Manet’s Interior at Arachon (1871)
Manet's son, sitting on the right, smoking, is posed like a painter with his hand in the air as though it was holding a brush. His pose is similar to that in his earlier appearance in Soap Bubbles. Although the painting and the sketch for it are both considered to represent Manet's wife and son in their house on vacation, it really represents on the poetic level Leon as the artist painting the maritime scene in the window with his cigarette as "a brush". The red, burning tip to the cigarette signifies paint. And to emphasize that Leon is an alter ego of Manet himself, three legs of his chair form an 'M' for Manet. (See Matisse's Red Studio for similar use of an artist's initial)
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In the initial sketch Manet made for the painting he indicates even more clearly that Leon and the table are on a different level of reality to his mother and the window by making them darker. Thus, in your own mind, you need to separate out "Leon as the artist” in the studio from "his mother and the view" who are in “his painting”.
More Works by Manet
This early painting by Manet has always troubled interpreters because it seems to make no apparent sense. Its explanation here, though, will help you understand paintings by Manet, Velazquez and other artists too.
Everyone knows that Boating is a masterpiece. Why is it so difficult to explain?
Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Apr 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.