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Manet and the Sea

February 15–May 31, 2004

This show is the first to explore the marine paintings of Edouard Manet and his contemporaries, including such Impressionists as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Berthe Morisot, who were deeply influenced by Manet’s seascapes. When Manet first began painting seascapes in the 1860s, the tradition of marine painting in France was governed by well-established conventions that had become stale and tired. Manet's beautiful and challenging views of the sea created new interest in this subject among the younger generation of painters.

While French Impressionist landscape painting is both popular and well-studied, the numerous seascapes produced by Manet and his Impressionist contemporaries have yet to receive the attention they deserve. Because the sea is a natural force in a constant state of flux, it offered Manet and his followers the perfect vehicle for developing new painting techniques and compositions. In addition, the social world of Manet’s Paris was not absent from the seaside. Like many Europeans of his era, Manet took numerous seaside holidays for his health. He and his contemporaries recorded not only the sea and its changing moods but also the many fashionable people who traveled to the sea in search of an escape from city life.

Manet and the Sea brings together innovative and compelling works on sea-related themes by a variety of artists with differing ambitions. At the same time, it addresses emergent socio-historical phenomena, such as tourism, that made marine subjects newly attractive to vanguard artists in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The exhibition includes approximately one hundred objects—paintings, watercolors, and drawings—from sixty public and private collections in the United States and abroad.

  • The Art Institute of Chicago: October 20, 2003 - January 19, 2004
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: February 15 - May 31, 2004
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam: June 18 - September 26, 2004

Main Building


The exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.


Manet and the Sea was made possible in Philadelphia by the Lincoln Financial Group Foundation.

Additional funding was provided by the Delaware River Port Authority, The Pew Charitable Trusts, an endowment from The Annenberg Foundation for major exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, the National Endowment for the Arts, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Promotional support was provided by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, NBC 10 WCAU, and Amtrak. The catalogue was also supported by an endowment for scholarly publications established at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2002 by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Douglas Druick, Senior Curator of European Painting, Art Institute of Chicago; Gloria Groom, David and Mary Winton Green Curator, Art Institute of Chicago; John Leighton, Director, Van Gogh Museum; Joe Rishel, Senior Curator of European Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art; John Zarobell, Assistant Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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