Manet was the center of a group of friends, and younger, admiring fellow artists. Among the daily guests at the Cafe Guerbois were Paul Cezanne, Alfred Sisley, Claud Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Jean Renoir and Frederick Bazille. The list reads like a who's who of rogue painters at the time. Writers such as Emile Zola, and the photographer/caricaturist, Felix Nadar,came often as did lesser-knows, Astruc, Duranty, Fantin-Latour, Constantin Guys, Duret, Guillemet, and Bracquemond. Thursday nights were set aside especially for these artist to meet, eat, talk, drink, argue, and expound. They did not always agree...actually, perhaps they seldom agreed fully with all that was said, and some talked more than others. Some, like Cezanne did more listening than talking, but when he did, everyone listened intently. Cezanne observed that they argued and drank so late they couldn't get up to paint the next morning.
|Bohemes au Cafe, 1886,|
Few in the group could match Manet's intellectual prowess. Except for Pissarro, he was the oldest, by far the best educated, and the wealthiest. He dressed with great care, spoke with modesty and kindness, but by nature was ambitions and impetuous. He was often witty, at times he could be ironic, occasionally even cruel. His chief conversational rival was Edgar Degas. Though their tastes in art were similiar and they seemed to respect one another, they more often than not disagreed. When they were not quarreling, they were friendly, though both were known to bear one another grudges.
Of the others, only Frederick Bazille had the education and taste for verbal sparring to tangle with minds as sharp as Degas' or Manet's. Shy, but firm in his beliefs, he stood up for them with undeniable logic and passion. Together, they made up the main event, the only source of entertaintment, and the chief source of philosophical interaction for these nascent minds that were to revolutionize art during their own lifetimes.