Manet was the Impressionists' grand old man, although he never showed up with them and kept competing in the Salons. He was a crucial figure in the development of Impressionism because of his unorthodox, contemporary subject matter and his emphasis on the artist's freedom of expression in the medium of paint.
Manet was born to affluent parents in his birthplace of Paris. He was a pupil of Thomas Couture. Light and dark, with a heavy emphasis on black, and painting from life were the cornerstones of his practice. The Spanish artist Velázquez significantly influenced his decision to paint in this manner.
In Paris, he hung around with other avant-garde authors like Baudelaire (mentioned in "The Music in the Tuileries Gardens") and others. After being rejected from the official Salon, Manet's paintings gained notoriety in the Salon des Refusés. It was in 1863 and 1867 that he first exhibited as a solo artist. In the 1870s, he was influenced by Impressionists like Monet and Renoir, creating landscapes and street scenes. He never overcame his fear of the Salon's criticism and never showed with the Impressionists.
Manet was born to a wealthy family of attorneys, government employees, and landowners in Paris on January 23, 1832. Manet's father, Auguste, was a high court judge, and his mother, Eugénie Désirée Fournier, also had high connections. Both parents had an independent income from money inherited from their parents. Edouard's uncle Edmond Fournier fostered his budding artistic talent by introducing the young child to Paris art galleries and commissioning Edouard's drawings. Despite attending Paris's esteemed Collège Rollin, Manet seems to have slid through his academic years without making much of an impression. He formed a life-long acquaintance with the journalist Antonin Proust (1832-1905). (1832-1905).
In 1848, he attempted to join the French Navy but was unsuccessful due to test failure. Undeterred, Manet enrolled as a cadet and quickly found himself in Rio de Janeiro in time to experience its famed Carnival. Manet wisely utilized the lengthy sea cruise, drawing the sea and his fellow seamen.
After convincing his father to let him study painting, Manet returned to France in 1850 to study under Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Although his father had initially planned for Edouard to pursue a profession in law, he eventually came around and provided financial support for his son's artistic endeavors. Manet admired the work of artists like Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), whose works included similarly gloomy settings, two-dimensional subjects, and jarring contrasts of light and shadow that influenced Manet's work. Manet went on an art-filled tour of Europe in 1853, seeing Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Also, he admired the independence with which modern Dutch and Italian painters depicted ordinary life. Manet and others were influenced by the 'flatness' and surprising cutting of scenes in Japanese prints, which were popular in Europe in the 1850s.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), a Romantic painter, also had an impact because he used brushstrokes for effect rather than hiding them. Then there came the compelling paintings of French realism by Gustave Courbet (1818-1877), who painted scenes from peasant life and used a palette knife to apply paint. To Manet, the constant drawing of plaster casts of body parts or antique monuments recommended to young painters as a means of honing their skills had become tiresome. Inspired by Delacroix and Courbet, who had succeeded outside the Salon system, Manet set out to forge his path (even if Delacroix did become a Salon judge himself). Manet aimed to depict the world outside the confines of the studio. When he finally opened his studio in February 1856, he took his time and copied works to figure out his style. The Absinthe Drinker, a gigantic canvas measuring 6 feet (1.8 meters) in height, was his first finished and utterly unique piece, and it perfectly portrays his quest for the ordinary. There was now a new creative power.
Handsome Man & Family
Manet was an attractive guy with a red-blonde beard and thinning hair due to early balding. His love of elegant clothing and accessories set him apart from the stereotypical Bohemian artist; he was the consummate flâneur, casually strolling around Parisian café culture while accessorized with a top hat and cane. Thanks to his pleasant demeanor, infectious enthusiasm, and infectious friendliness, he had no trouble striking up conversations with strangers.
Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff, a Dutch girl he met in 1849, in October 1863. Manet Sr. hired Suzanne to instruct his son, Edouard, on piano. The two were in love for quite some time before being married and (likely) having a kid, Léon-Edouard, in January of 1852. Manet never publicly recognized his son Léon-Edouard, who was regarded as Suzanne's younger brother, to avoid the scandal that would have ensued had the news gotten out (except indirectly in his will). Manet often depicts Suzanne and Léon-Edouard in works depicting peaceful household life. Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), an impressionist painter, was another close friend of Manet's who later married his brother. Eva Gonzalés (1849-1883), Manet's most celebrated student, died at age 33.
Questioning the Status Quo
The Establishment was shocked by Manet's radical approach. He didn't hide his haphazard brushwork and didn't use the subtle color shifts that are standard practice for great painters to create the illusion of texture. Manet also astonished viewers by eschewing the usual historical and mythical topics and the lovely landscapes. In the ultra-conservative art world and the Paris Salon, where such works were displayed and sold, Manet chose everyday Parisian life, notably its café culture, portraits of ordinary persons, and inventive still life pieces, which were at variance with the norm.
Manet was deliberately provocative in his depiction of the universe. The Absinthe Drinker, which depicted a guy who seemed to be destitute, was rejected at the Salon in 1859. To calm the public, Manet momentarily went back to his classical roots. Manet's considerably more traditional works, including his portrait of his parents, Monsieur et Madame Manet, and The Spanish Singer, were approved by the Salon that year; the latter even received a commendation. On the other side of the world, his painting Fishing, which features Manet and Suzanne, was on display in St. Petersburg (but not bought).
Lunch on the Grass (Déjeuner sur l'herbe), an oil painting by Manet from 1863, marked a bold return to his extreme style. Even though picnics were commonplace, Manet made his surprise by depicting two men in modern garb, one lady partially clad and another woman completely undressed (who, staring at the viewer, seems unashamed so). When submitted to the Salon des Refusés, this image might have been allowed if painted in the classical style as an eternal metaphor or mythical topic. To many critics, Manet's contemporary realism and the bright colors and brushstrokes he used to achieve it were an obscene combination. Napoleon III, Emperor of France (r. 1852–1870), had little trouble recognizing the painting's mockery; he called it "an affront against modesty" (Rodgers, 9). The controversy over the image obscured its apparent references to numerous well-known works of Renaissance art.
Afterward, another controversy occurred. Manet's paintings at the 1865 Salon were just as disturbing as his 1863 picnic. Even if Olympia's acceptance seems surprising, the Salon will soon be sorry it made that choice. Manet's longtime muse Victorine Meurent appears naked in the center of the painting, smugly staring out at the observer from her bed. Manet's nakedness, once again, was strikingly avant-garde and unorthodox. Another reviewer raged, calling Manet a "brute who paints green ladies with dish brushes" (Rodgers, 115). Although the courtesan in this painting is entirely naked, the critics' attention was drawn to her confident stare rather than the other innovations Manet was presenting, such as the use of unusual colors, the way the two figures seem to move towards the viewer, and the flatness of the composition. In response to the outcry, the Salon rehung the picture higher on the wall, where it was less likely to offend the gallery's affluent visitors.
Manet was able to pursue his happiness and goal after inheriting financial security after his father's death in 1862. The insightful words of Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) gave him hope as well: "Mediocrities do not raise such a clamor" (Rodgers, 29). Inspired by his artist colleagues, including the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and the novelist Émile Zola (1840-1902), Manet turned his attention to depicting the regulars of Paris's cafes, brasseries, and café concerts. Like many of his contemporaries, Manet continued to submit to the Salon to get "official" recognition. Two of Manet's paintings were rejected in 1876, prompting the artist to hold a private exhibition of his work in his studio rather than risk having it left again. Manet had his pavilion on Place d'Alma during the 1867 World's Fair in Paris, where he displayed fifty-three paintings. Manet's one-person performance was a resounding failure, but the absence of foot traffic allowed him to capture the fairgrounds in a stunning panorama.
