“Temporary Manet Exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, J. Paul Getty Museum,” by S.M. O’Connor

There is a little over a month left to see the temporary exhibit Manet and Modern Beauty at The Art Institute of Chicago.  It opened on Sunday, May 26, 2019 and will remain on display through Sunday, September 8, 2019, after which it will go on display at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from Tuesday, October 8, 2019 through Sunday, January 12, 2020, the two major American art museums announced on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.   The exhibit is devoted exclusively to the great 19th Century French artist Édouard Manet (1832-1883),[1] and will be the first to focus on his final years.  It brings together “genre scenes, still lifes, pastels, and portraits of fashionable women–favorite actresses and models, bourgeois women of his acquaintance, and his wife[2]—as well as intimate male friends.”

The exhibit includes the only two completed paintings from what Manet had intended to be a series of four portraits that would portray the four seasons with women in fashionable attire.  One portrait depicts the actress-and-model Anne Darlaud (1865-1937), who used the aristocratic-sounding stage name Jeanne de Marsy,[3] and the other depicts the courtesan, actress, and model Anne Rose Suzanne Louviot (1849-1900), who used the stage name Méry Laurent.  In English, they are called Jeanne (Spring) and Autumn (Méry Laurent).

Manet painted Jeanne (Spring), which shows Jeanne de Marsy in a day dress, gloves, and a bonnet, upholding a parasol, with rhododendrons in the background, in 1881.  He chose Jeanne de Marsy’s attire himself, having scoured the shops of dressmakers and milliners to find the items he wanted her to wear in the portrait.  He followed portraiture conventions of the Italian Renaissance in his depiction of her half-length in profile.   His friend, the historian Antonin Proust, purchased the portrait on January 2, 1883 for 3,000 francs.  In French, the portrait is called Le Printemps.  It was Proust who suggested the “four seasons” theme.  General Oliver Hazard Payne (1839-1917), a Union Army veteran of the Civil War, industrialist, philanthropist, yachtsman, and art collector, acquired the portrait in 1909.  On November 5, 2014, The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired it at an auction held at Christie’s from the heirs of General Payne for $65,125,000.


Figure 1 Credit: Édouard Manet. Jeanne (Spring), 1881. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago stated, “These works [Jeanne (Spring) and Autumn (Méry Laurent)] are part of an impressive array of ‘femmes Manet,’ both portraits and single-figure genre paintings of women that range across the social spectrum.  Supplementing this display will be the delicate and rarely seen letters Manet wrote to his acquaintances, featuring exquisite illustrations of fruits and flowers.  Punctuating the presentation are multi-figure paintings, including In the Conservatory and Boating, both shown in the 1879 Salon, that focus attention on modern social and gender relations.  Together these works showcase the final flowering of Manet’s talent as he put his work, ever responsive to the moment, under the influence of modern life.”

“With every artist, these is the artist we know and the artist we don’t know, and our job at the Art Institute, where we have such wonderful examples of all of the Impressionists, is to take you into the realm of something that you didn’t know,” stated Gloria Groom, David and Mary Winton Green Curator, and Chair of European Painting and Sculpture, at The Art Institute of Chicago.  “There are a number of Manet’s more familiar Salon paintings in the exhibition, but also delicate drawings, pastel portraits, and illustrated letters that speak to a more intimate, unknowable, unknown artist, one who always manages, despite his challenges, to take your breath away.”

At both museums, the exhibit consists of over ninety artworks, including about fifty paintings; numerous pastels; many works on paper (e.g., letters, watercolors, and prints); and historical publications.  At The Art Institute of Chicago, but not The J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibit also includes costume accessories.

“What is so remarkable about Manet’s final years is how creative he managed to be in spite of his rapidly declining health,” noted Scott Allan, Associate Curator of Paintings at The J. Paul Getty Museum.  “His heightened interest in pretty parisiennes, the still lifes of fruits and flowers that he painted while confined to the studio, the garden pictures he did while seeking rest cures in the suburbs, and the letters he wrote and illustrated with watercolor while he was away from his friends and Parisian society – all of these show the ailing artist’s passionate attachment to the delicate beauties and fleeting pleasures of this world.  Manet’s last works are among the most gorgeous and vibrant he painted but also, given his personal circumstances, the most poignant, and they reveal a more intimately human side of an artist so often lionized as one of the great heroes and rebels of modern art.”

