This fall, Édouard Manet’s famed 1863 painting Olympia will travel from Paris to New York for the first time.
Olympia, among other works by Manet, will be on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning September 24. The show, aptly titled “Manet/Degas,” pairs Manet with his fellow Frenchman, one-time friend, and rival, the enigmatic Edgar Degas. The show, which comes to New York after a run at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, examines a radical period of French painting through the lens of the artists’ tempestuous bond.
“Manet and Degas produced some of the most provocative and admired images in Western art,” Met director Max Hollein said in a statement. “Anchored by the unparalleled holdings of their work in the collections of The Met and the Musée d’Orsay, in addition to incredible loans from more than 50 other institutions and individual collectors, this exhibition offers a riveting new perspective on the storied pair of artists.”
The Met will exhibit 160 paintings and works on paper that tracks the thematic and chronological journeys of Manet and Degas, with an emphasis on the private relations, intellectual milieu, and societal context that informed their interactions. In addition to Olympia, the Musée d’Orsay will loan Degas’s newly conserved Family Portrait (The Bellelli Family) and two drawings of Manet by Degas.
These drawings will be joined by two other renderings of Manet from the Met’s collection. In another neat juxtaposition, all four will be united with Degas’s Monsieur and Madame Édouard Manet, from the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, which Manet famously—and enigmatically—mutilated with a blade. It was a mortal wound to their friendship, but it was not the end of their story: Degas continued to paint Manet long after the latter’s death.
“Manet/Degas” opens before the birth of Impressionism and delves swiftly into its inception, which parallels the artists’ first meeting in the late 1860s. Manet, born in 1832, announced himself promptly with the show-stopping Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass. Degas, born two years later, crept into recognition alongside the Impressionists, a group neither truly claimed.
They were self-proclaimed “Realists,” of an off-kilter sort, and they operated on stylistic spectrums. Manet stressed loose brushstrokes and bold color and uncanny perspectives. Degas had a pastel palette and pursued movement and intimacy. They shared unsavory subjects like horse races, sex workers, and barflies. Universally, approval was something appreciated but unneeded.
“While little written correspondence between Manet and Degas survives, their artistic output speaks volumes about how these major artists defined themselves with and against each other,” Stephan Wolohojian, the exhibition co-curator and head curator of the department of European paintings, said. “This expansive dossier exhibition is a unique chance to assess their fascinating relationship through a dialogue between their work.”