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Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet

The art of the French painter Édouard Manet (1832-1883) broke with 19th-century academic precepts and marks the beginning of modern painting.

Edouard Manet was born in Paris on Jan. 23, 1832, to Auguste Manet, an official at the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie Désirée Manet. The father, who had expected Édouard to study law, vigorously opposed his wish to become a painter. The career of naval officer was decided upon as a compromise, and at the age of 16 Édouard sailed to Rio de Janeiro on a training vessel. Upon his return he failed to pass the entrance examination of the naval academy. His father relented, and in 1850 Manet entered the studio of Thomas Couture, where, in spite of many disagreements with his teacher, he remained until 1856. During this period Manet traveled abroad and made numerous copies after the Old Masters in both foreign and French public collections.

Early Works

Manet's entry for the Salon of 1859, the Absinthe Drinker, a thematically romantic but conceptually already daring work, was rejected. At the Salon of 1861, his Spanish Singer, one of a number of works of Spanish character painted in this period, not only was admitted to the Salon but won an honorable mention and the acclaim of the poet Théophile Gautier. This was to be Manet's last success for many years.

In 1863 Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff, a Dutch pianist. That year he showed 14 paintings at the Martinet Gallery; one of them, Music in the Tuileries, remarkable for its freshness in the handling of a contemporary scene, was greeted with considerable hostility. Also in 1863 the Salon rejected Manet's large painting Luncheon on the Grass, and the artist elected to have it shown at the now famous Salon des Refusés, created by the Emperor under the pressure of the exceptionally large number of painters whose work had been turned away. Here, Manet's picture attracted the most attention and brought forth a kind of abusive criticism which was to set a pattern for years to come. Although this painting is a paraphrase of Giorgione's Concert champêtre, the combination of clothed men and a nude woman in a modern context was found offensive.

In 1865 Manet's Olympia produced a still more violent reaction at the official Salon, and his reputation as a renegade became widespread. Upset by the criticism, Manet made a brief trip to Spain, where he admired many works by Diego Velázquez, to whom he referred as "the painter of painters."

Support of Baudelaire and Zola

Manet's close friend and supporter during the early years was Charles Baudelaire, who, in 1862, had written a quatrain to accompany one of Manet's Spanish subjects, Lola de Valence, and the public, largely as a result of the strange atmosphere of the Olympia, linked the two men readily. In 1866, after the Salon jury had rejected two of Manet's works, Émile Zola came to his defense with a series of articles filled with strongly expressed, uncompromising praise. In 1867 he published a book which contains the prediction, "Manet's place is destined to be in the Louvre." This book appears on Zola's desk in Manet's portrait of the writer (1868). In May of that year the Paris World's Fair opened its doors, and Manet, at his own expense, exhibited 50 of his works in a temporary structure, not far from Gustave Courbet's private exhibition. This was in keeping with Manet's view, expressed years later to his friend Antonin Proust, that his paintings must be seen together in order to be fully understood.

Although Manet insisted that a painter be "resolutely of his own time" and that he paint what he sees, he nevertheless produced two important religious works, the Dead Christ with Angels and Christ Mocked by the Soldiers, which were shown at the Salons of 1864 and 1865, respectively, and ridiculed. Only Zola could defend the former work on the grounds of its vigorous realism while playing down its alleged lack of piety. It is also true that although Manet despised the academic category of "history painting" he did paint the contemporary Naval Battle between the Kearsarge and the Alabama (1864) and the Execution of Maximilian (1867). The latter is based upon a careful gathering of the facts surrounding the incident and composed, largely, after Francisco Goya's Executions of the Third of May, resulting in a curious amalgam of the particular and the universal. Manet's use of older works of art in elaborating his own major compositions has long been, and continues to be, a problematic subject, since the old view that this procedure was needed to compensate for the artist's own inadequate imagination is rapidly being discarded.

Late Works

Although the impressionists were influenced by Manet during the 1860s, during the next decade it appears that it was he who learned from them. His palette became lighter; his stroke, without ever achieving the analytical intensity of Claude Monet's, was shorter and more rapid. Nevertheless, Manet never cultivated pleinairism seriously, and he remained essentially a figure and studio painter. Also, despite his sympathy for most of the impressionists with whom the public associated him, he never exhibited with them at their series of private exhibitions which began in 1874.

Manet had his first resounding success since the Spanish Singer at the Salon of 1873 with his Bon Bock, which radiates a touch and joviality of expression reminiscent of Frans Hals, in contrast to Manet's usually austere figures. In spite of the popularity of this painting, his success was not to extend to the following season. About this time he met the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, with whom he remained on intimate terms for the remainder of his life. After Manet's rejection by the jury in 1876, Mallarmétook up his defense.

