Discover Manet & Eva Gonzalès ★★★★ The National Gallery | Until January 15, 2023 (Free Entry)

This intelligently curated small exhibition has two parts, one of which deals with Eva Gonzalès and her mentoring by Manet, and the other which presents the opportunities and challenges faced by women artists and displays their self portraits. The relationship of Manet and Gonzalès is a fascinating one. She was his model, his protégée and his friend. Indeed, Manet's full-length portrait of her has an important place in the exhibition, and it presents Gonzalès in the tradition of 18th-century women artists, The work is an arresting result of considerable reworking, and it reflects a quietly confident woman who is comfortable in herself and her chosen profession. Gonzalès' own A Theatre Box at the Italiens (1874) is, perhaps, the highlight of the exhibition. Probably inspired by a Manet sketch on the same subject, it offers an intriguing contrast to Renoir's La Loge also painted in 1874. It's a real treat to have so much of Gonzalès work brought together for the first time, and the second part of the exhibition places her work in the context of other women in the world of art. It traces the various conceptions of female creativity, from their idealisation as the goddess of painting to their self-presentation as working artists in painters' smocks. It is an all-too-brief introduction to an important story which is exemplified by the show's fascinating glimpse into the relationship between Manet and Eva Gonzalès.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Eva Gonzalès, A Theatre Box at the Italiens, 1874. Paris, musée d’Orsay, don de Jean Guérard, 1927. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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