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La serveuse de bocks (The Waitress)

also known as The Waitress

Artist: Edouard Manet
Created: 1879
Dimensions (cm): 65.0 x 77.5
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

La serveuse de bocks (The Waitress)

Created in 1879 by Impressionist artist Édouard Manet, ‘La serveuse de bocks’, also known as ‘The Waitress’, was actually an adaptation of a somewhat larger painting entitled “Coin de café-concert”, a typical scene from the Reichshoffen cabaret in Paris which Manet was inspired to paint.

The artist was meticulous in the selection of his models as well as in the conception of the setting in his studio so as to form a unique and strong contrast between the subjects, not only in appearance but also in posture and evident contemplation. A relaxed-looking man in casual attire, smoking his pipe in the foreground, bears a noticeable divergence to the man sitting across from him in mid-ground, wearing a top hat and giving the impression of a professional business man. The smoker stares upward at a dancer on stage while the other, with head bent, is preoccupied with another matter. And the waitress, whose eyes are directed across the room, seems lost in thought, in a world of her own. The blatant dissimilarities create a major lack of connection between the subjects.  The specificity of the lighting also brings immediate attention to these distinctions due to Monet’s clever addition of amplified brightness on the smoker’s wrist and on the face of the waitress.

Édouard Manet was famed for taking the perspective of the painting’s viewer into account. In ‘La serveuse de bocks’, the viewer experiences the feeling of having a place at the table and partaking in the ongoing activities in the café.

About the Artist

Édouard Manet was born into a strong, politically-connected family. Though he developed his notable skill in painting at an early age, it was not a talent that was eagerly accepted by his parents. His father, Auguste Manet, pressured his son at age sixteen to embark on a military training vessel to Rio de Janeiro; however, Édouard failed the mandatory exam twice. Thankfully for all admirers of Manet’s work, Auguste eventually relented and allowed his son to pursue a career in painting.

Manet studied diligently under Thomas Couture, a prominent French history painter. During his free time, he visited the Louvre and created copies of paintings from the old masters of fine art. In 1856, he opened an art studio, which was the beginning of his controversial, yet inspiring artistic career.

In 1983, to mark the centennial of his death, many exhibitions were held in celebration of Manet’s life and work. In 2013, approximately 80 paintings, drawings, and prints were shown at the “Manet. Return to Venice” exhibition; it was the largest showing of his works in Italy.

‘La serveuse de bocks’ is currently located at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France.


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