Panaggio, Leonard J
The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened the crowd-drawing exhibit of “Manet and the Sea” on 15 February. Edouard Manet (1832-1883) is the Father of Impressionism, according to one source and “made waves that rippled through the art world.” His work influenced Renoir, Whistler and Monet, among others.
Manet, who was born in Paris, was the son of a high-ranking government official. Failing to qualify as an officer in the French Navy, he refused his father’s wish to study law and turned to painting.
His love of the sea appears in his letters describing his journey to Rio de Janeiro when he was 17, but it does not appear in his art until 1854. When he read news accounts of an American Civil War battle off the coast of Cherbourg, he quickly produced a painting titled The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama (John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia). A subsequent trip to Boulogne in 1864 led to further marines, including The Kearsarge at Boulogne (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Another 1864 seascape is titled Steamboat Leaving Boulogne (The Art Institute of Chicago).
Also included are paintings that have rarely been exhibited in the United States such as The Port of Calais, 1868-72, and Rising Tide 1873, both from private collections.
Manet’s pleasure at the seaside is revealed in The Beach at Boulogne, 1868 (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond) depicting fashionable people with open parasols enjoying the breeze and salty air. In the distance, vessels bob in the waves. In his Departure of the Folkestone Boat, c. 1868-72 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) he captures a hectic moment on a crowded jetty where a paddle steamer prepares to embark across the channel from Boulogne to England.
The exhibition includes about 100 paintings, drawings, and watercolors from 60 public and private collections in the United States and abroad. In addition to 38 works by Manet, it includes works by Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet and James McNeil Whistler.
Among the seven Courbet works is The Wave, 1871 (National Gallery, Scotland). Monet is represented by 17 paintings, including Lighthouse at Ronfleur, 1864 (Kunsthaus Zurich), and Pont de La Heve at Low Tide, 1865 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth), and On the Beach at Trouville, 1870-71 (Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris).
Impressionist Berthe Morisot is represented with seven works including Harbor at Lorient, 1869 (National Gallery, Washington) and Boat Building, 1874. Seascape, 1879 (The Art Institute of Chicago) is one of three works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Valparaiso, 1866 (Tate Gallery, London) is one of five works from Whistler.
The works explore connections between these artists while addressing the development of seaside tourism that contributed to the popularity of French painting in this period.
Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, stated that “Manet created more than 40 paintings that take the ocean as his subject, and it is fascinating to trace his own artistic ability through this theme.” The Philadelphia exhibit was curated by Joseph J. Rishel and John Zarobell, Assistant Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, juliet Wilson Bareau, a prominent Manet scholar, was a consulting curator for the exhibition and contributor to the exhibition’s 260-page catalog featuring 110 color and 70 black-and-white reproductions ($65 cloth cover, soft cover $38) from the Museum Store – telephone 800-329-4856 or the Museum’s website, www.philamuseum.org. The Museum is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street; general information 215-763-8100.
“Manet and the Sea” can be viewed through 31 May. It premiered at The Art Institute of Chicago, and will next be seen in Amsterdam where it ends and the paintings returned to the institutions and individuals who made this unique presentation possible.
Copyright Challenge Publications Inc. May 2004
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