National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Railway Edouard Manet (artist)
French, 1832 - 1883
The Railway, 1873
oil on canvas
overall: 93.3 x 111.5 cm (36 3/4 x 43 7/8 in.) framed: 113 x 132.7 x 5.4 cm (44 1/2 x 52 1/4 x 2 1/8 in.)
Gift of Horace Havemeyer in memory of his mother, Louisine W. Havemeyer
1956.10.1
On View
From the Tour: Impressionism
Object 1 of 8

While the impressionists were preparing for their first exhibition, Manet was completing his submissions to the 1874 Salon, which included this painting. Only the iron fences and steam billowing from an unseen locomotive locate these enigmatic figures, but it would have been enough for contemporary audiences to understand that they are on the ambitious new iron bridge that crossed the rail yard of the Gare Saint-Lazare. Departure point for excursions to popular recreation spots like Chatou and Argenteuil, it was the busiest train station in Paris.

Viewers at the Salon, however, were disturbed by Manet's title The Railway. They had trouble matching it to his subject—itself very hard to decipher. The woman and girl are a study in opposites: one facing us, the other turned away, their garments antipodes of blue and white. The woman, so close to the front of the picture plane, seems to engage us. Her expression, though, provides no hint of her story, only detachment and ambiguity. It did not help that for many contemporaries, Manet's style—with its flat broad areas of color juxtaposed without transitional tones—appeared unfinished.

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