhaps wouldn’t look bad at the beginning of this book. I have yet another and more important one of him, bareheaded, which would look well in a book of poetry. I’m very keen to be given this job.” * The first named portrait is now known as Profile Portrait of Charles Baudelaire. The “more important” and “bareheaded” portrait is, of course, Charles Baudelaire, de Face (Harris #61). Both portraits were published in Asselineau’s book. Charles Baudelaire, de Face underwent four distinct states (including the removal of a scroll by cutting the lower margin of the plate) before Édouard Manet was satisfied with the work. Fifty proofs of the etching were issued at the time of publication. Later impressions were published by Lemerre, who acquired the plates of both portraits. In Édouard Manet: Graphic Works, Jean C. Harris writes that the first fifty proofs were published on “thin paper”. Yet impressions of Charles Baudelaire, de Face exist on both ‘thin’ China paper and ‘thin’ laid paper. Charles Baudelaire, de Face is a most important etching from the hand of one of France’s greatest nineteenth century masters.

Jean C. Harris, Édouard Manet: Graphic Works: A Definitive Catalogue Raisonne, New York, Collectors Edition, 1970.
Harris # 61. Fourth and Final State as published in 1869. (The above quotation will be found on pp. 133 & 134.)


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