Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 24th June 2015 will feature Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère of 1881 by Édouard Manet, estimated at £15-20 million/ $23-30.7 million / €21-28 million depicting one of the artist’s most celebrated and iconic subjects.
In his celebrated evocation of the Folies-Bergère scene Édouard Manet produced from an everyday setting an iconic image of modern Paris. This is one of only two paintings by Manet of the Folies-Bergère - the other housed at the Courtauld Gallery in London –and therefore the only version remaining in private hands.
The Evolution of Manet’s Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère
Manet turned to the theme of bars and café-concerts in the late 1870s as inspiration for his paintings, which reached a climax in the subject depicted in Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère.
His celebrated large-scale oil of the same title, exhibited at the Salon of 1882 and now in the collection of the Courtauld Gallery, London, is considered the crowning achievement of Manet’s career. While the two related paintings share the same subject and a similar composition, the artist’s stylistic approach to painting them differed significantly. Unlike the painting in the Courtauld, this smaller, earlier painting (47 by 56cm) displays a remarkable vivacity and immediacy in the artist's depiction of his subject, and is executed with quick, spontaneous brushstrokes that remained barely altered as Manet developed the composition. In the mid-1980s X-ray-based research revealed further differences in approach and techniques employed. Interestingly, beneath the surface of the Courtauld painting lies a composition that resembles the earlier painting much more closely. Manet initially transferred the composition of the earlier work to the larger canvas, and over a longer period of time made numerous changes that led to the final image: he enlarged the figure of the barmaid and depicted her in the center of the composition frontally, replacing her clasped arms with straight ones and moving the barmaid’s reflected image to a less logical position on the right, whereas the image of her male companion was moved further up into the top right corner. In the process Manet substituted the immediacy of the earlier painting -in which reality is transcribed with a wonderful vibrancy and freedom -for a composition in which the reflections of the two figures become picturesque but implausible.
The Subject of Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère
The Folies-Bergère, a Parisian variety theatre, was opened in 1869 on the rue Richer. It offered a combination of pantomime, ballet, acrobatics and music, with many bars “tended by charming girls whose playful glances and delightful smiles attract a swarm of customers”, according toone contemporary account. Manet made various sketches there, and the painting to be offered was based on an ink sketch depicting a barmaid engaged in a conversation with a man, both figures reflected in the mirror behind her. Previous ownership Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère remained with the artist until his death when it was inherited by his widow, Suzanne Manet (née Leenhoff). It was subsequently given to Edmond Bazire, a friend of Manet’s who had written the first monograph on the artist’s work in 1884. The painting was eventually procured by Paul Durand-Ruel from whom the renowned Viennese art collector Dr Hermann Eissler acquiredthe painting. In 1926 Franz Koenigs, one of the leading collectors of his day, bought the work through the Amsterdam branch of Paul Cassirer's dealership, which had it on consignment from the estate of Dr Eissler's brother Dr Gottfried Eissler. While much of Koenigs’ collection is now housed in Rotterdam's Museum Boymans, this painting by Manet remained in the family’s own personal collection until 1994 when it was last sold at Sotheby’s London for £4.4 million. It was later acquired by the present owner.