Posts Tagged ‘Courtauld Institute’

The Royal Academy in London recently housed a retrospective of Edouard Manet’s portraits; apparently this particular permutation has never been shown before, despite pictures of his literary, artistic and political peers, together with his friends and family accounting for half his total output.

So, as the exhibition was nearing the end of its run, a few friends and I fought our way along Piccadilly to see for ourselves this belle époque spectacle. Clutching our soon-to-be irrelevant timed tickets, my heart plummeted when we were faced with the prospect of viewing these fabulous paintings in a shuffling queue of at least five deep.

While it’s great that so many people want to view these treasures, I wish that there was some way of diluting the crowds. Timed ticketing doesn’t work because there is no shepherding out of the gallery at the other end. If only a certain amount of people were allowed in at any one time, they could ring a bell at the end of a designated timed session: viewers could then leave for the gift shop or restaurant and let the next batch of eager art lovers in. It’s at times like this my commuter elbows come into their own and  my height is a bonus  – in other circumstances, such as buying jeans, it’s something of a nightmare – but that’s another story entirely.

However, despite the gallery resembling Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour, the exhibition was delightful – some of the paintings were familiar, some had never been previously exhibited – some are unfinished. I wondered if Manet would have approved the selection. There were scenes of the artist’s friend Monet with his family in their Normandy garden; a picture of Emile Zola at his desk; we had fun spotting Manet himself among his contemporaries in an early work, Music in the Tuileries Gardens.

music in the tuileries gardens

music in the tuileries gardens

I never understand why curators choose the paintings they do – or, more importantly, choose which ones to leave out, and why? Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, was smaller and less colourful than I had imagined, but The Bar at the Folies-Bergère, the painting which I think is instantly recognisable as a Manet, and depicts beautifully Parisian cafe society, was conspicuously absent. Odd, when Le déjeuner had to come from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Folies resides at the Courtauld Institute, less than a mile away.

le dejeuner sur l'herbe

le dejeuner sur l’herbe

Later in the week I popped into the Courtauld for the Becoming Picasso exhibition, which concentrated on the year he had his first exhibition at the precocious age of nineteen. No queues, no crowds, no timed tickets – the best way to view paintings. On top of this I was able to pick up, free of charge, a very informative teaching pack complete with CD – and – I was able to view, at my leisure, The Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

the bar at the Folies-Bergere

the bar at the Folies-Bergere

Double Whammy – marvellous!

All pictures borrowed from Wikipedia!

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