The Folies-Bergère was one of the most elaborate variety-show venues in Paris, showcasing entertainment ranging from ballets to circus acts. Another attraction was the barmaids, who were assumed by many contemporary observers to be available as clandestine prostitutes. By depicting one of these women and her male customer on an imposing scale, Édouard Manet brazenly introduced a morally suspect, contemporary subject into the realm of high art. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère painting was presented by Manet at the 1882 Paris Salon exhibition, just one year before his death. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère was painted when Manet was terminally ill, maintains the artist's contradictory outlook. Manet represented fine art at the fullest, did several preparatory sketches on location, he worked on this massive masterpiece in the privacy of his studio. On the one hand, it features a modern setting in The Folies-Bergere - the most famous and modern of Paris's cafe-concert halls, which was noted among other things for its new-fangled electric lights. The painting is fine art and the culmination of his interest in scenes of urban leisure and spectacle, a subject that he had developed in dialogue with Impressionism over the previous decade. The painting is a masterpiece that has perplexed and inspired artists and scholars since it was painted over 100 years ago. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is a modern version of Velazquez's Las Meninas (1656-7), the most profound meditation on the portrait.
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