Edouard Manet, Victorine Meurant in the Costume of an Espada, 1862

2016 021 001 V0001Eduard Manet (French, 1832–1883), Victorine Meurant in the Costume of an Espada, 1862, etching on laid paper, first state of three. 13 x 11 inches (plate); 16.38 x 14 inches (sheet). Acquired with funds provided by the 2016 Art Purchase Fund, 2016.021.001

Manet regularly challenged the art establishment with his provocative paintings of contemporary subjects, such as prostitutes and bar scenes, depicted without the conventional illusionism that it favored. Upon the request of the print publisher Alfred Cadart, he produced this etching after a painting that he had shown in the Salon des Refusés in 1863. In it, a frequent model as well as his friend, Victorine Meurant, posed as a bullfighter. In an homage to the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, Manet included in the background two scenes plucked from the earlier artist’s print series, Tauromaquia.

Manet’s composition bears the hallmarks of modernism for which he is best known: odd juxtapositions of scale and abrupt shifts in value that flatten out the picture plane. Critics chastised him for making his pictures “flat like playing cards.” This effect is more pronounced in the first state of this print executed in pure etching than in the second, where Manet added aquatint to the foreground.

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