After six years of planning and pleading by the curators with national museums and private collectors all over the world for loans of some of their most treasured paintings, the Arctic weather has affected the Royal Academy’s exhibition of Manet portraits, expected to be one of the year’s blockbuster art shows.
One of the 50 paintings intended for the show is still sitting in its travelling case at São Paulo airport in Brazil, waiting for clearance for its flight to London, where the airports have had to cancel hundreds of flights over the last week of snow and ice.
“It was all going so well – and now this,” said curator MaryAnne Stevens, director of academic affairs at the RA. “We’d sorted absolutely everything else – and then the weather got us.”
Another painting from the same museum in São Paulo, a towering portrait of Manet’s louche friend and fellow artist Marcellin Desboutin – the haggard absinthe drinker in the Degas famous painting – only arrived on Monday night, when all the other pictures had been hung.
However the press view, and the private view for VIP guests, patrons and sponsors, had to go ahead with a gap on a wall of one of the biggest rooms, filled by a note on a hastily photocopied image of the painting explaining that “due to adverse weather conditions” Mademoiselle Marie Lefébure, perched elegantly on horseback in a woodland setting, has been unavoidably delayed.
Long delays were a feature of many of the portraits in the exhibition. The artist infamously drove his sitters to despair with the number of sittings he demanded – one arrived after 17 sittings to find Manet had scraped the painting almost back to the bare canvas and they were back to square one.
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