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Painted between 1861 and 1862, the lesser known of Edouard Manet's two paintings featuring the famous Tuileries Garden, Children in the Tuileries, is both innocent and dark.
The three girls in white, stood with their backs to the viewer, appearing to be walking along the sandy path through the trees when an older girl dressed in a black dress and blue bonnet stands with her arms open towards them, in a gesture that is almost pleading. The girls in white have turned their heads towards the other girl, but, as far as it is depicted in the painting, make no attempt to go to her, while the smaller girls almost appear to be moving away from the her, as if they were about to hide behind their companion.
To the left of the picture, almost as an afterthought, is an old man in a straw hat, apparently at rest among the trees, while, to the right, a richly dressed child is attended to by her African or Caribbean nursemaid, who is stood behind her seated charge and holding a hoop. The trees give the entire scene an eerie feel, while helping to give every subject in the painting a sense of movement. The trees themselves seem to be crowding in the scene, as if they, too, wish to know the motives behind the girl in black and the children she is gesturing to.
Despite the wide brush strokes, Manet still manages to capture the styles of the era, from the simple straw hat of the old man and plain white dresses of the three girls to the vibrant turban of the nursemaid and the fancy yellow outfit and feathered hat of the rich child. The garden, itself, is adorned with the subjects, and has welcomed everyone from a multitude of social standings to amble among the luscious greens of its foliage and its coarse, sandy paths.
Of all of the people present in the painting, we are only able to see the eye of the girl in black, as if she, not the others, is the only one that Manet felt was interesting enough to have her expression captured, even though, with his characteristically large brush strokes, there is minimal detail to her features. In comparison, the well dressed child in yellow's face is a blur, with no detail whatsoever, despite the child being closer to the front of the painting than the more interesting girl in black. This painting was used by Manet almost as a study on the Tuileries Garden before he painted the vastly most complex piece Music in the Tuileries, which he completed in 1863.