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Édouard Manet’s "Woman in Striped Dress" in a Startling Restoration at the Guggenheim

Like a certain notorious Internet dress, the colors of even the most famous paintings can be hotly disputed. The yellow we see in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, for example, is influenced by how a museum treats the painting, including restoration efforts, the gallery’s atmospheric lighting, and the cleanliness of the painting’s surface. 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, a prestigious organization with museums around the world, has sponsored the restoration of a special painting: Woman in Striped Dress (ca. 1877-80) by Édouard Manet. The dramatic results, now on display at the museum, reveal the painting’s heretofore hidden colors. 

Woman in Striped Dress Edouard Manet

The vivid restoration of Édouard Manet's Woman in Striped Dress, is now on display at the Guggenheim.

Part of the Guggenheim’s Thannhauser Collection, this Manet painting underwent a thorough examination, during which thick layers of varnish and overpainted strokes of color were discovered. These additions were dated to the period after Manet’s death but before the Guggenheim acquired the piece. With the varnish and extra paint, the painting took on a yellowish cast with strong blacks in the stripes of the subject’s dress.

These additions have been removed and the painting cleaned, uncovering the artist’s original brushwork and the cool-toned piece he intended, with grayish-white and deep-blue-violet hues coming to the fore and the yellow discoloration gone.

Woman in Striped Dress will receive an honored position in the Thannhauser Gallery at the Guggenheim in New York. Collector and dealer Justin K. Thannhauser acquired a massive collection of Post-Impressionist and early modern art throughout the first half of the 20th century. In 1963 he bequeathed a large portion of his collection to the Guggenheim, many pieces of which will be shown at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain in September.

manet striped dress installation view thannhauser

Installation view: Thannhauser Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo: David Heald. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018.

Along with the restored Manet, the Thannhauser Gallery in New York will showcase other treasures from the collection beginning in September. Modernist works from the Guggenheim’s archives will be shown, including paintings by Braque, Robert Delaunay, and Juan Gris. Pointillist master Georges Seurat’s works on paper will make a rare appearance in the gallery as well.

Justin K. Thannhauser and his wife Hilde sponsored the arts in a critical period of art history, when Impressionism gave way to the abstractions of modernism. His collection included work by Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Braque, and Picasso. The significance of his work and the legacy he gave to the Guggenheim will be further explored in Thannhauser Collection: French Modernism at the Guggenheim, a book forthcoming in October 2018 and available for purchase on the Guggenheim Store website.

If you happen to be in Europe during the following 18 months, see the exhibition Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, September 21 through March 24, 2019. The collection will move to the Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence, France, from May 1 to September 22, 2019.


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Ave. Call 212-423-3500 or visit guggenheim.org for tickets and more.

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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