On the Beach, 1873 by Edouard Manet

On the Beach, 1873 is a brilliant example of Manet's rapid brushwork and his gift for immortalizing the instant. Looking at the warm beige of the fine sand, one becomes a witness to the passage of time, while the waves on the shore below beat out the measure. The sea, with boats running full sail before the wind, reaches almost to the top of the picture. This is Manet at his finest - with his delicate shades of gray, Parisian gray, and his deft brushwork, which with a few strokes suggests the foam of the waves breaking on the beach.

Above all, this picture shows Manet's remarkable gift for placing his accents. The whole effect would be sketchy, fluid, and woolly were it not for the touches of black or blue-gray that make the figures stand out unforgettably from their background. The whole atmosphere of the picture is one of repose, relaxation, and leisure. It is like one of Debussy's evocations in music, and actually, there is a close artistic similarity between the composer and Manet. The deep black of Mme Manet's bonnet strings has the same emotional power as the bright chords that run through Debussy's compositions.

This memorable work justified the penetrating comments of Jacques deBietzon Manet in 1894: "An artist to the very core, an artist in his faults, an artist even in his omissions, entirely wrapped up in himself, absorbed in recording his impressions in the changing skies of his emotions, he lived only to give expression to the idea that possessed him, the idea of light."