Manet preferred compositions with two figures as opposed to the straightforward portrait form because it opened up the possibility of interesting dialogue situations. The double portrait of Jules Guillemet and his wife, painted in the conservatory of the painter Johann Georges Otto Rosen, is one of the most important of these works because of the sensitivity with which it uses the most delicate nuances of colours and contrasts to describe and re-connect the psychologically tense, only outwardly detached, relationship of the two figures. The theme of the picture is the interplay between the elegant lady — the owner of a fashion shop in Paris — and the gentlemen turned in her direction. He seems rather small due to the way he is bending over and brushes against the upper edge of the picture, while the feminine beauty with the effortless noblesse of her extended posture occupies a large part of the picture space. Despite their being separated by the back of the seat — with its own graphic appeal by virtue of its transparency — the understated focal point of this rich conservatory scene with all its plant forms and subtle colours is the hands approaching each other. Manet’s paintings are fascinating for a variety of reasons: a palette of colours that is subtle yet not without the tension of contrast, plus subject matter that is free from literary or symbolic content. This is painting at its highest level, drawing on an uncommonly fertile imagination, on the constant awareness of visual phenomena, and on a gift for laconic observation that translates every sight into a subtly mediated experience for the eyes. Particularly in the compositions with two or more figures, there are also extremely skilfully dramatized scenes with psychologically intriguing configurations of actors or often of silent players, wordless and motionless like the different elements in a still life.


  • Title: In the Conservatory
  • Creator: Edouard Manet
  • Date Created: 1878/1879
  • Physical Dimensions: w150.0 x h115.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • original title: Dans la Serre
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 550
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Édouard Manet was one of the most important and controversial French painters of the 19th century, whose works sometimes scandalized Parisian society and became a great inspiration for the Impressionists. In 1845 he took part in a special course of drawing and met Antonin Proust who later became the Minister of Fine Arts. From 1850–56 Manet was an apprentice under the history painter Thomas Couture and copied the old masters in the Louvre. In 1853 he travelled to Germany, Italy and the Netherlands where he was influenced by Dutch artists such as Frans Hals as well as by Spanish painters like Diego Velázquez and Francisco Josè de Goya. In 1856 he opened his own studio. During his early years his style was characterized by simplified details and the realism of his day. His main subjects were people, for example in cafés or ballet scenes, humble persons such as beggars or gypsies and scenes of daily life. Rather less frequently, he also painted religious, mythological or historical themes. His friends included several Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Paul Cézanne. Manet became famous for artworks like 'Le déjeuner sur l’herbe' (1862), 'Olympia' (1863) 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergère' (1882) and 'The Café Concert' (1878).
  • Artist Place of Death: Paris, France
  • Artist Place of Birth: Paris, France
  • Artist Dates: 1832-01-23/1883-04-30

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