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Division and revision: Manet’s Reichshoffen revealed

24 September 2005 to 29 January 2006

The first-ever exhibition to be mounted at the Oskar Reinhart Collection ʻAm Römerholz̕  was devoted to Edouard Manet's painting Au café (1878), a cornerstone of the collection. Au café was once a major jewel in the crown of the celebrated collection of Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935), who acquired it in 1911. Gerstenberg's collection, amassed from 1904 to 1914, was very similar in kind to Reinhart's.

The painting, signed and dated 1878, originally formed part of a larger composition showing the interior of the Paris café-concert called Reichshoffen, where Manet recorded the individual motifs in his sketchbook. Despite several revisions, the artist was dissatisfied with the composition and eventually cut the canvas into two main sections, which he worked up into independent paintings: Au café in Winterthur and Coin de café-concert in the National Gallery, London, a work also signed and dated 1878.

The National Gallery generously lent its ‘half' to the exhibition at the Oskar Reinhart Collection ʻAm Römerholz̕ , where the two paintings were seen together for the first time in 125 years, since their inclusion in an exhibition in Marseilles in 1880. This unique opportunity enabled the various strands in the complex genesis of Au café and Coin de café-concert to be unravelled and traced back to their beginnings in the Reichshoffen composition.

A copiously illustrated catalogue in German accompanied the exhibition. Containing essays by leading Manet scholars, it plotted the history of these two major works in detail for the first time. The publication appeared in a revised and expanded edition in English in 2008.


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