Manet's well-known painting in the National Gallery London of a cafe-concert - a kind of cabaret performance and musicmaking that was the latest fashion in Paris of the 1870s - has a peculiar history. The painter initially planned an ambitious canvas with which he grew dissatisfied, then cut it in two, one half being the painting in the National Gallery and the other half now in Winterthur in Switzerland. He repainted both fragments to make each work as a picture in their own right, but modern technology has discovered and reconstructed the original greater work. New research has also identified the cafe, the Reichshoffen, and even the Folies-Bergere performance that is advertised on a poster represented in the picture.
This study of a pivotal work in the troubled painter's oeuvre reveals his pioneering genius and the modernity of his search to capture a distillation of life in his own time through disconcertingly direct brushstrokes. The book discusses and illustrates related drawings and other paintings on the same theme, which would culminate a mere three or four years later in the Bar in the Folies-Bergere in the Courtauld Gallery, London. Without the experimentation, false paths and new discoveries of the Reichshoffen he would never have painted that masterpiece.