Cafe culture was a recurring subject matter for Manet, he clearly enjoyed the vibrancy of the surroundings, and At the Cafe is no exception.
The main characters of the painting are a man in a top hat, two ladies and, in the background, framed by a mirror, as if a picture herself, a singer.
The lady at the bar is smoking and the waitress is drinking down a beer. The presence of the women in such a setting would be considered risqué at this time.
The man looks to be comfortable and confident in contrast to the ladies. The vitality of the surroundings is expressed through the colours of the painting, jugs of golden beer and blue skirts, all painted with minimal strokes to accentuate the appearance of a casual social setting.
In fact this painting, like many of the Manet cafe paintings was posed and painted in a studio. It is a window into Parisian culture of the time, a social commentary in a painting.
Manet took great pleasure in Parisian cafe culture and found much inspiration in the people around him. He shared a real view of what he experienced and his pictures posed questions to embedded common views of morality and gender roles.
Edouard Manet, a French 19th century painter, known as the 'father' of Impressionism. Manet was one of the first 19th century artists to paint modern subjects, representing a complete departure from the works of his peers.
The infamous Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, exhibited at the Salon des Refusés and caused controversy and excitement with art critics and artists. His perhaps most famous works include A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) and Olympia (1863). Manet was close friends with Berthe Morisot, a popular Impressionist artist and a key figure in the Impressionist movement.
Manet was born in Paris to an upper class family, he rejected a career in Politics to concentrate on his true passion, painting. In the same way, although highly skilled and trained in the Renaissance tradition of painting, he rejected it to forge his own modern style of painting.