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Édouard Manet was born in Paris in 1832 to an affluent
and well connected family. His mother, Eugénie-Desirée
Fournier, was the goddaughter of the Swedish crown
prince, Charles Bernadotte, from whom the current
Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste
, was a French judge who expected Édouard to pursue
a career in law. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged
him to pursue painting and often took Edouard to the
Louvre. In 1845, following the advice of his uncle,
he enrolled in a special course of drawing where he
met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts,
and a subsequent life-long friend.
At his father's suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a
training vessel to Rio de Janeiro. After twice failing
the examination to join the navy,the elder man
relented to his son's wishes to pursue an art education.
From 1850 to 1856, Edouard studied under the academic
painter Thomas Couture, a painter of large historical
paintings. In his spare time he copied the old masters
in the Louvre.
From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the
Netherlands, during which time he absorbed the influences
of the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists
Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.
(You can buy prints by Manet at All posters; see the search box at the bottom of this page!)
Technique: Loose brush strokes
In 1856, he opened his own studio. His style in this
period was characterized by loose brush strokes,
simplification of details, and the suppression of
transitional tones. Adopting the current style of
realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, he painted
The Absinthe Drinker (1858-59) and other contemporary
subjects such as beggars, singers, Gypsies, people in
cafés, and bullfights. After his early years, he rarely
painted religious, mythological, or historical subjects;
examples include his Christ Mocked, now in the Art
Institute of Chicago, and Christ with Angels, in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
(There have been many books written about Manet...you can find them using Amazon search at the bottom of this page!)
Graphic: Luncheon On The Grass
The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe),
1863A major early work is The Luncheon on the Grass
(Le déjeuner sur l'herbe). The Paris Salon rejected
it for exhibition in 1863, but he exhibited it at the
Salon des Refusés (Salon of the rejected) later in the
year. Emperor Napoleon III had initiated The Salon des
Refusés, after the Paris Salon rejected more than
4,000 paintings in 1863.
The painting's juxtaposition of fully-dressed men and
a nude woman was controversial, as was its abbreviated,
sketch-like handling—an innovation that distinguished
Manet from Courbet. At the same time, Manet's composition
reveals his study of the old masters, as the disposition
of the main figures is derived from Marcantonio Raimondi's
engraving Urteil des Paris after his copy from
a drawing by Raphael.
Scholars also cite as an important precedent for Manet's
painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, The Tempest which is
a famous Renaissance painting by Italian master Giorgione
(around 1508). It is housed in the Gallerie
dell'Accademia of Venice, Italy. The mysterious and
enigmatic painting also features a fully dressed man
and a nude female in a rural setting. The man is standing
to the left and gazing to the side, apparently at the
woman, who is sitting in the grass, partially nude,
breastfeeding a baby; darkening clouds and distant
lightning herald an approaching storm. The relationship
between the two figures is unclear.
As he had in Luncheon on the Grass, Manet again
paraphrased a respected work by a Renaissance artist
in the painting Olympia (1863), a nude portrayed in a
style reminiscent of early studio photographs, but whose
pose was based on Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538).
Manet embarked on the canvas after being challenged
to give the Salon a nude painting to display. The
painting was controversial partly because the nude
is wearing some small items of clothing such as an
orchid in her hair, a bracelet, a ribbon around her
neck, and mule slippers, all of which accentuated her
nakedness, comfortable courtesan lifestyle and sexuality.
The orchid, upswept hair, black cat, and bouquet of
flowers were all recognized symbols of sexuality at
the time. This modern Venus' body is thin, counter to
prevailing standards; the painting's lack of idealism
rankled viewers who noticed it despite its placement,
high on the wall of the Salon.
The flatness of Olympia is inspired by Japanese wood
block art. Her flatness serves to make her more human
and less voluptuous. Her body as well as her gaze is
unabashedly confrontational. She defiantly looks out
as her servant offers flowers from one of her male
suitors. Although her hand rests on her leg, hiding
her pubic area in a "frog" gesture
- also another sex symbol, the reference to traditional
female virtue is ironic; a notion of modesty is notoriously
absent in this work. The alert black cat at the foot
of the bed strikes a sexually rebellious note in contrast
to that of the sleeping dog in Titian's portrayal
of the goddess in his Venus of Urbino. Manet's uniquely
frank (and largely unpopular) depiction of a self-assured
prostitute was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1865.
At the same time, his notoriety translated to popularity
in the French avant-garde community.
"Olympia" immediately launched responses. Caricatures,
sketches, and paintings, all addressed this nude.
Artists such as Picasso, Gauguin, Courbet, Cezanne, all
appreciated the painting's significance.
As with Luncheon on the Grass, the painting raised the
issue of prostitution within contemporary France and
the roles of women within society.
Life And Times.
Berthe Morisot, 1872 The roughly painted style and
photographic lighting in these works was seen as
specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance
works Manet copied or used as source material. His
work is considered 'early modern', partially because
of the black outlining of figures, which draws attention
to the surface of the picture plane and the material
quality of paint.
