Edouard Manet
(Paris, 1832-1883, Paris)
The Suicide, ca. 1877
Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm
Signed lower right: Manet
Rouart/Wildenstein 258
Manet did not make things easy for his public; universal in spirit as he was, he constantly confronted his followers with the new, the unexpected, and thus met with rejection. Manet also took an interest in current events and shocked people with his lack of psychological distance from subjects, to which people were accustomed in painting. "The Suicide", a small sketch, may have been inspired by an article in the daily newspaper. Manet, a metropolitan man who lived in the present, saw no reason for not painting such a humdrum occurrence. On the contrary, it was a challenge to a painter; here he proceeded to a bold foreshortening of the suicide, who has sunk on to the bed after the fatal shot and still holds the pistol in his right hand. His coat has been removed, and the white shirt and black dress-tie and the patent leather shoes indicate that he spent his last night in society; has he gambled away his money? The cold morning light illuminates only the bitter outcome of this night. In principle, Manet, with this picture, done probably at the end of the 70s, carries to an extreme the formal problem of frontal foreshortening; he had already shocked people in the 60s in this way with his "Christ with Angels". On May 15, 1881 the picture went for 65 francs at an auction for the benefit of the musician Cabaner in the Hotel Drouot, in whose benefit the painting had been donated by Manet.