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Manet was inspired by the sight of a woman with a guitar emerging from a sleazy café. She refused to pose for the picture, so Manet employed his favorite model of the 1860s, Victorine Meurent. The style and subject matter seemed crude to academic critics when the painting was exhibited in 1863. But Manet's friend, the novelist and critic Emile Zola, admired its formal beauties and its apparent confrontation with real life.

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