Visible until January 15, 2023 at the National Gallery in London "Discover Manet and Eva Gonzales" is the first British exhibition designed around the portrait of Eva Gonzalès (1870) by Édouard Manet. This painting, acquired by Hugh Lane, was at the beginning of the 20th century considered the most famous modern French painting in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Although considered the father of modernism and a figurehead of the Impressionist generation, Édouard Manet had only one declared pupil, Eva Gonzalès. Daughter of an eminent writer, she joined Manet's studio in 1869, at the age of 22. By the time of her death 14 years later, she had become an established artist in her own right and her work was frequently exhibited to often rave reviews. Manet's portrait of Eva was painted the year they met and exhibited at the 1870 Salon, where it garnered the usual mix of harsh reviews and positive mentions.
The focal point of the exhibition shows the portrait itself and explores the unusual way in which Édouard Manet depicted Eva Gonzalès: wearing an improbably fine white dress more suited to evening wear than painting, she sits at her easel and paints a still life of flowers. In this composition, Manet seems to allude to the Rococo era, drawing inspiration from a tradition of self-portraiture defended by 18th century women artists such as Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Rolinda Sharples. .
These women saw in the genre of portraiture a means of self-promotion at a time when they themselves were acquiring the status of artists. By referring to these great precedents in his portrait of Eva Gonzalès, Manet pays homage to his pupil.
Eva Gonzalès died of an embolism on May 6, 1883, after giving birth to a son: Jean Raymond Guérard. She is buried in the Montmartre cemetery in Paris. The fate of Eva Gonzalès remained until the end linked to that of her master Édouard Manet, who died a few days earlier on April 30, 1883.
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