Say what you like about the Royal Academy, but they certainly know how to put on a whopper of a show. The current Manet exhibition is a collection of his paintings that define the atmosphere of Paris in the late 1800s. Dances in gardens, sun-dappled benches, ruddy cheeks and plenty of wine surround characters of all ages, predominantly people in Manet’s life that he was closest too.
Like any artist, Manet dwelled on a few people more than others, and we leave this exhibition feeling that his wife’s son, Leon, from another marriage, is someone we know and care for ourselves. Similarly, Berthe Morisot gazes at us from her canvas in such a meek-yet-knowing way that it’s hard not to fall in love with her. By painting portraits of his loved-ones, fellow artists and free thinkers that he found intriguing in some shape or form, Manet was actually immortalising an entire generation.
To see these paintings up close is nothing short of an honour — the milky, smooth texture of the subject’s skin and their trademark watery, brown eyes are sublime. If you see one show in London in the next few weeks, make it through the throngs of people to get to this one. You may never get a chance to see these paintings again (even if you might have to look at them on tiptoe).