Much of the art of Manet reflects the developments going on in Paris in the 1860s and 1870s. The rebuilding of Paris was being supervised by Baron Haussman, as much of the old medieval centre of the city was being destroyed so that the new city could be rebuilt. In his book "The painting of modern life" TJ Clark argues that modern art of the 20th century evolves from the art produced by Manet during this period of great change in Paris. Manet's scenes of Parisian cafes, bars and streets reflected the new Paris. Manet's work influenced the impressionist painters, who were a strong influences on the painting of the 20th century, so in this sense Manet's painting is the first modern art that emerged from the creation of the new Paris which Manet depicted in many of his paintings. While Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe and Olympia were the most famous and most controversial works Manet produced, I do not feel they represent the view of the French writer Baudelaire who came up with the phrase 'modern life'. Instead I will be focusing more on Manet's last great masterpiece The Bar at the Folies-Bergere, a much better display of Paris life, as well as some of his other lesser known, smaller works. I will be discussing the relation of Manet's art, especially this painting of the Folies Bergere night club, to modern life in Paris at this time.
During the 1860s under the reign of Napoleon III in France, the city of Paris became one of the most modern in the world due to the extensive redesigning by Baron Georges Eugene Haussmann. Paris was full of bars, operas, cafes, cabarets and a centre of dance and western culture. Many of the slums and poor inner city areas were redesigned with wide open streets and modern buildings. While this meant many of the lower class people were moved out of the city, many richer and middle class people moved to the inner city in their place. It was one of the largest efforts to rebuild the centre of a city since ancient times. While there was the glamour of the many entertainments in the city, there was also a darker side of poverty, crime and prostitution. "The city - with its pristine exterior, its soiled underside, its hollow entertainments - provided the makings of an enormous duality: a two-sided mirror...a spectacle and secret life." (Bromber 1996: 62) One of the key parts to this design by Haussmann were the wide tree lined avenues, which replaced the smaller streets that had previously existed in the city. "Haussmann's grand design for the reconstruction of Paris was being carried forward by the Third Republic, and the city was now laced with wide, tree-lined avenues." (Schneider 1972: 134) In fact, the modern city of Paris is based on the city that was built by Haussmann and the modern perception of Paris as being the artistic and cultural centre that it is known for, is chiefly based on Haussman's design and re-modelling of the city.
The art of Edouard Manet depicted modern life in the new Paris, as advocated by the writer Baudelaire. Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a writer in nineteenth century Paris, a contemporary of Manet, who knew Manet personally, and who wrote about the idea of modern life. Baudelaire encouraged the artists of the day to paint modern scenes, such as looking at the world around them for inspiration, rather than turning to scenes from the past, or idealised romanticism that was popular in the first half of the century. In 1863 Baudelarie published his views on modern art in a book called The Painter of Modern Life, which was "widely held to be the source from which Manet drew his ideas about art." (Brombert 1996: 59) He wrote in this book that the painter should emphasise both the negative and positive aspects of the new city; the spectacular entertainments, and the seedy underbelly as well. The modern life displayed in Manet's paintings, was copied and followed by several of the impressionists such as Renoir, who also painted modern scenes. Compared to the other...
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