Eric Bruce

Christopher Riopelle is the curator of post-1800 paintings at the National Gallery in London and co-curator of this exhibition.

Christopher Riopelle

Music in the Tuileries Gardens was Manet’s very, I think, conscious attempt to paint a new kind of history painting that’s really modern painting in which he assembles all of his friends in the Tuileries Garden in the middle of Paris and just show them enjoying a pleasurable day.

Many of the people in this picture would know Delacroix, he was still alive at this point. Delacroix himself isn’t in the picture, he was a rather grand and isolated figure by that point. Manet is on the far left in a top hat looking right at us, very handsome man. And it is as if he is our guide to this.

Interestingly the picture is called Music in the Tuileries Gardens, but amusingly there is no sign of music whatsoever.

With the title Manet has given us a hint, but visually he doesn’t then expand on it.

One of the revolutionary aspects of the picture I would say, all across the picture and it’s a wide picture there are equal points of interest and that starts on the far left with Manet himself, he is seen there with a group of friends including the painter Fantin-Latour. Moving along you see the poet Baudelaire, the most important art critic of the day. The composer Offenbach. You see near the center of the picture, Manet’s own brother who is leaning over to speak to some women. At the end of the day it is an invention but one that we have to believe could have been true. Manet and his artistic and poetic and musical friends would have been considered bohemian at that time and yet to us they don’t look at all like bohemians. They are wearing top hats, they are wearing frock coats, they look infinitely respectable and yet a Parisian in 1862 looking at that picture would understand that these were bohemians living on the edge of society, we don’t have the same code for reading it as someone in 1862 would have.

Eric Bruce

What makes this painting so important in the modern art movement? Press the Green button to find out.