Object type



Women Drinking Beer


Édouard Manet artist



Place Associated

France, Paris (place depicted); France, Paris (place made)




pastel on primed linen canvas


overall: 915 mm x 805 mm x 80 mm; unframed: 610 mm x 508 mm


In the 1860s Paris was the cultural capital of Europe. It became fashionable to take trips on the Seine, spend days at the races and frequent theatres, popular concerts and cafés. Manet, like Degas, was a member of Parisian café-society.

Although inspired by a scene Manet would have observed in his daily life. The Beer Drinkers would have been posed by models in the artist’s studio. That the women are drinking beer rather than wine is not surprising. Previously associated with peasants and provincials, beer had become a fashionable drink in Paris by this time.

When The Beer Drinkers was exhibited at Manet’s one-man show, held in the offices of La Vie Moderne in April 1880, the caricaturist Bertall raged against ‘such frightful and vulgar types... this series of women drinking beer.’ Bertall’s outrage had probably less to do with notions of beauty than with morality. At the time cafés and brasseries were often used by unregistered prostitutes. It is possible, however, that these apparently preoccupied women, instead of waiting to be picked up, may simply be socialising and relaxing.

As early as 1824 the novelist Stendhal had called upon artists to paint contemporary people and events. He wrote that he wanted to see ‘men of today, and not those who probably never existed in those heroic times so distant from us.’ In the early 1860s, the poet and critic Baudelaire challenged artists to search out the ‘beauty’ of contemporary Parisian life.

Baudelaire wanted artists to depict the transient gestures, expressions and fashions of the urban world. He coined the word ‘modernity’, writing that ‘the life of our city is rich in poetic and marvellous subjects… but we do not notice it.’ In their paintings and pastels of the cafés, streets, parks and inhabitants of Paris this was a challenge that Manet, and his friend Degas, willingly answered.

Credit Line/Donor

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944


Burrell Collection: Pictures [Oils, Pastels and Watercolours]

ID Number



Burrell Collection

Related Objects

Related Natural History

Related People

Related Media