MANET, Edouard
(b. 1832, Paris, d. 1883, Paris)

Madame Manet on a Blue Sofa

Pastel on brown paper on canvas, 49 x 60 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

It was Monet and Renoir who, each in turn, influenced Manet's series of "ladies served on canapés." But this was a veritable interaction, with reciprocal exchanges and influences, for both Monet, in his Madame Monet on a Sofa (1871) and Madame Monet Reading (1872), and Renoir, in his Madame Monet Lying on a Sofa (1872), had deliberately modelled their paintings on Olympia, merely replacing her clothes. Manet, taking up the theme in their wake, did the same. Madame Manet on a Blue Sofa depicts his wife in full bourgeois regalia, but the arrangement of the torso and arms and even the flirtatiously placed hand were borrowed from his Olympia. This time, however, Manet's picture was resolutely Impressionist, the more so for his lively use of pastel.

The use of pastel allowed Manet great contrasts of texture and colour, giving the picture an intensity and bloom that oil on canvas could not match. It was a medium to which Manet often returned, and his superlative technique resulted in numerous masterpieces.

The apogee of the pastel was the eighteenth century, and it had been relatively little practiced since, confined, for the most part, to landscape, in the work of Boudin, Delacroix, and Millet. Manet adopted it under the prompting of Degas, who had made a number of successful pastel portraits.

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