In Victorine, my historical novel coming out in the next few months, I write about the black choker Edouard Manet paints Victorine wearing. I imagine it as his bootlace, called into service on the spot.
Later, I give Victorine adoring fans who purchase and sport chokers with her as Olympia in lockets. It hardly offsets the cruelty she experiences in the streets after the “scandalous” nude painting was exhibited.
But Victorine is not the only one of Manet’s models to wear chokers. While I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand someone psychoanalyzing the painter and his predilection for encircling his model’s necks, I prefer to chalk it up to his respect and regard for fashion. Few paint fabric and fashion of the day the way he did.
When I stumbled upon this collage on Instagram, I knew I had to share it with you. Thanks, guzelonlu, for this lineup.
Four of the images pictured are Victorine. Can you tell which?
Bonus points if you can tell me the titles of those paintings. First one to comment gets a shoutout from me on Twitter.
Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years, edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom, is the catalogue for the eponymous exhibit of Édouard Manet’s later works. Filled with lush color representations of the paintings and ephemera on display, the expansive book also delights with authoritative, informative essays for those who might not be as familiar with Manet’s life and painting, or for those eager to learn current theories about the painter.
Later in life Manet gravitated toward unabashedly painting
fashion, flowers, and fruit. Unlike his political and hierarchical-upsetting
earlier works, he seemed pleased to focus on painting what simply appealed to his
eyes during his later years when he was unwell and had limited mobility.
Two notable works in the collection are Jeanne (Spring) and Autumn (Méry Laurent), the only two of a planned
set of four to represent the seasons that Manet completed.
TheConservatory, Plum Brandy, Waitress Serving
Beer, and the Café–Concert are some of the other paintings depicting
modern life and fashion that preoccupied Manet in the second half of his career.
No one paints a good mug of beer like Manet. It’s as if he’s anticipating
drinking it as he creates it. Equally, no one uses color quite in the same way,
either. If you don’t know his paintings by the hands, you’ll know them by the
way he places colors adjacent to one another. He evidences his joy in flowers
by the care he takes in drawing them. His palette makes flowers look even more beautiful
than they do in real life. It’s the work of someone who knows he’s dying and
wants to gather to himself all of the beauty and color he will have to leave
The editors of the book thank Juliet Wilson-Bureau, and with
good reason: her extensive Manet scholarship is deeply felt in the exhibit. Essay
authors and contributors to the collection include Carol Armstrong, Helen
Burnham, Leah Lehmbeck, Devi Ormond, Douglas MacLennan, Nathan Daly, Catherine
Schmidt Patterson, Bridget Alsdorf, Jamie Kwan, and Samuel Rodary. They write
on topics as varied as Manet and the Salon to the materials he used, a fascinatingly
deep dive. His “little nothings” are the subject of Armstrong’s essay, lending
weight to something Manet himself pretended to dismiss.
The essays are engaging and necessary reading for the
exhibit goer (preferably devoured before attending the show and again after), and
perhaps even more necessary for those who cannot attend. For Manet aficionados,
this book will both whet your appetite to see the paintings and to study him
more in-depth than ever before. What the authors spark is a hunger for examining
the paintings for oneself.
This volume will satisfy the curiosity of the most avid fan. It delves into the provenance of every painting. It depicts his “scribbles” on envelopes and his attempts at painting tambourine skins. It reprints correspondence to and from Manet about his paintings. As a souvenir, an exhibit guidebook, and a textbook, Manet and Modern Beauty is one for the art lover’s library.
An important note for would-be viewers: a few of the paintings are not going to be shown at both the Art Institute in Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A., (the two museums which will host the show), so consult the book to know if your favorite will be at the museum where you will attend the show.