A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

In just two months, the world has been turned upside down. In many countries, airports, schools, offices and shops have been closed to try to contain the coronavirus. Our habits have changed. Maybe we can’t go out, but we can still dream. Today, I want to go to the cafe to get a glass of wine, meet me at the Folies-Bergère.

It was 1882 when Édouard Manet painted A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. The Folies Bergère was the most famous of the cafè concert halls, which provided entertainment as well as refreshment. Manet, one of the most famous impressionist, painted this when he was terminally ill. In it, he chose his favourite subject matter, the celebration of life. Probably because he was sick.  

Now more than ever we know how important is celebrate life, now that we are forced to stay at home. Even if someone quotes George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, maybe they have right when they say that he has had a lasting impact on modern society. But this is another story. 

Going back to the Folies Bergère follow me to the 19th century, I will bring you to explore this bar. The impressionist, and Éduard Manet, loved to show people enjoying themselves and many of their most familiar scenes were sent in bars, cafès and dance halls.  

A Bar at the Folies Bergère, is precisely a sample of this entertainment, is an insight of the Parisian modern life and the changes that were being introduced in society.

Maybe looking at the picture the first time, the structure of the composition is confusing. But everything makes sense, even the lady in the foreground that seems really ambiguous. 

The barmaid is talking to a man, we can see both looking at the mirror, we can also see a crowd of a customer sitting in the cafe. She is leaning on a marble countertop. On the countertop, bowl with oranges, bottles of beer, champagne and a vase of flowers. Everything finds its place so much so that it almost seems too real, 

The girl seems to have withdrawn into herself for a moment: to look concentration on her soft pink and face, her bodice with its elegant lace and flowers echo Manet’s exaltation of life.

The exaltation of life makes of this picture is an alternative to traditional and academic art.

That is probably true because the impressionist painters were influenced by modern life and the changes that were being introduced in society. Parisian cafés, landscapes, water, anonymous passers and recreational activities during the weekends are just some topics that they loved to paint.

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