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La Toilette

La Toilette, 1862, Etching
Édouard Manet (French, 1832 – 1883)

Édouard Manet was a pivotal 19th-century French painter whose works are known by many as a catalyst in the transition from French Realism to French Impressionism during the 19th century. Born in Paris to a wealthy family, Manet was expected to pursue a career in law or to join the French Navy. He later convinced his father to allow him to study art and traveled to the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany. During his travels, he derived inspiration from Dutch artist Franz Hals, and Spanish masters Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez. He opened his studio upon his return in 1856. Manet gained notoriety for his paintings such as Spanish Singer (1860), which he exhibited at the Salon of 1861. Some of his most well-known works, such as Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (1863) and Olympia (1865) also earned him a reputation as one of the most controversial artists of his time.

The etching La Toilette adds Manet’s name to the long list of artists, such as Rembrandt, who have portrayed the theme of the female bather in their respective oeuvres. Unlike certain female bathers before her, Manet’s bather looks toward the viewer, situating him or her in a voyeuristic position. The atmospheric rendering of the background evokes Goya’s printing style.