National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Oysters Edouard Manet (artist)
French, 1832 - 1883
Oysters, 1862
oil on canvas
overall: 39.2 x 46.8 cm (15 7/16 x 18 7/16 in.) framed: 60 x 67.6 x 8.9 cm (23 5/8 x 26 5/8 x 3 1/2 in.)
Gift of the Adele R. Levy Fund, Inc.
1962.3.1
Not on View
From the Tour: Manet and His Influence
Object 4 of 8

Oysters, one of Manet’s earliest still lifes, was reportedly painted for his fiancée and remained with them in the family home. The painting was in the artist's studio at the time of his death, however, so this may only be a romantic fiction.

Manet spent long hours in the Louvre, studying and copying the works of the past. Here, cool subdued colors recall seventeenth-century Dutch still lifes, while the simple subject and thick application of paint show the influence of the eighteenth-century French artist Chardin.

The heavy yellow paint puckers in imitation of the lemons' pebbly skins, while the wet surface of the cut fruit is smooth and flat, sectioned by a few spare strokes. The oysters, plump and slick from a distance, appear upon closer inspection to be formed by a few swift undulations of a brush laden with thick paint. This work from the early 1860s reveals Manet's developing style. Sudden transitions of color within a limited range—not a continuous and gradual modulation of tone—give shape to his objects. Each color, each brushstroke, stands independently on the canvas; it is in our eye that they blend to create form.

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