Corner of a Cafe-Concert Edouard Manet Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Corner of a Cafe-Concert is a true reflection of the works that Manet produced throughout his life – portraying Parisian life in the latter part of the 19th century.

It is not quite the mirror it appears to be though. For a start the material painting comprises only half of the original artwork, deliberately spliced in two by the artist, which depicted a scene from the Brasserie de Reichshoffen. That the painting is one half of a whole is not immediately clear though. The style of putting the viewer directly in the scene, by truncating the edges of a painting, was a favoured one of Manet's. The separation of the original painting intrigues once it is known and answers more than one or two questions. The waitress, for example, is seemingly not directing her gaze anywhere. The double bass being played in the mid-ground is also cut off suggesting there is more comprising the band than is shown.

The scene being depicted is also, at first, indicative of the style to which Manet works is – one of delightful and elegant leisure of the sophisticates. The lack of any sophistication and elegance becomes more apparent the closer the piece is studied however. There is a sense of the taboo, of the sordid and possibly debauched too. The crowd is clearly lively with most focus on the dancing girl and not the groups of people sat at the tables – they are not socialising. On first impressions then it is a very bourgeois scene – the sort of scene that Manet would have enjoyed being a part of. But looking more closely the seedy side becomes ever clearer.

It appears to not so much be a social scene for catching up on the elegant gossip then, but one of drinking and watching, or leering, at the offered cafe entertainment – providing more of a commentary on the disjointed nature of contemporary Parisian society which Manet witnessed rather than shared. The painting itself is spliced, as was Paris at the time. Edouard Manet (1832 to 1883) is recognised as one of the leaders of the impressionist art movement and enjoyed similar renown in his own lifetime. It was only after his death that his influence really came to the fore though and his portfolio of Parisian life, of which 'Corner of a Cafe-Concert' is part, was truly appreciated for its candour and boldness.