About the research project

Portrait of Fanny Claus Ashmolean

Portrait of Mademoiselle Fanny Claus by Edouard Manet, 1868

Inspired by Edouard Manet’s 1868 sketch of violinist Fanny Claus, acquired by the Ashmolean in 2012, this project will explore the key role that music played in Manet’s life and art. Music was a constant theme in Manet’s art from his Salon debut in 1861, through to his death in 1883. His paintings of musicians and audiences capture a wide range of musical culture from travelling performers and street entertainment to café concerts and the Paris Opera. Music was also an important part of his private world; his wife Suzanne Leenhoff was an accomplished pianist and regular musical soirées were held at the family home. In addition to his paintings, prints and drawings on musical themes, Manet also designed cover illustrations for sheet music by his composer friends. Through the subject of music, Manet interrogated many aspects of life. His works explore themes of class and gender and examine the distinctions between high and low culture and between the private and public realm. Encompassing artworks from a range of international institutions, this project will explore the key role that music played in Manet’s life and art.

Research aims

Encompassing artworks from museums across Europe and from key collections in America, this project will examine the importance of music in Manet’s artistic practice. It will also investigate the musical context in which Manet worked, exploring the artist’s friendships with performers and composers, and reviewing 19th-century theoretical debates concerning the relationship between the 'sister' arts of music and painting. It will investigate Manet’s use of musical subject matter to reflect many different aspects of modernity, and the potential symbolism of particular modes of music-making within the visual art world. Thus, the project will provide a fresh perspective on the artist’s work and make a significant contribution to existing research. 

Project funders

The Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants

Project start


Project team led by

Dr Lois Oliver, Independent Art Historian
Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Independent Consultant

Research connections

Courtauld Institute, London
National Gallery, London
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Musée de la Musique, Paris
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA
Hill Stead Museum, Farmington CT
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Phillips Collection, Washington DC


Conference Paper ‘Manet and Music: a case study on the future of dynamic binaural sound’ at the Association for Art History Conference. 5th - 7th April 2018. Courtauld Institute of Art and King's College London.