Throughout the 19th century the European pictorial conception took a considerable turn due to the influence of a group of French artists who started a new artistic movement, Impressionism. Monet, Renoir or Degas are some of these artists who promoted a new way of conceiving art with their works, basing their canvases mainly on capturing light and leaving the subject in the background. All these artists took as a precedent the works of a painter who, although he cannot be considered fully Impressionist, the truth is that had a profound influence on the group, Eduard Manet.
Eduard Manet (1832 – 1883) is one of the most outstanding artists of French painting. Born into a we althy family that could have provided him with a careful education, his parents never agreed with their son's artistic vocation, due to which he did not begin training in the field of painting until the 1950s, when the artist was already in his twenties. It was then that Manet entered Thomas Couture's workshop and a short time later he presented his first canvases, enjoying great acceptance by both the general public and critics. At the 1863 Exhibition the artist presented his Luncheon on the Grass, the canvas that would pave the way for the Impressionist trend, but although the painting caused a sensation among the new painters,the most conservative sectors criticized him harshly.
The work that concerns us here is known as On the Beach and would date from 1873, by this time the artist already had his personal style fully consolidated, he had left behind the conception most academic of his painting and shows a free and very loose brushstroke. It appears that the canvas was created in the summer of 1973 when Manet and his family were vacationing on a small beach in the town of Berck sur Mec. The artist has represented on a canvas in a horizontal format and small dimensions – the work is not even one meter wide and is just over seventy centimeters high – his wife and his brother. Her wife Suzanne appears in the foreground to the right of the composition, she is sitting on the beach with her back turned almost completely to the viewer while she is absorbed in reading. Her dress occupies almost the entire foreground in a triangular composition where the artisthas played with light and shadow, as well as brushstrokes of white. For his part, Eugene, the painter's brother, presents the same posture with which he appeared in the Country Breakfast canvas; he is thoughtful looking at the horizon where small sailboats sail in the sea. The characters remain absorbed without engaging in any type of conversation between them or with the viewer, in this way the artist has managed to recreate not only a scene of peace but also of melancholy.
As a curiosity, we can point out how this is one of the few worksthat the artist painted outdoors, in fact on the canvas you can still see the small grains of sand stuck to the paint.