Édouard Manet (1832–1883): Woman with a Jug (Suzanne Leenhoff, Later Manet)
Oil on canvas | 61 x 54.5 cm | 1858-60
As is often the case in Manet’s work, this is a complex picture. It is an early work, and on the face of it seems to be a portrait of his lover and later wife Suzanne Leenhoff. X-ray and infra-red photos of the picture have, however, shown that at the same time it is a reworked fragment of a larger composition. Manet seems to have been working on a monumental salon piece where this figure was placed in a magnificent architectural setting.
The picture has subtle allusions to Italian Renaissance painting in the poetic way Suzanne is depicted. The colouring and the placing of the figure in front of a window with a view of a Classical landscape, too, recalls Italian Renaissance pictures. The painting of Suzanne forms part of a whole series of very complex compositions in which Manet, as an avantgardist, very consciously explored – and challenged – the tradition of painting.
Manet played an epoch-making role in French art in the 1800s. His works aroused vehement debate in his age and his experimental way of painting with broken lines and broad black contours looked like nothing that had ever been seen before. A quite crucial feature of Manet’s work is the Modernist renewal of the tradition of painting.
Motifs: Monumental figure compositions, portraits, still lifes, flower pictures and pictures of “modern life”.
Read more about Manet at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.