In this his last great masterpiece, Manet returned again to studio painting, a somber palette and eliminated mid tones. The cafe concert is a theme which Manet had been treating in the late 70’s in paintings such as Corner in a Cafe Concert and The Cafe. But here at Bar at the Folies-Bergere, we are no longer spectators, but participants in the painting. While the Barmaid occupies the center of the piece, the painting is filled with a menagerie of characters from seated couples to trapeze artists. Glittering chandeliers and electric lights fill the upper portion of the work. Here, as in other works optical contradictions abound, such as the relection of the waitress which is visually incorrect but spellbinding.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres
Oil on canvas
37 3/4 x 51 1/4 in. (96 x 130 cm)
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London