For the first time in half a century a significant number of works by the father of modern art are coming to Britain for a major retrospective.
The Royal Academy's spring blockbuster traces Manet’s practice of using his portrait sitters as ‘actors’ in his genre pieces, giving visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow Manet’s many treatments of Victorine Meurent, his favourite model, through several works on loan from collections across Europe and North America.
There are similar journeys being traced with characters from various spheres of the artist’s life: his family, professional acquaintances, and friends. Most importantly we see Manet's dialogue with his medium as he attempts and succeeds to create a new visual language, questioning at every turn what modern art is to him and his contemporaries.
Manet was a great risk-taker and critics of day rallied against his inconsistent approach, as you will see many of the works seem 'unresolved' or 'unfinished' but one of Manet's great skills was this ability to stop painting at the right moment, and it is this technique which gives the works a sense of movement and life.
Manet once said to his friend Antonin Proust, 'I must be seen whole. Don't let me go piecemeal into the public collections; I would not be fairly judged.' This exhibition, which brings together the largest selection of works by the artist to be exhibited together in a UK museum, is a great opportunity to judge Manet's extraordinary talent as a 'whole'.