Toward the end of the 1870s, although Manet retained the bright palette and the touch of his impressionist works, he returned to the figure problems of the early years. The undeniable sense of mystery is found again in several bar scenes, notably the Brasserie Reichshoffen, in which the relationships of the figures recall those of the Luncheon on the Grass. Perhaps the apotheosis of his lifelong endeavors is to be found in his last major work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Here, in the expression of the barmaid, is all the starkness of the great confrontations of the 1860s, but bathed in a profusion of colors. While we are drawn to the brilliantly painted accessories, it is the girl, placed at the center before a mirror, who dominates the composition and ultimately demands our attention. Although her reflected image, showing her to be in conversation with a man, is absorbed into the brilliant atmosphere of the setting, she remains enigmatic and aloof. Manet produced two aspects of the same personality, combined the fleeting with the eternal, and, by "misplacing" the reflected image, took a step toward abstraction as a solution to certain lifelong philosophical and technical problems.

In 1881 Manet was finally admitted to membership in the Legion of Honor, an award he had long coveted. By then he was seriously ill. Therapy at the sanatorium at Bellevue failed to improve his health, and walking became increasingly difficult for him. In his weakened condition he found it easier to handle pastels than oils, and he produced a great many flower pieces and portraits in that medium. In the spring of 1883 his left leg was amputated, but this did not prolong his life. He died peacefully in Paris on April 30.

Manet was short, unusually handsome, and witty. His biographers stress his kindness and unaffected generosity toward his friends. The paradoxical elements in his art are an extension of the man: although a revolutionary in art, he craved official honors; while fashionably dressed, he affected a Parisian slang at odds with his appearance and impeccable manners; and although he espoused the style of life of the conservative classes, his political sentiments were those of the republican liberal.

Further Reading

Useful general works on Manet are Georges Bataille, Manet (trans. 1955), which has a good text and small color illustrations; and John Richardson, Édouard Manet: Paintings and Drawings (1958), with good, large color illustrations. Recommended catalogs are A. C. Hanson, Manet (1966), an excellent study but with poor color plates; Alain de Leiris, The Drawings of Édouard Manet (1969); and Jean C. Harris, Édouard Manet, Graphic Works: A Definitive Catalog (1970). For specialized studies see George Heard Hamilton, Manet and His Critics (1954); Nils Gösta Sandblad, Manet: Three Studies in Artistic Conception (1954); and George Mauner, Manet, Peintre-Philosophe: A Study of the Painter's Themes (1972). A great deal of useful historical information is in John Rewald, The History of Impressionism (1946; rev. ed. 1961). □

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Manet, Édouard

Édouard Manet

Born: January 23, 1832
Paris, France
Died: April 30, 1883
Paris, France

French painter

The works of the French painter Édouard Manet influenced many other artists; their modern subject matter and more natural, less precise style were seen as revolutionary.

Early years

Édouard Manet was born in Paris, France, on January 23, 1832, to Auguste Édouard Manet and Eugénie Désirée Manet. Manet's mother was an artistic woman who made sure that Édouard and his two brothers took piano lessons. His father, an official at the Ministry of Justice, expected his son to study law and was opposed to the idea of him becoming a painter. It was decided that Édouard would join the navy, and at the age of sixteen he sailed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on a training vessel. Upon his return he failed to pass the navy's entrance examination. His father finally gave in, and in 1850 Manet began studying figure painting in the studio of Thomas Couture, where he remained until 1856. Manet also traveled abroad and made many copies of classic paintings for both foreign and French public collections.

Early works

Manet's entry for the Salon (annual public exhibition, or show) of 1859, the Absinthe Drinker, a romantic but daring work, was rejected. At the Salon of 1861, his Spanish Singer, one of a number of works of Spanish character painted in this period, not only was admitted to the Salon but won an honorable mention and the praise of the poet Théophile Gautier. This was to be Manet's last success for many years.

In 1863 Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff, his piano teacher. That year he showed fourteen paintings at the Martinet Gallery; one of them, Music in the Tuileries, caused a hostile reaction. Also in 1863 the Salon rejected Manet's large painting Luncheon on the Grass; its combination of clothed men and a nude woman was considered offensive. Manet elected to have it shown at the now famous Salon des Refusés, created by the Emperor to quiet complaints from the large number of painters whose work had been turned away by the official Salon. In 1865 Manet's Olympia produced an even more violent reaction at the official Salon, and his reputation as a rebel became widespread.

Supporters and admirers

In 1866, after the Salon jury had rejected two of Manet's works, novelist Émile Zola (18401902) came to his defense with a series of articles filled with strongly expressed praise. In 1867 Zola published a book that predicted, "Manet's place is destined to be in the Louvre." (The Louvre, in Paris, is the largest and most famous art museum in the world.) In May 1868 Manet, at his own expense, exhibited fifty of his works at the Paris World's Fair; he felt that his paintings had to be seen together in order to be fully understood.

