Manet Paper

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   1 Around 1879, Edouard Manet completed his painting The Café-Concert. The work was done in oil paint and measures about 47 cm in height by 39 cm in width. The composition features the everyday recreational activities of the working and bourgeois classes. Through his use of thick, visible brushstrokes and bold use of color, Manet created an unrealistic depiction of a believable mood and atmosphere. The painting showcases three main figures. The first figure is on the left of the canvas. A downcast woman wearing a grayish-green dress and a floral hat sits at the bar with a beer and a cigarette in hand. Her figure extends slightly past the edge of the canvas, suggesting the scene of the café is much larger than what is pictured. To her left, the second main figure, an older man wearing a black suit and top hat, sits and calmly watches the dancer. In contrast to the slumped figure of the woman, his posture is upright and dignified. It appears as though the man is of a higher class due to his elegant attire, monocle, and decorative cane. This gentleman presumably faces forward to watch the café dancer, although she is only made visible to the viewer by her reflection in the  back mirror on the left side of the painting. In addition to the café dancer, the mirror reflects a chandelier and the blurred region from the other side of the café. The third main figure, located behind the somber woman and poised gentleman, is a young woman drinking beer. In the far right middle ground of the painting is another pair of figures either watching the dance or engaged in their own activities. Between the mirror and the woman drinking the beer are the obscured outlines of other café patrons. Next to the mirror in the background, there is a dark, blue-gray wall interrupted only by a thin golden coat rack.   2 Manet positions his three main figures in a pyramid composition, in which the top hat of the gentleman and the head of the woman drinking form the peak. However, the  pyramid is not unified. The figures ’  gazes are divergent, as each appears occupied in individual thoughts. Their lack of interaction, despite their close proximity, removes the  possibility of a shared focal point. The figures of the composition also overlap and share much of the same space, thus creating the crowded atmosphere of the café. The brushstrokes are thick, loose and applied in varied directions. Thicker  brushstrokes in opposing directions create the effect of a rougher texture, such as the crumpled napkin placed in front of the beer of the somber woman. However, in contrast, the skirt of the woman drinking a beer appears softer due to the thinner, parallel  brushstrokes. The color of the composition is bold in hue and deliberately applied. Manet uses different tones of the same hue, as well as different hues, for shading to give his composition depth. To create dimensionality within his figures, the different colors of the brushstrokes are juxtaposed in varying degrees of proximity as opposed to blending the pigments together. By applying a bluish tint and a hazy quality, he is able to separate the scene observed in the mirror from the scene observed in the café. The brushstrokes are much softer and of slightly more uniform color. Manet’s reworking of the  pyramidal composition, interesting application of color, and varying brushstrokes produced a painting that represented the nightlife of the working and bourgeois classes. Though the bold, uneven application of color creates unrealistic figures, the effect achieved by these techniques results in the reproduction of a recreational and individualistic environment.
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