|Édouard Manet "Portrait of Eva Gonzalès" 1870 National Gallery, London|
Édouard Manet (1832-1883) painted this charming but somewhat mysterious portrait of his student Eva Gonzalès in 1870. The mystery stems from the manner in which he has portrayed her. Whether intentionally or inadvertently, in this pose she appears very much as an amateur playing at painting...she looks as light sweet and and bouffant as a meringue with her hair dressed in careful curls and her person arrayed in a frothy white silk dress, with nary an apron or smock in sight. A creamy peony rests at her feet. Perhaps in homage? Nonetheless, the piece she is purportedly painting is not even her work, but one of Manet's own paintings. It is hard to believe this painting would have been meant as an intentional slight on the professionalism of Gonzalès, as from all accounts there were good relations between pupil and teacher. It could simply be that Gonzalès asked to be portrayed in her finest day gown, and to keep it clean they devised this arrangement of an already finished painting, undipped brushes (and most likely empty palette, it tilts away from our eyes but we can guess it is pristine, merely a prop here.) Or perhaps, Manet was considering taking up society portraiture and painted this as a trial run, using his lovely student as a guinea pig. We'll never know, but it is interesting to speculate!
|Eva Gonzalès "|
Her career rapidly gained momentum, and her work began attracting serious attention from a number of critics. In 1879, Gonzalès married the highly respected graphic artist Henri Guérard (1846-1897.) She continued to paint after her marriage, frequently using her sister Jeanne and her husband as models. However, after three and half years of marriage Gonzalès gave birth to a son, developed childbirth complications and died. (It is frequently noted, for no reason that I can fathom except the odd random chance of it, that she passed away only a few days after her teacher Manet.) In1885 a retrospective of her work, displaying over eighty pieces, was held at the Salons de La Vie Moderne. Gonzalès' sister Jeanne, who was very close with her older sister and had modelled for her frequently, also became a professional artist. She married her sister's widowed husband in 1888, and her name crops up in later auction records as Jeanne Guérard-Gonzalès (1852-1924.)