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Exhibition Title

Manet und Astruc
 - Künstlerfreunde

Manet and Astruc: Friendship and Inspiration

23 October 2021 – 27 February 2022
Kunsthalle Bremen, Am Wall 207, 28195 Bremen
Curator: Dr. Dorothee Hansen

The world-famous painter Édouard Manet is one of the founders of Impressionism. In contrast, the art critic and painter Zacharie Astruc is relatively unknown today. For the first time, an exhibition focuses on their unusual friendship. Manet and Astruc: Friendship and Inspiration (opens 23 October 2021) also illustrates the broader artistic context in Paris at that time with works by their contemporaries Claude Monet, Henri Fantin-Latour and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. With this show, the Kunsthalle Bremen continues its series of major exhibitions on nineteenth-century French painters such as van Gogh, Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte and Émile Bernard.

The point of departure for the exhibition Manet and Astruc: Friendship and Inspiration (23 October 2021 to 27 February 2022) is one of the most famous masterpieces from the Kunsthalle Bremen's collection: the Portrait of Zacharie Astruc by Édouard Manet. This painting is more than a simple likeness. It is both the image of a friendship and an aesthetic manifesto. The work encompasses all the themes that Manet and Astruc explored in depth, in particular Spain and the influence of Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya, as well as Japanese art.

The exhibition examines these themes and presents impressive, world-famous masterpieces by Manet alongside relatively unknown watercolours and sculptures by Astruc. This is the first time that an exhibition will trace the dialogue between Manet, a singular painter, and the many-sided figure of Zacharie Astruc. Nowadays, Astruc is primarily known as a writer. He was the first critic to defend Manet’s scandalous painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe. Now, for the first time, his work as a painter and sculptor will be presented in Bremen.

In addition, the show will shed light on their friendship to other artists and critics such as Félix Bracquemond, Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Émile Zola. A highlight of the exhibition is the large group portrait A Studio in Les Batignolles by Henri Fantin- Latour, on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It shows progressive artists of the time gathered around Manet, who is seated at an easel painting the portrait of Astruc. Fantin-Latour’s ambitious painting underscores the special significance of the Astruc portrait in Bremen while simultaneously illustrating the two figures’ network of friendships.

Spain, Velázquez and Goya

A major section of the exhibition deals with the two artists’ fascination with Spain. Their correspondence, which has been translated into German and English for the first time for the exhibition catalogue, forms a key foundation. Astruc composed a travel guide to Spain for his friend Manet. In it, he described a detailed itinerary consisting of cities, museums, hotels and cafés. Their mutual admiration for Spanish culture, paintings by Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya, guitar music and bullfights all played a major role in both Manet and Astruc’s works, as is illustrated in the show by international loans. In addition to the famous Spanish Singer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the exhibition also presents Manet's Spanish Ballet and his Bullfight.

Paris Intellectuals: Friendship and Networks

Another highlight of the show is the portrait of the author Émile Zola, on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. This large painting can be seen as a pendant to the Portrait of Zacharie Astruc due to a fundamental similarity in the design of the figure and his attributes, although it is distinguished by its bolder imagery. With this portrait of Zola, Manet was returning a favour to the author and critic who had defended his scandalous painting Olympia. This painting was therefore Manet’s thanks to Zola for penning a public appreciation of his art.


For centuries, Japan had been a closed country. In the mid-1850s, it slowly began to open up to trade with the west. Astruc was one of the first to discover the fascinating beauty of Japanese prints. He collected Japanese woodcuts and arts and crafts and was the first to write about them in the French press. The show brings together pictures by Manet and Astruc that refer to Japanese culture and principles of design. These pieces are contrasted with original Japanese objects.

Rediscovering a Sculptor

At the end of the 1860s, Zacharie Astruc began to focus increasingly on sculpting. He was especially inspired by seventeenth-century Spanish art. At the same time, he undertook an indepth exploration of Manet’s paintings: The marble figure of a kneeling monk with a skull and the plaster bust of his wife Ida in Spanish dress show striking similarities to paintings by Manet. The sculpture of the monk has been restored especially for this exhibition along with other works by Astruc. In 1881, Astruc created a bust of his artist friend Manet, who died two years later. His sculpture is a late “response” to the Bremen portrait by Manet.

On Exhibit for the First Time: Floral Still Lifes

In the years before his early death in 1883, Manet painted a series of flower still lifes in a light hand. With a few loose brushstrokes, he sketched the bouquets and captured the transparency of the glass vases and the water in which the colourful blossoms are displayed with spellbinding brilliance. At the time, Astruc specialized in watercolours of flowers that are similar to some of Manet’s pictures, although in contrast he created overwhelmingly large-scale decorations of bouquets that are on display in Germany for the first time.

Details on the exhibition and the parallel show Goya and Manet: Revolutionary Etchings

The exhibition Manet and Astruc: Friendship and Inspiration (23 October 2021 to 27 February 2022) presents over 120 objects. These include paintings, works on paper, sculptures and a folding screen. In addition to works by Édouard Manet, and the paintings, watercolours and sculptures by Zacharie Astruc that are on display in Germany for the first time, the show presents paintings and prints by contemporaries such as Edgar Degas, Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Loans come from international museums, including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In the parallel exhibition, Goya and Manet: Revolutionary Etchings (23 October 2021 to 27 February 2022), the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco de Goya will be presented and compared to selected prints by Manet in the Department of Prints and Drawings. Goya was an important source of inspiration to Manet.


The exhibition catalogue is published by Deutscher Kunstverlag (German) and ECCH Verlag (English), with over 320 pages, edited by Dorothee Hansen, with essays by Jean-Paul Bouillon, Christine Demele, Sharon Flescher, Alice Gudera, Dorothee Hansen, Maren Hüppe, Gudrun Maurer, Édouard Papet and Samuel Rodary. 34 € in the museum shop, approx. 54 € in bookshops.

Made possible by: Karin und Uwe Hollweg Stiftung
Kindly supported by: Kulturstiftung der Länder; WfB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH; Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung; Die Sparkasse Bremen AG; swb AG; CITIPOST Bremen; and a group of private supporters
Mobility Partner: metronom Eisenbahngesellschaft mbH
Media Partner: WESER-KURIER; ARTE; Bremen Zwei; FILMFLUT
Culture Partner: NDR Kultur Exhibition Page