Peaches, 1880, Édouard Manet, oil on canvas. Anonymous loan, EL.2008.9

The Fruits of Manet's Labor


Museum Lecture Hall

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At points throughout his career, Édouard Manet painted various kinds of fruit: integrated into his larger compositions depicting urban life, set amongst other still-life elements, and in more modest groupings poised upon cloth, wood, and marble or nestled into woven baskets. Toward the end of his life, the ailing artist focused in a more sustained way on the subject, producing a number of small and striking canvases featuring fruit. Velvety peaches, a pyramid of strawberries, a single lemon, a collection of oranges, some mottled apples, a scatter of dusty plums; all are rendered with an eloquence and visual intensity that suggest something of Manet’s own sensorial experience.

Art historian Marni Kessler, who just completed a book examining culinary themes in 19th-century French visual culture, focuses on Manet's poignant representations of fruit, which allowed him to reach back through memory to motifs that had occupied him across the span of his career.

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