This is an 1865/67 impressionist oil painting by the famous artist Edouard Manet. He was a 19th century French artist who was one of the leading lights in the paradigm shift in artistic expression from Realism to Impressionism. His famous paintings are considered among the most influential in the Impressionist Art Movement and have given rise to what is known today as modern art. Those were exciting and difficult times for artists who wanted to experiment and convey their art using new techniques and ideas. These bold new artists brought art out into the open air from the studios and were able to give an added dimension to their art by using vibrant colours and introducing light in its diverse forms. Artists using the impressionist technique were interested in recreating actual everyday scenes devoid of any hype and staying as real as possible to the original subject. Representing the finer details was not as important as capturing the overall impact of the visuals in front of them.
By the time this painting of ‘The Philosopher’ was made, Edouard Manet had already established himself as an artist of repute. This realistic painting is a fascinating work of art from the famous artist. This oil on canvas, showing a Beggar with Oysters is symbolic of a philosopher or seer possessing rare insight. There is an interesting background to this painting offering a glimpse into the artist’s methods. During that period, Manet was involved in creating new imagery of old master paintings to give them a modern outlook. For this painting, he took inspiration from the 17th century Baroque artist Diego Velázquez whose works he admired. This painting depicting the rare combination of a beggar (who is considered as a social outcast) with oysters is reminiscent of Velázquez's representation of the ancient stoics whose poverty is associated with wisdom. A significant amount of attention is paid to the movement of light. Colours have been carefully chosen to create the perfect setting. It is a night painting with the use of dark shades of grey, brown and blue. The light falling on the subjects and the ground and the shadow emerging in the background are portrayed in an engaging manner. The wonderfully done painting nicely captures the essence of Manet’s vision of interpreting old classics. This painting and another one ‘Beggar with a Duffle Coat’ are most probably companion art works. The art work has a dimension of 187.3 x 108 cm.