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In Brack’s ironic reworking of Manet’s Bar of the Folies-Bergère he has followed the same dimensions as the nineteenth-century French work. It has a stark hardness and angularity compared to Manet’s opulent and glittering work. Manet used curves and colours to create the sensual ambience of a Parisian nightspot. It is interesting to note that bars closed at 6pm in Melbourne at the time. Brack paints the drinkers after work urgently downing their beer during the ‘the six o’clock swill’.

Modelled on Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, this painting mocks the Six-o'clock swill - the last minute rush to buy drinks in bars due to their early closing. Picture taken from Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Painted in 1954, The Bar is widely regarded as the companion piece to Collins St, 5p.m.

The painting marks a time in Melbourne when hotels were forced by law to close early (first introduced during World War Two and continued until 1966 when 10 o’clock closing became the norm). The phrase ‘six o’clock swill’ was used to describe the behaviour of patrons who crowded around the bars to get a last drink before closing time. In this work, John Brack cleverly uses the device of a mirror behind the bar to make it possible for us to see both sides of the bar at the same time. We stand with the patrons facing the barmaid as she waits on her customers. She looks tired and seems resigned to deal with this unruly crowd and the urgency of their demands – ‘One more beer over here, love!’