Edouard Manet loved Paris in the summer. He loved Paris in the fall. He loved Paris in the train station, in the caf,es, at the opera, on the streets, at the nearby horse races and on the beaches (where it sizzled).
His toast to Parisian social life in the second half of the 19th century goes on view Sunday at the National Gallery's East Building. Nine major paintings by Manet and 70 other works -- many by his French impressionist contemporaries -- plus drawings and photographs make up "Manet and Modern Paris," which marks the centenary of his death.
Urbane and sophisticated to his peers, elegant and suave in portraits, Manet dressed like a dandy even in his studio. He tracked the news of the day, painting such early modernist favorites as the Gare Saint- Lazare, the biggest and busiest railroad station in Paris. Manet sends the locomotive up in a cloud of white smoke in "The Gare Saint-Lazare," while in the foreground a little girl is glued to the sight as a woman with a sleeping puppy and book in her lap stares at the viewer. Claude Monet's grittier view hangs nearby, showing steam and iron within the railroad yard. Monet, Manet, same depot.
In "The Plum," a dejected but rosy prostitute sits alone in a caf,e, nursing a brandied plum dessert. Other caf,e pictures by Manet and Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonvin are rowdier scenes of drinking and cabaret entertainment. Still, the lady in pink is riveting, exuding the world's oldest kind of boredom.
"Women on the Beach," in a gallery devoted to seashore scenes, shows two overdressed women devoid of detail in a nearly classical composition. Degas' "Beach Scene" likewise takes a serious approach to the shore. A room devoted to theater and opera themes includes Manet's "The Tragic Actor" and "Portrait of Faure as Hamlet." A lighter note is struck by Degas' ballerinas and Renoir's "The Dancer" -- she's a bit thick for ballet, perhaps, but captured in sensuous colors and textures.
Together again for the first time: an X-ray photograph of "Dead Toreador" is juxtaposed with one of "The Bullfight." They're cut from the same cloth: Around 1864, Manet sliced up his canvas of "Incident in a Bullfight," possibly in response to a reviewer's criticism of his false perspective. (Perhaps, the catalogue notes, Manet realized that the stark, prone figure of the toreador was more dramatic by itself.) The puzzle was solved in the 1950s, but the evidence hadn't been publicly displayed until now.
Along with the isolated toreador, Manet's "The Old Musician" dominates the gallery paved with Parisian street scenes. The down-and-out ghetto-dwellers were considered "local color"; the slum was thought "picturesque." Artists depicted the boulevards as public theater and as battlegrounds, during the Paris Commune of 1871. The final room in the exhibition shows Paris as the scene of public holidays, notably Bastille Day. It's awash in the tricolor, with paintings by compatriots Dufy, Bonnard, Monet and Manet. MANET AND MODERN PARIS -- At the National Gallery of Art's East Building, opens Sunday, continuing through March 6.