The Style of Manet
Even though Manet's 1865 trip to Spain inspired works depicting Spanish traditions like bullfights, the city of Paris remained his true artistic passion. It was painted in 1862, yet many consider it a pioneering work of contemporary art. Composer Jacques Offenbach and other trendy historical characters are shown in an up-to-the-minute outdoor setting. The grand scale of the scene recalled the Old Masters, but otherwise, this was cutting-edge contemporary art. As expected, haters cried foul.
Even in crowded settings, like a café patio, Manet's subjects seldom make eye contact with anyone, creating the impression that they are isolated individuals. Sometimes it's unclear to the spectator how these seemingly unrelated characters are linked. Manet produced eleven portraits of the beautiful Berthe Morisot and Victorine Meurent.
Manet was also fond of close, personal encounters that were staged rather than photographed. One such work is The Balcony, painted between 1868 and 1869. The connection between the three individuals standing on the balcony is unclear in this image. Manet makes brilliant use of color contrast, with the dark interior behind the individuals standing in stark contrast to the white attire and turquoise shutters and railings. Lunch at the Studio, also from 1868, is another excellent example of the artist's ability to capture odd settings. The main character, which we may assume to be Léon-Edouard, appears to be purposefully blocking the view of the meal on the table behind him. Like many of Manet's paintings, the connection between the three figures is left ambiguous here. They appear to push towards the viewer, who is yet left an idle observer, as none of the three is staring at anything in particular. The two paintings were chosen at the 1869 Salon despite the confusion they caused among critics.
Manet sometimes painted using pastels on canvas, a medium he preferred for his more personal portraits. He first created rough drafts in the form of drawings and etchings and then used them to inform the final oil on canvas versions. Oil painter Manet used the alla prima method (also known as "wet on wet"), which included working directly on an unprimed canvas and erasing any parts he didn't like. It was essential for Manet to highlight color contrasts. Thus he often used black in his paintings, most notably for clothes and to frame a subject's face in portraiture.
Manet was one of the contemporary painters least typically classified as "impressionists." Instead of portraying fleeting moments of light as the impressionists did, he focused on depicting the reality of everyday life. With this method, he painted not just scenes of daily life in Paris, but still lifes, portraits, cats (particularly lithographs), horse races, and seascapes, often in Boulogne, where he frequently vacationed.
The Batignolles Paris
Older and wealthier than most contemporaries, Manet rose to prominence as the head of the contemporary Parisian art scene in the 1860s. They congregated in cafés all around Paris, but mainly the Café Guerbois and others in the Batignolles neighborhood, where they heatedly debated the future of art. They were known as "the Batignolles," and among their number were future luminaries like Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Manet's comrade Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Claude Monet (1840-1926). Literary heavyweights like Émile Zola were also present. The group's debates often became heated. In 1870, Manet and critic Louis-Edmond Duranty disagreed and ended in a duel. Manet managed to injure his rival in the fight, but the two quickly made up and were friends again. At the height of the dreadful siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War later that year, the artists' group disbanded when Manet enlisted in the National Guard to protect his city. Afterward, a civil war derailed the artist's career, albeit not before he'd captured the horrific reality of combat in multiple works.
After the hardships of the war, Manet had a prosperous decade in the 1870s. The French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) purchased more than 30 of Manet's paintings, and their value increased dramatically as the artist's fame spread. Two of Manet's paintings, Battle of Kearsage and Alabama, were included in an exhibition that Durand-Ruel organized in London, and both were shown at the 1872 Salon. His work, especially its use of brighter colors, started to reflect the impressionist effect of his friendship with Monet, even if Manet himself wasn't particularly interested in light. A lively picture, "Le Bon Bok" (The Beer Drinker), was admitted to the 1873 Salon and received widespread recognition. The commission of Races at the Bois de Boulogne helped defray the expenditures of his spacious new studio.
