Edouard Manet’s French Impressionist painting Spring, interestingly enough, was the first work of art ever published in color. It uses the long artistic tradition of using a person to stand as representative of a place, thing, or phenomenon, i.e. allegorical figures.
A year after its composition in 1881, the Paris Salon display ensured that Spring was one of the greatest successes of Edouard Manet’s career. This painting was initially intended as part of a set of four at the prompting of Manet’s friend Antonin Proust. However, Manet died after the completion of only one other – Autumn which is now in the Musée des Beaux-arts de Nancy.
In 2014, Edouard Manet’s Spring was bought by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for what was a new record for a Manet painting, the price paid to be $65 million dollars.
Parisian actress Jeanne DeMarsy appears in the Spring holding a parasol in her gloved hand. As she is in profile, that is she looks out of the picture space directly to our left, this idealized figure representing the season of Spring seems to gaze intently. Perhaps she together with her determined expression is a symbol of the unrelenting march of time toward and beyond Summer.
This sense of time is poignant given Edouard Manet’s approaching death two years after this work was completed. The bow with which the bonnet is tied is black, a favorite of Manet’s colors. Also, it perhaps signals the cold of winter which is not yet fully cast off. Added to this is the promise rather than the actuality of warmth in the cool sky behind the lush greenery behind the sitter.
Edouard Manet’s Spring is in the Getty Center of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California