Augusta Stylianou Gallery
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
Oil on Canvas
96 × 130 cm
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (French: Un bar aux Folies Bergère), painted and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882, was the last major work by French painter Édouard Manet. It depicts a scene in the Folies Bergère nightclub in Paris.
The painting is filled with contemporaneous details specific to the Folies-Bergère. The distant pair of green feet in the upper left-hand corner belong to a trapeze artist, who is performing above the restaurant's patrons.
The beer which is depicted, Bass Pale Ale (noted by the red triangle on the label), would have catered not to the tastes of Parisians, but to those of English tourists, suggesting a British clientèle. Manet has signed his name on the label of the bottle at the bottom left, combining the centuries-old practice of self-promotion in art with something more modern, bordering on the product placement concept of the late twentieth century. One interpretation of the painting has been that far from only being a seller of the wares shown on the counter, the woman is herself one of the wares for sale; conveying undertones of prostitution. The man in the background may be a potential client.
But for all its specificity to time and place, it is worth noting that, should the background of this painting indeed be a reflection in a mirror on the wall behind the bar as suggested by some critics, the woman in the reflection would appear directly behind the image of the woman facing forward. Neither are the bottles reflected accurately or in like quantity for it to be a reflection. These details were criticized in the French press when the painting was shown. The assumption is faulty when one considers that the postures of the two women, however, are quite different and the presence of the man to whom the second woman speaks marks the depth of the subject area. Indeed many critics view the faults in the reflection to be fundamental to the painting as they show a double reality and meaning to the work. One interpretation is that the reflection is an interaction earlier in time that results in the subject's expression in the painting's present.
The painting has been interpreted as a modern paraphrasing of Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.
The first owner of this painting was the composer (and close friend of Manet) Emmanuel Chabrier.
The painting The bar (1954) by Australian painter John Brack, which depicts a comparatively grim Antipodean bar-room scene, is said to be an ironic reference to A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.
The painting features two Bass Pale Ale bottles in the bottom-left and bottom-right corners foreground, Britain's first registered trademark.
Canadian artist Jeff Wall makes reference to A Bar at the Folies-Bergère in his own work Picture For Women (1979)
The Eddie Murphy film Coming to America features a re-styled version with the barmaid replaced by a black McDowell's employee in a plaid uniform with fast-food fare such as ketchup rather than beer.
A song by Mr Solo, former David Devant & His Spirit Wife vocalist, is entitled 'Bar at the Folie Berger.' Released on 2007 album All Will Be Revealed.
1. ^ Brombert, Beth Archer. Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat. University of Chicago Press, 1997. ISBN 9780226075440. p. 442.
2. ^ The Age newspaper: The great art robbery - Article on Brack's painting
3. ^ "Tate Modern National Gallery, London UK; Jeff Wall Photographs 1978-2004". 2005-10-21 – 8 January 2006. http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/jeffwall/rooms/room1.shtm. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
4. ^ Merritt discusses the role of the mirror in Manet's Bar and Jeff Wall's Picture for Women
* Gary Tinterow, et al. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003
* Merritt, Naomi. ‘Manet’s Mirror and Jeff Wall’s Picture for Women: Reflection or Refraction?’ Emaj (Electronic Melbourne Art Journal), Issue 4, 2009
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