Friday, April 2, 2010
more on Manet's elusive model Victorine Meurent
Who were the models for the impressionists? Often a mistress or a wife or a step-daughter (Monet had four), someone you did not have to pay by the hour. Young and pretty girls got the highest fees. In the 1860s when the impressionists were mostly still in their 20s, all you had to do was wander over to the Pigalle fountain and find a model for they collected there.
There are many fascinating things about Victorine. Manet first saw her walking in the street carrying her guitar. She taught violin and guitar, sang in café-concerts, and painted. She was obviously intelligent and made her way the best as she could in a world where unprotected women had a hard time financially. She went her own way artistically and in 1876 one of her paintings was accepted by the prestigious state Salon while Manet’s was rejected. She continued to model, even for Toulouse-Lautrec. When Manet died, she wrote a polite letter to Manet’s widow, saying that the painter had promised to remember her in his will. As far as we know, Madame Manet did not answer.
All but one of Victorine’s own paintings has been lost. I think she must have been a fascinating woman who went her own way. She is the subject of two novels: A Woman with No Clothes On and Mademoiselle Victorine.