This is not Manet’s Paris

on The Bar by Melbourne artist John Brack

This is not Edouard Manet’s Paris
Not that white marble bar, un bar aux Folies-Bergère
with that peachy round, velvet-corseted young woman
soft unseen hands of a lacy courtesan
on display with the pale pink roses and juicy mandarins
facing the elegant 19th C chandeliered room
and her gentleman admirers.

Édouard Manet - Un bar aux Folies-Bergere, 1881-2

No this is Brack’s Bar
Melbourne in the fifties
when the Collins Street mob
have knocked off
to schooner themselves
’til six o’clock and home.

BrackJThe Bar







Squared and angular this woman is omnipotent
A working mother with dark shadowed eyes
she offers nothing more than serving drinks
and mopping up the mess men leave behind
working stoical hands planted on the bar ready
ready for action, ready for anything, coping
giving nothing but her labour
can’t complain, who’d listen ?

But those spring poppies playful
in that over ripe womb vase
they are a future hope of things to come
alive and real they belong to her
and she will take them home.



August 6, 2014 · 12:50 am

2 responses to “This is not Manet’s Paris

  1. Hi, Maggie. I really love the way you compared the two eras and the social differences between, as well as the softness v hardness of the muses and the artists’ technique. Although the later-angular style is stark at first it offers a warmer/vibrant personality than the sulky dreamer in Manet’s piece done in a softer, warmer style. I’ve never seen the second painting before. Thank you for posting it, it’s great. Thank you for all of your likes, you are too kind. I’m not on face book so have not had the chance to follow you, but I hope to join hello poetry soon. Can I ask if you are allowed to post the same poetry on that site as well as wordpress?
    Take care


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