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Manet's "Tableaux Vivants:" A Theatrical Approach to Some of His Portrait Paintings of Women Open Access

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Manet's Realism could be said to derive from the constructed and somewhat artificial arrangements of his painting, relying on the relationship between the sitter and the accoutrements he bestows upon them. While responding to the uniqueness of his time, Manet's pictures seem to be motivated by his search for identity on an intimate level. By constructing his pictures from the motifs borrowed from Spanish masters, Manet looked to find and/or create an identity: that of his sitters and especially his own, as an artist. This paper will explore the way in which Manet constructs his scenes and how he handles the motifs he borrowed from Goya. It also provides commentary on the context in which Spanish art was introduced into French culture and how Manet came to be influenced by it. By studying various paintings from the 1860s and 1870s featuring mostly female models dressed either as toreadors or as majas, we shall consider the construct of identity, the complexities of female femininity and their status in society, focusing on the theatrical aspects of representation of these women. By questioning Manet's selection and use of certain motifs borrowed from Spanish sources, we can come to understand the artist's own version of Realism.

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