The three people who organized Manet and Modern Beauty were the aforementioned Gloria Groom and Scott Allan and Emily Beeny, Associate Curator of Drawings at The J. Paul Getty Museum.  The lead affiliate sponsor for the presentation of Manet and Modern Beauty in Chicago is the Auxiliary Board of The Art Institute of Chicago.  Major support came from Robert J. Buford, Rande and Cary D. McMillan (in honor of Mrs. Cindy Pritzker), the Shure Charitable Trust, Loretta and Allan Kaplan, and Nancy Strubbe Santi and E. Scott Santi.  Additional support came from Norman and Virginia Bobins, The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation; Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation; the Rose L. and Sidney N. Shure Endowment; and Jean M. Unsworth.

The Art Institute of Chicago stated, “Members of the Exhibitions Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming.  The Exhibitions Trust includes an anonymous donor; Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Robert M. and Diane von Schlegell Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Anne and Chris Reyes; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.”

The exhibit is also sponsored by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.  In 1975, Congress created the U.S. Government’s Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program.  The National Endowment for the Arts administers the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program on behalf of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Major support for the presentation of Manet and Modern Beauty in Los Angeles comes from Elizabeth and Bruce Dunlevie.  City National Bank is the sponsor.  Ellen and David Lee and Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Homes Tuttle are also providing support.

Credit: The Art Institute of Chicago Caption: In a promotional video to promote Manet and Modern Beauty, Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago; Scott Allan, Associate Curator of Paintings at The J. Paul Getty Museum and Emily Beeny, Associate Curator of Drawings at The J. Paul Getty Museum, explain why they appreciate Édouard Manet and his artworks.

The Art Institute of Chicago is an art museum and art school.  The museum stands on Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Park District’s Grant Park in downtown Chicago.  In December, The Art Institute of Chicago celebrated the 125th anniversary of its move into the building in Grant Park that had held the World’s Congress Auxiliary during Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).  Saturday, December 8, 2018 was the 125th anniversary of the opening ceremony.

General Admission is $25 for adults, $20 for Chicagoans, and $22 for Illinois residents from outside Chicago.  The Fast Pass is $35 for adults.  General Admission is $19 for senior citizens (ages sixty-five-and-older), $14 for senior citizen Chicagoans, and $16 for senior citizen Illinois residents from outside Chicago.  The Fast Pass is $29 for senior citizens.  General Admission is $19 for students, $14 for students who reside in Chicago, and $16 for students who reside in Illinois outside Chicago.  The Fast Pass is $29 for students.  General Admission is $19 for teenagers (ages fourteen-to-seventeen), free for teenage Chicagoans, and $16 for teenage Illinois residents from outside Chicago. The Fast Pass is $29 for teenagers.  This is to say, access is free for children and teens under eighteen if they are residents of Chicago (thanks to Glenn and Claire Swogger and the Rosebud Foundation) and free for children and teens under fourteen if they are from anywhere else.  It is also free every day to Members, LINK and WIC cardholders, and Illinois educators and for Illinois residents between the hours of five o’clock and eight o’clock post meridian on Thursdays.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, active-duty military personnel and their families receive free admission.  Click here to learn more free admission.

Six days a week, the Museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  On Thursdays, it is open until 8:00 p.m.  The Museum Shops are open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. six days a week and from 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays.  The Museum and Museum Shops are closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.  The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries are open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and is closed on weekends.

The address of the Michigan Avenue Entrance is 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60603.  The address of the Modern Wing Entrance is 159 East Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603. The Website is https://www.artic.edu/.


[1] The great 19th Century French artist Édouard Manet (1832-1883) is not to be confused with the great French artist Claude Monet (1840-1926), who was active in the early 20th Century as well as the 19th Century.

[2] Manet was married to Suzanne Leenhoff Manet (1829-1906) from 1863 until his death and they were involved romantically before they wed.  However, he never legally acknowledged her son León-Édouard Koëlla, born in 1852, as also his son.

[3] For some reason, both The J. Paul Getty Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago misspell de Marsy “Demarsy,” but this seems to be common amongst English-speakers recounting the history of the painting.

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