100 Days of Art History Jinjins


The Balcony

It's always fun when I get to draw my face onto more than one figure. I remember seeing this painting in the Musee D'Orsay when my mom took me on vacation to Paris as a teenager. (The other painting I remember extremely clearly from that trip was The Floor Planers by Caillebotte which continues to live in my mind rent-free.)

This painting was controversial when it was first exhibited and reviewers absolutely hated it. One caricaturist quipped "Close the shutters!". Manet caught a lot of flack actually--his famous painting Olympia was also publicly ridiculed to the point that people would go to the exhibition just to hate-look at it. I find this painting completely inoffensive today, and you probably do too--what was the issue? It turns out that the public was used to much more polished, academic, idealized work, and in comparison to that, this looked like a dashed off, unfinished scribble. They also really hated the brightness of the green and the starkness of the white dresses against the dark interior. Fascinating how tastes change.

The sitter in front is Berthe Morisot, who was a famous Impressionist painter in her own right. I didn't know about her before this project but now I keep noticing her name coming up. She was friends with all the Impressionists, and keeps showing up as a subject in their paintings. She was Manet's sister-in-law, so she shows up in his work especially often.

Last thing--this painting is actually a reference to yet another painting, Majas on the Baclony by Goya. This project has really taught me that art is just references on top of references. This project is just a drop in the bucket.

Reference image is from Wikipedia. The original is now in the Musée D'Orsay.

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