Investigating Change in Manet’s Paintings

Does a painting we see on a museum’s walls always look as the artist intended? How do we know whether a work is “finished”? Throughout his career, the innovative French painter Édouard Manet (1832–1883) made changes to his paintings: he repeatedly scraped down and reworked them, sometimes as fragments cut from larger canvases. After his death, additional alterations to some of his late works are known to have been made by others. This complex history of change, both during Manet’s lifetime and after, presents a challenge to scholars interpreting style, date, and artistic intent. This installation focuses on two paintings—Gypsy with a Cigarette and Young Woman in a Round Hat—that were found in Manet’s studio at his death, and invites visitors into a conversation about what archival sources, stylistic analysis, and technical imaging can tell us about the state in which Manet left these works.