DART Diary: 05.10.2024

By Peggy Roalf   Friday May 10, 2024

As a huge fan of the French painter, Édouard Manet, I was thrilled to see the famously desecrated portrait of the artist and his [missing] wife by Edgar Degas in the recent show at The Met, Manet/Degas. So when this release from Sotheby’s auction house landed, I felt a glow of happiness for the ultimate recognition Manet’s last body of work deserves, followed by a hint of regret that the artist himself never realized that honor. The following text is lifted from the exhibition text for Manet’s Vase de fleurs, roses et lilas, 1882, which is estimated to sell in the upcoming NYC auction for seven to ten million USD:

In the final years of Édouard Manet’s life, a stream of visitors came to see him. With the visitors came the flowers, great large bunches and small posies, most grown in urban hot houses. These masses of petals were taken and arranged in a number of glass and crystal vases—some short and squat, well suited to tufted floral branches; others were rounded and decorated with Asian-inspired golden imagery, another was tall and tapered, narrow enough to hold just one or two roses. Above: Detail; left: full image

But Manet’s most preferred vessel was rectangular and tall, made of crystal and decorated in places with small white and gold flourishes. It was in this vase that a mass of purple, pink, red, yellow and green was assembled, the core of the composition a knot of roses with tall peaks of lilacs pushing upwards, providing a vertical momentum to the arrangement. Vase de fleurs, roses et lilas evokes the moment at the end of Manet’s life when, though physically difficult for the artist, he produced some of his most beautiful and timeless works of art. 

“Manet’s late flower paintings,” writes Bridget Alsdorf, “are some of the most vibrant and spontaneous in his oeuvre, straightforward in composition yet sumptuous in execution. Staged on a marble table and dramatically lit….They are full of performative brio” (Exh. Cat., Art Institute of Chicago and Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years, 2019-20, p. 130). More at Sotheby’s

The Last Flowers of Manet (Harry N. Abrams 1999) can still be found online.