Although the painters of the impressionist movement (a French art movement of the second half of the nineteenth century whose members sought in their works to represent the first impression of an object upon the viewer) were influenced by Manet during the 1860s, later it appeared that he had also learned from them. His colors became lighter, and his strokes became shorter and quicker. Still, Manet remained mainly a figure and studio painter and refused to show his works with the impressionists at their private exhibitions.

Late works

Toward the end of the 1870s Manet returned to the figures of the early years. Perhaps his greatest work was his last major one, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. In 1881 Manet was admitted to membership in the Legion of Honor, an award he had long dreamed of. By then he was seriously ill, and walking became increasingly difficult for him. In his weakened condition he found it easier to handle pastels than oils, and he produced a great many flower pieces and portraits (paintings of people, especially their faces) in that medium. In early 1883 his left leg was amputated (cut off), but this did not prolong his life. He died peacefully in Paris on April 30, 1883.

Manet was short, unusually handsome, and witty. He was remembered as kind and generous toward his friends. Still, many elements of his personality were in conflict. Although he was a revolutionary artist, he craved official honors; while he dressed fashionably, he spoke a type of slang that was at odds with his appearance and manners; and although his style of life was that of a member of the conservative (preferring to maintain traditions and resist change) classes, his political beliefs were liberal (open-minded and preferring change).

For More Information

Bataille, Georges. Manet. New York: Skira/Rizzoli, 1983.

Brombert, Beth Archer. Édouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.

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Manet, Édouard

Édouard Manet (ādwär´ mänā´), 1832–83, French painter, b. Paris. The son of a magistate, Manet went to sea rather than study law. On his return to Paris in 1850 he studied art with the French academic painter Thomas Couture. Manet was influenced by Velázquez and Goya and later by Japanese painters and printmakers and the objectivity of photography.

In 1861 the Salon accepted his Chanteur espagnol. Two years later his Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) was shown in the Salon des Refusés and was violently attacked; its depiction of a nude and a partially clad woman picnicking with two fully dressed men is enduringly strange and remarkably forthright, and has not quite lost its power to shock. Manet's masterpiece, Olympia (1863; Musée d'Orsay), a supposedly suggestive painting of a nude courtesan, was shown in 1865. It was met by outrage and abuse from critics and public alike. These paintings incorporated a number of technical innovations, which were themselves attacked by the academicians as heresy. The hostility of the critics attended Manet throughout his life, yet he never ceased to hope for acceptance from the art establishment. Fortunately he had some independent means, a strong following among his fellow painters, and companions in Zola, who lost his position on a newspaper because he defended the painter, and Mallarmé.

Manet profoundly influenced the impressionist painters (see impressionism). He is sometimes called an impressionist himself, although he declined to exhibit his work with the group, and except for a short time he did not employ impressionism's typical broken color or sketchy brushstrokes. Rather Manet worked in broad, flat areas, using almost no transitional tones, to show what the eye takes in at a glance. By 1900 his techniques and their results were widely understood and appreciated, and his works were hung in the Louvre.

Today examples of Manet's paintings are represented in the most important European and American collections. Among his many celebrated paintings are The Fife Player (1866), a portrait of Zola (1868), and The Balcony (1869), all of which are in the Louvre; part of the Execution of Maximilian (1867; Tate Gall., London); and Les Courses à Longchamps (Art Inst., Chicago). Manet also made many pastels, watercolors, and etchings, including graphic portraits of Baudelaire and a series of illustrations based on Poe's Raven.

Bibliography

See biographies by V. Perutz (1991) and B. A. Brombert (1995); catalog of his retrospective exhibition in Paris and New York (1982); catalogs of his pastels by J. Rewald (1947), graphic works by J. C. Harris (1970), and drawings by A. DeLeiris (1971); studies by G. Batailles (tr. 1955, 1983), P. Courthion (1962), G. H. Hamilton (1954, repr. 1969), J. Dufwa (1981), J. Richardson (1982), and K. Adler (1986).

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"Manet, Édouard." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Manet, Édouard." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/manet-edouard

Manet, Édouard

Manet, Édouard (1832–83) French painter. Although Manet is often linked with Impressionism, he did not consider himself part of the movement. The famed Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (1863) was violently attacked by contemporary critics for its realistic depiction of the female nude. Olympia (1863), a portrait of a well-known courtesan, was similarly received. Manet finally achieved recognition with later works, such as Le Bar aux Folies-Bergères (1881).

http://www.musee-orsay.fr; http://www.metmuseum.org; http://www.nga.gov

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