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The Reader's Digest Collection
Lot 4: Edouard Manet 1832-1883
Description: JEUNE FEMME DANS LES FLEURS Signature added after 1884 Oil on canvas 25 3/4 by 32in. 65.4 by 81.3cm. Painted in 1879. Manet was principally a painter of figures, urban subjects, and still lifes. Occasionally he turned to the plein-air subjects that are today recognized as among his most beautiful works. In the mid-1870s he began to execute paintings that reflect the influence of the group of his slightly younger colleagues who were labeled "Impressionists" by a hostile critic in 1874. Although Manet never exhibited in any of the eight Impressionist group shows held between 1874 and 1886, he had long been recognized as the de facto leader of the avant-garde. In 1876 the poet and essayist Stephane Mallarme published "The Impressionists and Edouard Manet," an essay that is an appreciation, explanation, and defense of his friend's work, as well as a general discussion of the Impressionist movement. During the course of the essay, Mallarme offers a discussion of Le Linge (The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania), a painting of 1875 that was refused by the jury for the Salon of 1876. Although Jeune femme dans les fleurs is looser and more abstract in most passages than Le Linge, the following passage from Mallarme's essay could serve equally well as a description of the present work: "Everywhere the luminous and transparent atmosphere struggles with the figures, the dresses, and the foliage, and seems to take to itself some of this substance and solidity; whilst their contours, consumed by the hidden sun and wasted by space, tremble, melt, and evaporate into the surrounding atmosphere, which plunders reality from the figures, yet seems to do so in order to preserve their truthful aspect." Indeed, Mallarme's description is a nearly perfect definition for those consummate Impressionist paintings of the 1870s that were painted en plein air and sur le motif. Such pictures focus on the pure pleasure of color and light, and the joy and richness of visual experiences in the open air. These paintings were often attacked by conservative, academically minded critics as unfinished and meretricious, but Jeune femme dans les fleurs is ample evidence that these experimental and daring works offered new and special insights into the role and purposes of modern painting. Moreover, this work demonstrates unequivocally that despite Manet's reluctance to ally himself publicly with the emerging avant-garde movement, he was himself a consummate Impressionist, a master of the loose, open brushwork and effects of color and light that are the hallmarks of Impressionism. Jeune femme dans les fleurs is also noteworthy as an image that has strong affinities with certain works by Monet and Renoir. During the 1860s and 1870s Monet had painted and exhibited numerous compositions depicting women in gardens and fields of flowers. Many emphasize the effects of color and light that characterize the present work. For example, in Renoir's Le Printemps (La Conversation) of 1876 (fig. 1) and Monet's La Promenade (Argenteuil) of 1875 one finds a similar interest in the loose, open, nearly abstract brushwork and exaggerated effects of color and light that foreshadow stylistic interests and currents that would soon emerge in the art of the twentieth century. Works such as Jeune femme dans les fleurs indicate unequivocally that Manet stood at the forefront of painting of advanced tendencies in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Although Rouart and Wildenstein (1975, vol, I, 1975, no. 317) and others assign 1879 as the date of Jeune femme dans les fleurs, Tabarant (1931, pp. 303-304) indicates it was painted in 1876 in the garden of the collector and department store magnate Ernest Hoschede's house in Montgeron. In addition, an annotation on the mount of the print of the Tabarant photograph in the Morgan Library ascribes the painting to 1876, but the source of the information is not known. However, comparison with the brushwork of La Lecture de 'L'Illustre', 1879 (Art Institute of Chicago), suggests that 1879 is also a viable possibility. Last, Jeune femme dans les fleurs was included in an auction of property from Manet's estate that was held at the Hotel Drouot, Paris, in 1884. That same year it was photographed (Lochard no. 49), but the signature that the painting now bears is not visible in the photograph. Provenance: Estate of the artist (sold: Hotel Drouot, Paris, February 1884, no. 61) Auguste Pellerin, Paris Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (1908) Baron Herzog (1913) Paul Cassirer, Berlin Dr. Paul Steiner, Berlin J.K. Thannhauser, New York Acquired by Reader's Digest in 1949 Exhibited: Berlin, Galerie Matthiesen, Edouard Manet, 1928, no. 42 Gemeente Museum, Collection S., on loan New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Reader's Digest Collection, 1963, p. 16 Tokyo, Palaceside Building, Forty Paintings from The Reader's Digest Collection, 1966, no. 17 New York, Wildenstein & Co. (traveling exhibition), Selections from The Reader's Digest Collection, 1985-86 (dated 1876), pp. 36-37 Auckland City Art Gallery, The Reader's Digest Collection: Manet to Picasso, 1989 (dated 1876), pp. 42-43 Literature: Theodore Duret, Histoire d'Edouard Manet et de son Oeuvre, Paris, 1902, no. 207, p. 244 Theodore Duret, Manet and the French Impressionists, London, 1912, no. 207, p. 237 A. Tabarant, Manet: Histoire Catalographique, Paris, 1931, pp. 303-4, 582, no. 251 Paul Jamot, Georges Wildenstein and Marie-Louise Bataille, Manet, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, no. 319, p. 159; vol. 2, fig. 369, illustrated p. 183 A. Tabarant, Manet et ses Oeuvres, Paris, 1947, pp. 292-293, 540, no. 259, illustrated p. 611 Marcello Venturi, L'Opera Pittorica di Edouard Manet, Milan, 1967, no. 219, illustrated p. 106 M. Bodelsen, "Early Impressionist Sales, 1874-1894," The Burlington Magazine, June 1968, no. 61, pp. 341-342 Denis Rouart and Sandra Orienti, Tout l'Oeuvre Peint d'Edouard Manet, Paris, 1970, no. 219, illustrated p. 106 Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue raisonne, Lausanne, 1975, no. 317, illustrated p. 247.
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