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Civil War Impressions

June 2024
1min read


As a teenager in the 184Os, Edouard Manet wanted to become a painter. When his father wouldn’t let him, he applied to a naval college. Failing to get in, he went to sea for a year. Then he applied to the college again and was turned down once more. Only then did his father let him become an artist. Thus it is no wonder that in 1864, when the Union and Confederate ships Kearsarge and Alabama fought off the coast of France, the former sinking the latter, Manet hurried from Paris to Boulogne to see the victor at anchor. The result, a year after he painted Olympia and Déjeuner sur L’Herbe , was The “Kearsarge” at Boulogne . The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City ( ), bought the painting a few years ago, and it’s now the focus of a show there through August 17, “Manet and the American Civil War: The Battle of U.S.S. Kearsarge and C.S.S. Alabama .” The exhibit also includes an oil Manet later painted of the battle itself, related works by Courbet, Monet, and Whistler, photographs, ships’ documents, and letters written by people who saw the battle.

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