This is for the first time that an entire exhibition in Paris has been devoted not necessarily to an artist for his or her creations, but to someone who had devoted an entire life to art — contributing to it from very early childhood right up to her last breath.
As a little girl, Julie Manet (1878-1966) remained a much sought-after model for the legendary painters of the Impressionist era. Later, as a grown-up person, she was tirelessly devoted to painting herself, writing about art, visiting museums all over the world and collecting masterpieces created by painters and sculptors in different countries.
More than a hundred of these works, which included oil paintings, sculptures, pastels, watercolours and engravings, are part of a monumental show currently going on at the Marmottan Museum of Paris.
While still a teenager, Julie would start working on a diary, later to be published with the title Growing up with Impressionists, in which she discussed in detail the lives and works of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-August Renoir and Alfred Sisley, among so many others.
But when you talk about Julie Manet it is impossible to move even a step further without mentioning her mother’s name. Berthe Morisot was the first and the only female Impressionist painter of the era who had succeeded in creating a large number of extremely sensitive works of art during her relatively brief lifetime.
From child model to painter, art critic and art collector, Julie Manet’s was a lifetime passion for art. An exhibition in Paris pays homage
Married to Eugene Manet, the younger brother of Edouard Manet (who will remain unforgettable for his mythical chef d’oeuvres such as Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia), Berthe Morisot died in 1895, at only 54-years-old, leaving behind her sole child, the teenager Julie Manet.
Growing up in a purely artistic atmosphere, Julie had already figured a number of times as a child model in the works of Renoir, followed by many other masters such as Degas, Monet and Camille Pissarro. Naturally, she is also present in more than 20 paintings by her own mother.
Organisers at the Marmottant Museum have taken care to emphasise the constantly progressive phases of Julie’s life, not only as a child model but also as a painter, an art specialist and as an indefatigable collector of art works in coordination with her husband Ernest Rouart, himself a painter.
Their acquisitions would include a large number of masterpieces by many legendary geniuses of the time, including Degas, Monet and Pissarro of course, but also by Camille Corot, Stéphane Mallarmé, Nicolas Poussin and Paul Gauguin… to name only a few!
The selection of the works displayed at the Marmottan doesn’t stop here and a sizeable part of the exhibition is devoted to paintings and sculptures contributed by Julie and her husband as gifts to a wide range of museums, in France as well as in many other countries. These have been temporarily brought to Paris for the unprecedented extravaganza at the Marmottan.
According to Franz Capuçon, a much respected art critic of the period, “Julie Manet is undoubtedly the guardian angel of the Impressionist movement. She was the first to recognise the genius of Claude Monet while he was still working on his famous Nymphéas (Water Lilies) series. She did not hesitate from quickly acquiring one of these works while it was not even finished. It will remain forever among the most famous paintings in the world.”
Despite extremely cold weather, long lines wait in front of the Marmottan to watch Julie Manet’s artistic exploits.
The exhibition at the Marmottan Museum of Paris goes on until March 20, 2022
The writer is an art critic based in Paris. He may be reached at ZafMasud@gmail.com
Published in Dawn, EOS, December 12th, 2021