Fresh, dynamic and vibrant, this celebration of flowers was painted on a 54 x 45 cm canvas, where the lilac can be seen energetically branching out beyond the edges of the canvas. "A Vase of White Lilacs and Roses" is one of a number of floral still lifes that Manet painted around this time, paintings which saw Manet pioneering a more minimalist approach to capturing flora on canvas. Touchingly, the flowers he arranged in the "crystal vases" were the bouquets brought to his sickbed by friends. "Pinks and Clematis in a crystal Vase", "White Lilacs in a crystal Vase" and "Roses and Tulips in a Vase" are further examples of his work in this style and are images that secured his place as one of the greatest painters of flora of all time. Nature clearly captured Manet's imagine during his final years, as evidenced by his garden landscapes, inspired by his time in Rueil at his Summer holiday home.
This is not just a study of flowers. Manet's floral still lifes were also an exquisite study of water and glass. "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" painted by Manet in the previous year, features roses in a glass of water on the bar, exhibiting his skill in this subject matter. It was also a painting that drew much attention due to what some perceived as an error in the perspective and representation of reflection. Therefore one can't help but be drawn to his masterful portrayals of glass and water, leading to further contemplation regarding the depth of storytelling Manet used in "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère".
This work, at first glance, does not appear to reflect the great pain that Manet endured for years before his death in April 1883. But the likes of Emery Reves believe that some of that pain can be seen within those remarkable brush marks. They believe that images of the crucified Christ can be seen within the roses and lilac branches. Finished only a matter of weeks before his death one can't help but wonder whether Manet observed more than the flowers before him and was he in fact commenting on a sense of foreboding, or perhaps, peace?