The Street Singer by Edouard Manet, 1862

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The Street Singer, Edouard Manet, 1862; oil on canvas, 171.1 x 105.8 cm

 

‘”The Street Singer” was inspired by a walk Manet took through an old part of Paris one early evening. As he passed by, a woman with a guitar stepped out of a tavern and held up her dress. Manet straight away asked her to pose for him.

The style and subject matter in Street Singer at first seemed crude to academic critics when the picture was first exhibited in 1863. However, Emile Zola (novelist and friend of Manet) admired its formal beauties and its apparent confrontation with real life.

Standing like a sculpted statue, Manet’s mystery model singer, is looking vacant and distant with a blank expression upon her face; she is gazing directly at the audience like a singer on stage but hardly acknowledges the imaginary director’s presence. The lighting is harsh and the girl’s face appears as if it were an oriental mask, dark eyes set wide apart.’

The evocative scarlet of the cherries held in the woman’s arm is a stark contrast to the sombre earthy yellows, browns, greys, and greens used throughout the rest of the painting. The cherries also add a bit of mystery to the piece—and their presence encourages the viewer to consider a character standing there in the sombre light…a person with, perhaps, a story of her own—a life story.

And isn’t that what true art is all about?

(Sources: Tumblr/the crystal light; Manet.org)

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