Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883)
Oil on canvas; 38 1/4 x 51 1/4 in. (97.2 x 130.2 cm)
Signed (lower right): Manet
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.115)
In the summer of 1874, Manet was staying outside Paris at Gennevilliers, not far from the house in Argenteuil that he had found for the Monet family. He had refused to participate in the independent exhibition organized in the spring by the newly dubbed Impressionists. Nonetheless, Manet clearly wished to adopt the high-keyed palette, sketchlike brushwork, and subject matter centered on leisurely pursuits of his young colleagues. Boating is the manifesto of Manet's new allegiance to Impressionism.
Manet's biographers recount that Rodolphe Leenhoff, the painter's brother-in-law, posed for the figure of the sailor. The simplicity of the composition and the use of broad planes of color accented by strong diagonals reveal Manet's admiration for Japanese color woodblock prints.
The artist Mary Cassatt, who recommended this acquisition to the New York collectors Louisine and H. O. Havemeyer, called it "the last word in painting."