Édouard Manet, a French painter who frequently represented café scenes capturing social life at the end of the nineteenth century comparable to those in this picture, created The Café-Concert in 1879.
The Brasserie Reichshoffen on the Boulevard Rochechouart has been recognized as the location. Manet gives us a different perspective on modern Parisian life by depicting men and women in the city’s newest brasseries and cafes. Painting “des oeuvres sinceres” or “sincere works,” according to Manet. In terms of perception and morals, the ladies portrayed in these scenarios were courting certain hazards.
Manet presents a café-concert in The Café-Concert in which three central figures form a triangle but are all engaged in opposing directions. Manet suggests that the ostensibly casual scene of a café-concert is one of separation.
The waitress is drinking a beer, the woman at the bar is smoking a cigarette and appears subdued, and the man appears relaxed as he watches the performance (the singer known as “La Belle Polonaise” is reflected in the mirror in the painting’s background).
It is noted that the man evokes confidence, because men, unlike women, can visit cafés without feeling insecure. The painting was posed and completed in a studio, but it appears to have been observed recently.
Conventional composition concepts are rejected in this painting. The figures of the people depicted are not clearly defined, but are modeled with brushstrokes.
Instead of applying layers of pigments and glazes over a dark background, the colors are applied directly to the canvas with loose, repetitive strokes.
The Café-Concert is currently on display in Off the Wall, an open-air exhibition on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland. A reproduction of the painting, the original of which is in the collection of The Walters Art Museum, will be on display at CFG Community Bank (Fell’s Point).
The National Gallery in London pioneered the concept of bringing art outside in 2007, and the Detroit Institute of Art pioneered it in the United States. Off the Wall reproductions of the Walters’ paintings are made of weatherproof vinyl and include a description of the painting as well as a QR code for smart phones.