Before attempting to anaylse the significance of gender within Edouard Manet's work entitled ³A Bar at the Folies-Bergere², one must first identify , and note, the somewhat colourful events which occurred within the artist life, and note the way in which they must have undoubtedly prejudiced his work.
Born in France in 1832, Manet was raised by his parents Auguste and Eugenie-Desiree; a society couple, who's social standing resulted from Auguste's successful career in the Ministry of Justice , Paris. Indeed, so successful was Auguste in his chosen field that upon his retirement he was awarded the Legion of Honor. It is thought by many that the importance of Auguste's role in both society and the ministry actually intimidated the young Manet, who constantly aspired throughout his adult life, to gain the same level of reverence as that which his father possessed.
In fact so intrinsic is Manet's personal background to the analysis of the artists treatment of gender within his work, that any substantial theory concerning this subject must, be founded upon a detailed study of the artists formative years. Such a personal focus as this, allows the particularities found within Manet's relationships with women to become apparent, and therefore, in part, aids the understanding of the complex interactionalism found between the characters within his painted scenes.
However, it is the actions of the artists youth which many theorists believe is the key to understanding the ambiguous portrayal of woman within his painting of ³A Bar at the Folies-Bergere². It was during the late 1850's when Manet was serving as a naval cadet in Rio de Janeiro, that he met a number of slave girls, Manet had openly admitted in letters to his friends the extend to which he found their tropical beauty alluring. Yet, is was not until Manet returned to France that he reveled the true extent of his relationships with these girls, and confessedto the fact that they allowed his time there to be served in relative sexual promiscuity. But, why should such behavior, which it must be noted, would have been considered as being quite normal for a gentleman such as Manet, be such an intrinsic facet in the determination of his portrayal of women within his works?
The answer lies in the artists life long ill-health, it was in fact Manet himself who first diagnosed; although now medically proven to be wrong that the physical pain from which he suffered on a daily basis was the result of a syphillic virus contracted during one of his aforementioned youthful encounters, a misconception which haunted the artist throughout his life . Taking this point into consideration, one must therefore consider the psychological effects that Manet's own feelings of guilt and regret concerning the cause of his illness, and consider the effects that it had upon his life and his...