He became friends with the Impressionists Edgar Degas,
Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley,
Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro, through another
painter, Berthe Morisot, who was a member of the group
and drew him into their activities. The grand niece of
the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Morisot's paintings
first had been accepted in the Salon de Paris in 1864 and
she continued to show in the salon for ten years.
Manet became the friend and colleague of Berthe Morisot
in 1868. She is credited with convincing Manet to attempt
plein air painting, which she had been practicing since
she had been introduced to it by another friend of hers,
Camille Corot. They had a reciprocating relationship and
Manet incorporated some of her techniques into his
paintings. In 1874, she became his sister-in-law when
she married his brother, Eugene.
Self-portrait with palette, 1879
Unlike the core Impressionist group, Manet maintained
that modern artists should seek to exhibit at the Paris
Salon rather than abandon it in favor of independent
exhibitions. Nevertheless, when Manet was excluded
from the International exhibition of 1867, he set up
his own exhibition. His mother worried that he would
waste all his inheritance on this project, which was
enormously expensive. While the exhibition earned poor
reviews from the major critics, it also provided his
first contacts with several future Impressionist painters,
Although his own work influenced and anticipated the
Impressionist style, he resisted involvement in
Impressionist exhibitions, partly because he did not
wish to be seen as the representative of a group identity,
and partly because he preferred to exhibit at the Salon.
Eva Gonzalès was his only formal student.
Manet was influenced by the Impressionist Movement
, especially Monet and Morisot. Their influence is seen in Manet's use of lighter colors, but he retained his distinctive use of black, uncharacteristic of Impressionist painting. He
painted many outdoor (plein air) pieces, but always
returned to what he considered the serious work of the
Throughout his life, although resisted by art critics,
Manet could number as his champions Émile Zola, who
supported him publicly in the press, Stéphane Mallarmé,
and Charles Baudelaire, who challenged him to depict life
as it was. Manet, in turn, drew or painted each of them.
Time for a slide show about some great books and posters........
The Cafe Concert, 1878Manet's paintings of cafe scenes
are observations of social life in nineteenth century Paris.
People are depicted drinking beer, listening to music,
flirting, reading, or waiting. Many of these paintings
were based on sketches executed on the spot. He often
visited the Brasserie Reichshoffen on boulevard de
Rochechourt, upon which he based At the Cafe in 1878.
Several people are at the bar, and one woman confronts
the viewer while others wait to be served. Such
depictions represent the painted journal of a flâneur.
These are painted in a style which is loose, referencing
Hals and Velázquez, yet they capture the mood and feeling
of Parisian night life. They are painted snapshots of
bohemianism, urban working people, as well as some of
In Corner of a Cafe Concert, a man smokes while behind
him a waitress serves drinks. In The Beer Drinkers a woman
enjoys her beer in the company of a friend. In The Cafe
Concert, shown at right, a sophisticated gentleman sits
at a bar while a waitress stands resolutely in the
background, sipping her drink. In The Waitress, a serving
woman pauses for a moment behind a seated customer
smoking a pipe, while a ballet dancer, with arms extended
as she is about to turn, is on stage in the background.
Manet also sat at the restaurant on the Avenue de Clichy
called Pere Lathuille's, which had a garden as well as
the dining area. One of the paintings he produced here
was, At Pere Lathuille's, in which a man displays an
unrequited interest in a woman dining near him.
In Le Bon Bock, a large, cheerful, bearded man sits
with a pipe in one hand and a glass of beer in the other,
looking straight at the viewer.
Paintings Of Social Activities.
Racing at Longchamp, 1864.Manet also painted the upper
class enjoying more formal social activities. In Masked
ball at the Opera, Manet shows a lively crowd of people
enjoying a party. Men stand with top hats and long black
suits while talking to women with masks and costumes. He
included portraits of his friends in this picture.
Manet depicted other popular activities in his work. In
Racing at Longchamp, an unusual perspective is employed
to underscore the furious energy of racehorses as they rush
toward the viewer. In Skating Manet shows a well dressed
woman in the foreground, while others skate behind her.
Always there is the sense of active urban life continuing
behind the subject, extending outside the frame of the
In View of the International Exhibition, soldiers relax,
seated and standing, prosperous couples are talking. There
is a gardener, a boy with a dog, a woman on horseback—in
short, a sample of the classes and ages of the people of
Manet Book Review
I found this great book about Manet's Parisian Paintings called
The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers by T.J. Clark. (If you click on the text link it will take you to Amazon where you can find out more..)
Also, I found an interesting book review by "NKB" which I think describes the book well. (This book would make a good gift, I think!)
Book review by "NKB:"
As a student of nineteenth century French painting, I think this may in fact be the finest book ever written on Parisian painting in the time of Haussmanization. Clark manages to offer an intelligent Marxist-based claim about class and the emerging Parisian landscape in the 60's without losing sight of the paintings themselves. While most scholars feel the genius of this book lies in his wonderful discussion of "what couldn't be seen in Olympia", I find the first chapter "Environs of Paris" equally fascinating in its discussion of his Exposition Universelle of 1867. A MUST read for any lover of Parisian history or Manet.
Hope you like this.. The search box will take you to Allprints where you can see the artist's work in more detail; even framed on a wall! Isn't technology amazing?