What are the art elements and three art principles used by Édouard Manet in the creation of his art piece A Bar at the Folies-Bergère?

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epic-art-time eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Édouard Manet uses the art element of texture to effectively render lace and marble in the bar room scene.  He also uses texture to simulate the effect of the crowded room behind the barmaid.  The element of space is used to show the depth of what is obviously an extremely large gathering room.  Manet is an expert at the element of value which he uses to capture the radiating light in the bar, simmering off the chandelier, and reflecting off the polished marble surfaces and glass bottles.  It is also in the chandelier that Manet shows off his exquisite use of color, pairing the color complements of blue and orange to achieve a beautiful shimmering effect.

The principle of proportion is used in this painting to achieve a sense of depth between the larger figures at the bar and the much smaller patrons of the bar that are congregating at a distance.  Manet uses the principle of variety, painting a collection of many different objects and textures to hold our interest as we contemplate the paining.

Manet also effectively uses the principle of unity in this painting.  Unity is a principle defined by the eNotes/Wikipedia page as "the quality of wholeness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art."  While the painting is not one that can be considered balanced due to the extra figures on the right, the horizontal and vertical lines of the background, coupled with the figures, and objects create a unified composition.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Manet was a bridge artist between the earlier school of French realism and later French Impression, and we find can elements of both in this painting. Manet realistically renders a scene at an expensive French bar, but the smudging of the figures and faces seen reflected in the smudgy bar mirror anticipates Impression.

As for technique, the painting is famous for its use of the mirror as a technique to show what is out of the range of vision as we look at the painting. In the mirror we can see the back of the barmaid, and we can also make out the reflection of  a man she is talking to. The perspective is unusual in that the man mirrored is only seen in reflection. Art critics have determined this is because where he is standing at the bar is outside of the frame of the painting.

Another technique is using bright spots of color to draw the viewer to certain parts of the painting, such as the clementines.

Manet also uses symmetry by placing the barmaid in the center of the painting. It was considered innovative at that time to make an ordinary person like a barmaid so dominant.

jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous educator brings up an important point about the balance of the painting, due to the figures on the right. We are not sure if the image of the man in the top hat is someone who is actually standing before the barkeeper or if she is imagining someone whom she hopes to meet—or, perhaps he is someone she has met on a previous evening. Her gaze, which does not seem engaged with anyone in the painting, but which is also not meeting that of the spectator, is a bit out-of-focus, as though she were in the midst of a daydream.

There is a harmony of color in the painting. For instance, the light gray of the marble complements that on the barkeep's cuffs and neckline. Her decolletage is as white as the lights in the dance hall. There is also a balance created by the flowers on her chest and those which sit on the bar, slightly off-center. 

   A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is a dynamic portrait by Manet, the main subject of which is the enigmatic barmaid positioned at the center of the work. The artistic principle of Emphasis, or Contrast, is the primary device used to create the tension that the viewer perceives, while Balance and Movement serve to bolster the irony present; line, shape, form, texture and most importantly space are employed to achieve this.

   The viewer embarks on a journey through the space of the painting, initially addressing in the immediate foreground the barmaid herself and her surroundings. Texture abounds in the delicate flowers both on her clothes and on the counter; in the softness of the velour and lace of her clothing and of her skin; the polished, gleaming bottles around her; the cold, smooth marble of the counter top. Her stance is fixed, her expression, unreadable if not forlorn, projects in the viewer's direction, though not directly at the viewer; her form invites the viewer to contemplate her inner monologue as though she were completely alone in the room.

   The viewer continues the journey through the space of the painting to what is behind the barmaid, and the irony of Emphasis truly begins as one compares and contrasts the lines, shapes, textures and forms in the foreground with what is seen in the mirror behind her.  Here the unexpected happens and an asymmetrical Balance is created, and the viewer begins to notice that the maid addresses a bar patron rather than the viewer himself.  From behind, her posture appears expectant and ready, leaning slightly forward as if to better hear the awaited order, movement strongly juxtaposed to her stagnant posture and noncommittal expression first perceived.  The eye of the viewer travels over the bustling, excited movement of the room, then back to the patron, back again to the enclosed counter and serving area behind which the motionless barmaid stands. 

The play of irony created by Emphasis, Balance, and Movement in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère cultivates a rich fodder for the viewer's imagination as one moves through the experience of the contemplative barmaid and the waiting patron and back again, leaving one to question the very existence of the patrons in the first place.  Is she alone in the room, imagining a magnificent ballroom full of people?  Is she carelessly moving though her evening of servitude thinking of other things, perhaps even conjuring the image of the handsome patron standing before her?