Thursday, December 1, 2016

1849-1883: Eva Gonzalès, French

Edouard Manet
Portrait of Eva Gonzales, 1870

Eva Gonzalès is usually grouped with the Women Impressionists—Morisot, Cassatt, and Bracquemond—but she did not exhibit with them, and she did not win as much respect as the others, during her lifetime. Her talent was greater than her reputation, and contemporary art critics rate her along with her female contemporaries.

Two factors shaped Eva's career and reputation. First, she was a devoted student of Édouard Manet; second, she died at the age of 34, curtailing her output.

Eva met Manet when she was 20 years old (in 1869), having already had 2-3 years of training from a society portrait artist. She came from cultured family; her father, a Frenchman of Spanish heritage, was a well-known novelist, and her Belgian mother was an accomplished musician.

At first Eva became Manet's model, and a few of his paintings of her attracted critical attention. Eva also modeled for a few other artists in Manet's circle. It could be that her work as a model tended to lower her in the esteem of other artists, especially the other women Impressionists, who were already established artists.

Eva also became Manet's student, the only one he formally acknowledged. It is said that she visited his studio, accompanied by her mother, for the dual purpose of posing and receiving instruction.

Eva's work made very strong references to that of Manet; sometimes she reinterpreted the same subjects in her own way, and changes in his style were reflected in hers. Manet started as a realist and got progressively looser and bolder; whatever new thing Manet tried, Eva tried it as well.

Eva's association with Manet both aided and hindered her career. She learned a lot from him, and met many of her contemporaries through him, but whatever criticism he received tended to be applied to her work as well. Manet did not exhibit with the Impressionists, though he supported their work, and he advised Eva not to show with them either; this might not have been the best decision for her career.

Eva's work was first accepted by the Salon in 1870, the year after she became Manet's student. She showed 3 works that year. Her major submission was a life-sized work called Little Soldier. It referred back the Manet's Fife Player, which had been rejected by the Salon in 1866. However, Éva's work is more tonal, dimensional, and realistic, in the manner of Spanish art.

In that same Salon of 1870, Manet submitted a portrait of her in the role of feminine amateur artist that became the topic of intense discussion among critics at the time, and has frequently overshadowed her own work since then.

It is difficult to trace her career progress after this. It appears that she continued to live with her parents, with no need to pursue her career assertively. Some of her work is so old-fashioned that she seems to be aiming directly at the market for academic art, while other paintings are bold and modern. My impression is that she didn't quite realize her identity as an artist before her untimely death. She exhibited in several group shows over the years, and continued to submit works to the Salon—in 1879 the Salon accepted a painting of hers that had been rejected in 1874—but few of her works sold.

When she was 30, in 1879, Eva married an engraver named Henri Guérard, a member of Manet's circle, and a colleague of Félix Bracquemond, husband of Marie.

When she was 34, in 1883, Eva gave birth to her first child. She died several days later.

Eva's body of work was fairly small—90 to 100 paintings—and it appears that most of them remained unsold at the time of her death.

Her husband and father organized a large retrospective a year and a half later that was attended by many key figures in the art world, including Manet and Morisot, then sold the paintings at auction. Thus, most of Eva's work belongs to private collections and is not generally available for public viewing.

My photos of Eva's work:

Girl with Cherries, c. 1870
Chicago / Jan's photo, 2010

A Loge at the Théâtre des Italiens, 1874
Orsay / Jan's photo, 2015

Nanny with Child, 1878
National Gallery / Jan's photo, 2010
The painting above is a direct reference to an earlier painting by Manet, shown below. Besides having a similar subject and composition, Eva's work is also similar to Manet's for its lush brushwork, vigorously drawn forms,  and a low key palette. How does Eva's painting differ from Manet's? (Eva creates more space, and gives more detail to the effects of sunlight and shadow, so the figures seem to be in a natural setting, instead of plastered against a backdrop.) Does one seem better than another to you?

Edouard Manet
The Raliway, 1873
National Gallery / Internet

Internet Examples:

The Sparrow, 1865-1870
Location unknown /

The Little Soldier, 1870
Public building in France / Internet
Edouard Manet
The Fifer, 1866
Orsay / Internet

The Awakening, 1876 (dates vary)
Bremen, Germany / Internet
Secretly, 1877-1878

Portrait of a Woman in White, 1879
Private Collection / Internet
Spanish Woman, c. 1882
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection / The

Spanish Woman on a shower curtain

Carolus-Duran (1837-1917)
Spanish Woman (Portrait of Eva Gonzales), 1876
The Milliner, undated