Edouard Manet Biography | Oil Paintings
1-23-1832 Paris, FRA - 4-30-1883 Paris, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Édouard Manet is regarded by many as the inspirational force behind the Impressionist movement.
Edouard Manet is the most cultured of the Impressionists, preferring the atmosphere of museums to the open air. Having grown up in a respectable, wealthy bourgeois Parisian family, he was expected to make a career as a naval officer, at his father's suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro, spending six months at sea.
After he twice failed the examination to join the Navy, his father relented to his wishes to pursue an art education on the condition that he followed regular classical studies. From 1850 to 1856, Manet trained under the history painter Thomas Couture. In his spare time, Édouard Manet copied the Old Masters in the Louvre. His long journeys to visit the museums of Europe, led him to admire Titian, Rembrandt, and Goya, but he was influenced by his study of Diego Velazquez.
The Love of the Classics, the Scandal of Modernity.
Upon his return to Paris, he became involved in the literary realism of Baudelaire and Zola and began painting large canvases inspired by real people. In a very short time, Manet became one of the most celebrated and controversial artists in Europe.
Édouard Manet aim was to achieve conventional success through the Salon, but two controversial pictures cast him in the role of artistic rebel. Around 1863, through “scandalous” works like Olympia and Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) were both updated versions of Renaissance masterpieces, but the combination of classical nudes and a modern context scandalized, Parisian critics. He affirmed the principle of the artist's freedom to depict any subject without having to resort to “elevated” and traditional themes. Although this concept was still in embryo, it was to become the very foundation of modern art.
His first scandalous work, Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), is one of the most famous masterpieces of the nineteenth century. Completed at the beginning of the Impressionist era, the composition is inspired by The Pastoral Concert by Titian. Yet, this homage to the painting of the past is not expressed in academic terms, but as a stimulus towards freedom in art. The scene depicts a group of friends having a Sunday picnic in a park on the outskirts of Paris. A very fine painter of still lifes, Manet places a tipped basket with bread and fruit from the picnic in the foreground. This is a remarkable section of the painting and an excellent example of Manet's extremely fine handling even by academic standards. The makeshift tablecloth is Victorine's dress.
For the public and critics of 1803, who went into rapture over Gerome's and Cabanel's frigidly erotic nudes, the most offensive and immoral aspect of the painting was the presence of the two men fully dressed in the bourgeois clothes of the day in the company of a nude girl. The young man facing the viewer is Eugene Manet, the painter's brother who was married to the artist Berthe Morisot.
The presence of a second woman dressed only in a shift completes the allusion to Titian's Concert Champetre and makes the number of figures symmetrical. For Manet, this is also a pictorial device to lengthen the planes of the painting and draw attention to the luminous background, where the dark green trees open onto a clearing bathed in sunlight. The nude woman turning to face the observer, is Victorine-Louise Meurent, a guitarist in third rate dives, who became a model for many of Manets's important works. She is no classical beauty, but her free spirit and irregular features attracted Manet. Edouard Manet presented this work to the 1863 Salon, but it was rejected by the very severe and reactionary jury ( as were three-fifths of the approximately 5000 works presented). It was shown in the embarrassing Salon des Refuses and triggered an enormous scandal, which went way beyond the painter's intentions. The outrage provoked by this canvas drove Manet to continue in the direction of forthright, realistic painting.
Manet One of the First 19th-century Artists to Paint Modern Life.
What is revolutionary in Manet's work is his concern with visual issues over content or storytelling, Édouard Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life. As occurred in other forms of art like opera and the novel, the public felt reassured by the historical distance placed between themselves and the fake scenes. They could only accept suggestive subjects that were set in the past. Works depicting real life were still regarded with extreme uneasiness until Manet made them more uneasy. So after upsetting everyone with this painting, which was a hard act to follow, what do you do for an encore? His follow up work was the even more direct and shameless Olympia.
Olympia is Manet's most scandalous work. Also inspired by Titian's, The Venus of Urbino, and also modeled by Victorine-Louise Meurent as a prostitute. Victorine's questionable background was the subject of further scandal, for which Manet received abuse from respectable critics and the bourgeois that the artist himself came from. Never before has a prostitute been portrayed so shamelessly and directly. The artist declares, in an extremely elevated manner, the supreme dignity of art whatever the subject matter. The person or theme may be risque but the absolute purity of painting is inviolable. This very modernity, however, appealed to a group of younger artists, who were determined to paint scenes of modern life, rather than subjects from the past.
This circle of friends who gathered round Édouard Manet at the Café Guerbois was to become the Impressionists. Édouard Manet was equivocal about the new movement. He enjoyed the attention of his proteges, but still hoped for official success and, as a result, did not take part in the Impressionist exhibitions. Even so, he was persuaded to try open-air painting, and his later pictures display a lighter palette and a freer touch.
In the 1870's Manet joined the Impressionist movement. During the years in which he was closely in contact with the Impressionists, Manet's palette became lighter and he chose subjects from Parisian life. Unlike Renoir and Monet, Manet is not interested in reflections of light on water. He prefers to concentrate on the figures, as in Boating, but not without a touch of humor. The girl wearing the veil looks somewhat perplexed by the maneuvers of the improvised Sunday skipper in t-shirt and straw hat. He never abandoned himself to “the impression”: the rigor of his composition and his formal control remain impeccable and his style continued to reflect a studied, personal interpretation of the great masters. During the course of his career, Manet painted about 40 seascapes. He liked the sea and took numerous seaside vacations, mostly at Boulogne. There he enjoyed painting the harbor, boats at anchor or setting out to sea. His first marine painting was in 1864 with The Battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama, which was battling of the French coast.
Manet's final masterwork Bar at the Folies-Bergere, and perhaps one of the most poetic paintings of the nineteenth century. In this scene, set in one of the popular Paris nightspots, one can almost hear the amused murmur of the audience, the festive fizz of the champagne, and the smell of the aromatic smoke of the cigars. But the tired, worn out expression of the young barmaid dominates the painting. She is a working class girl, who among the shiny bottles, sparkling glasses, marble surfaces, and bright chandeliers, lives in the shadow of inescapable solitude and sadness.
Manet and A Bunch of Asparagus.
A well-known story, Manet sold this painting A Bunch of Asparagus to Charles Ephrussi an art collector for 1000 francs. Ephrussi sent him 1000 francs in error, not wanting to keep the money and cheat his customer, Manet with a sense of humor and wit, instead painted a single lonely asparagus and sent it to the buyer with a personal note saying: "There is one missing from your bunch", and so the repayment was complete and the problem was solved.
Art Movement History: Realism, Impressionism.
Artists Influencing Edouard Manet: Diego Velazquez, Gustave Courbet, Thomas Couture, Francisco Goya, Giorgione.
He Traveled To Brasil, Germany, Italy, Netherlands.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.