Berthe Morisot culminated in what I think is one of his best portraits in the exhibition. Even though this is one of the smaller paintings on show it is immensely beautiful and captures her personality and soul. Morisot’s gaze is level and direct as she stares out to us and we can see the minute detail of her black dress and the violets that she clasps to her chest. Manet had a lifelong preference for using black in his paintings, influenced by Velasquez, and became masterful at painting the gradations of black. Compared to the Morisot portrait I found some of the other portraits in the exhibition, such as the one of Emile Zola and Rouviere, a little lifeless and stiff. Manet sometimes seems to lose the personality of the sitter. Yet we see in his unusual painting, ‘In the Garden’, finished in 1870 a beautiful painting of a couple and their baby relaxing in the garden. It depicts the artist Giuseppe de Nittis enjoying domestic life with his wife and child in their villa garden to the west of Paris. The reflection of light is masterful as are the soft colours he uses to paint the garden. It is a serene picture and depicts yet again the experience of life as Manet sees it. During his lifetime he was never interested in mythology, allegory or historical subjects purposefully sticking to the everyday and to modern life. His paintings of the professional model Victorine Meurent, particularly the one on display in the last room of the exhibition give her a strong personality and sexual charge and he would subsequently use her in his genre paintings such as the famous painting “Le dejeuner sur l’herbehttp://www.visitmuseums.com/work-of-art/le-dejeuner-sur-lherbe-123”.
By Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, VisitMuseums.com