The impressionists also inspired Manet to paint en Plein air, rather than first sketching a subject and then painting it in the studio, a practice that is more traditional but less spontaneous. For numerous seascapes in 1873 and 1874, Manet worked on perfecting the technique with the help of Boulogne and Argenteuil on the Seine, where he was staying with Monet. His Sur la Plage is an excellent example of the style, which calls for swift, delicate brushstrokes (On the Beach). Even though the painting uses a more muted color pallet, Manet sneaks in some of his signature blacks by having the guy wear a black tie. The 1874 Salon featured the less impressionistic works of Argenteuil. When Manet traveled to Venice in 1875, he repainted en Plein air.
The art of Manet may yet hold some mysteries. In the 1874 Salon-accepted painting "The Railway Station," the female subject turns her back to the observer while the male subject looks away. There is no evidence of a station, simply the puff of trains; therefore, the term is misleading. It's possible that this painting shows Manet's progression toward symbolism. This artistic movement rejected realism in favor of more modest topics presented in a manner that inspired the imagination and emotion of the observer. After being turned down for the 1875 Salon, Manet organized his show and inscribed his slogan, "Faire vrai et laisser dire," on the invitations ("Make it truthful and let others say what they like"). There were 4,000 visitors to his workshop, but not a single purchaser. Nana, another stunning image of a prostitute, was shown at a dealer's store instead of the Salon in 1877, receiving widespread attention.
Since Manet's syphilis was worsening, he was forced to spend most of his time there. He returned to depicting Parisians in the city, at the races, and on the lake. The 1879 Salon included his works Boating (1874) and In the Conservatory (1878). The publisher Georges Charpentier arranged for him to have a one-person show in 1880. The Salon approved two more of his paintings, one of which was titled "At Père Lathuilles," which was maybe his favorite restaurant. While confined, Manet increasingly focused on still life, often depicting the fresh flowers brought to him daily. In 1881, he finally broke through to the Salon, when his somewhat conventional picture of politician Henri Rochefort earned him second place and guaranteed acceptance of any future works he submitted (although he was too ill to submit again). And when Manet's lifelong friend Antonin Proust, now Minister of the Fine Arts, bestowed the Légion d'Honneur upon the artist, it was the icing on the cake.
Manet's masterpiece, the Bar at the Folies-Bergère, was completed about 1881 as well. A mirror reflects the shows for which this large chic café was known as the backdrop to a scene in which a bartender stands behind her station. The impossibility of the bartender's reflection demonstrates Manet's abandonment of reality in favor of stirring up an emotional response. In the photo, he catches a lady who seems dissatisfied with her job as the homosexual life of the patrons continues behind her. Manet's fingerprints, including the comical acrobat's feet in the upper left corner, maybe everywhere. Manet's last tribute to the café culture of his beloved Paris is this masterwork.
As a result of his sickness, Manet's left leg developed gangrene and had to be amputated; on 30 April 1883, at the age of 51, the artist died as a result of complications from the surgery. Passy Cemetery in Paris is where he was laid to rest. The Louvre eventually agreed to display Olympia, and other museums and galleries in the United States and internationally followed suit. Artists like Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), and Henri Matisse (1869-1954) looked up to Manet and were affected by his work, notably his focus on ordinary, everyday life and his penchant for purposely flattening the situations (1869-1954). Degas, a lifelong friend of Manet's, expressed grief at the burial, saying, "he was more than we believed" (Thomson, 209).
Most paintings Édouard Manet did are about Portrait, People, Still life, Seascape, Sketch and Study, Boat, and other subjects.
Most of the artist's works that can be seen by the public today are now kept in museums like Musée d'Orsay, Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY, National Gallery of Art - Washington DC, Art Institute of Chicago, and others.
Famous Édouard Manet period artists include Eugène-Louis Boudin (French, 1824 -1898), Claude Monet (French, 1840 -1926), Camille Pissarro (French, 1830 -1903), Marianne North (British, 1830 -1890), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 -1890), Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796 -1875), Edgar Degas (French, 1834 -1917), Alfred Sisley (French, 1839 -1899), Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 -1906), Odilon Redon (French, 1840 -1916), Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (Russian, 1832 -1898), Winslow Homer (American, 1836 -1910), and others.
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