Born January 23, 1832, in Paris, France; died April 30, 1883, in Paris, France; son of Auguste Édouard Manet (an official at the Ministry of Justice) and Eugénie Désirée Manet; married Suzanne Leenhoff; children: Leon. Education: Attended the Collège Rollin, Paris, 1844-48; studied art in studio of the academic painter Thomas Couture, 1850-57.
Painter and book illustrator.
Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, 1881, Republic of France.
Lettres de jeunesse, Rouart (Paris, France), 1928.
Lettres illustrées, edited by Jean Guiffrey, Legarrec (Paris, France), 1929.
Une Correspondance inédite: Lettres du siège de Paris, edited by Adolphe Tabarant, [Paris], 1935.
"He's one of those painters considered so influential, people don't even bother with his first name," noted a report on CBS News Online. "Looking at his work now, it's hard to imagine that Édouard Manet was ever regarded as revolutionary, but he was." Manet is considered the father of modern art, and his work inspired the impressionist movement. Though he led a conservative life with respect to social custom, he rejected the traditions of the formal art world and ultimately helped to turn that universe upside down. Manet advanced the very modern view that artists had a responsibility to tell the truth in their work—whether that truth was beautiful or ugly. He met with constant criticism and abuse during his career but clung stubbornly to his forward-looking view of art's mission.
Although his innovations ushered in new and important movements in the history of art, Manet had an often difficult career. His works, often drawn from his contemporaries and themes from everyday Parisian life, aroused ire and scorn in their day from among the city's conservative artistic community and from the general public. He struggled for much of his adult life with his own self-doubts, fueled by the controversies that his work stirred, but enjoyed the consistent and enthusiastic support of painters and writers who would become some of the most prominent names in nineteenth-century culture. As John Canaday stated in Smithsonian, "An innovator with a strong sense of tradition—inspired, in fact, by such Old Masters as Raphael, Titian, [Diego] Velàzquez and [Francisco] Goya—Manet suffered deeply from his early notoriety as an outrageous renegade and, off and on for the rest of his life, from recurrent humiliating rejections by the officialdom of French art. He was revered by other artists we now recognize as his major contemporaries, and he gained the allegiance of such critics as had the perception and the courage to go against the current."
Manet was born in Paris, France, on January 23, 1832, to Auguste Édouard Manet, an official at the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie Désirée Manet. A stern man who lived by a strict routine, the senior Manet had determined that Édouard, too, would be a lawyer. Manet's mother was very different from her husband. She had grown up in a sophisticated, worldly home and possessed great artistic and musical talents. She encouraged Édouard in his art, though considering her husband's feelings on the matter, such encouragement was most likely kept secret.
Manet detested the local schools he attended; his poor grades would perhaps have hastened his forcible departure from these institutions had his father not been so influential. At sixteen years old, Manet announced to his father that he wanted to become a painter. Because Auguste vigorously opposed his son's wish, a career of naval officer was decided upon as a compromise. Édouard spent six months on a ship sailing to Brazil and found it no less tedious than school; he subsequently failed the naval academy examination twice.
Begins Art Career
Manet finally prevailed over his father's objections, and in 1850 he entered the school of a well-known painter, Thomas Couture. At that time art in France was ruled by the Institut de France, the government's department of culture. Academic art was dominated by standards of beauty and grandeur that derived from ancient Greek and Roman culture; these centuries-old traditions and the limited scope of approved subjects—generally figures from classical mythology and the Bible—formed a climate that more adventurous artists found stifling. Nonetheless, any artist who hoped to be successful had to submit to such standards and enter works in the yearly salons, exhibitions arranged by the government and judged by members of the Institut's École des Beaux Arts.
Manet disliked the academic style from the beginning and insisted on drawing the models who posed for his class as they really looked, rather than refining his depictions to fit the classical standard of beauty and proportion. Sometimes he shocked the instructor by drawing clothes on the model and putting a cigarette between the sitter's fingers or a beer glass in the model's hand, rather than portraying an idealized pose from ancient statuary. Although Manet loved art and possessed the essential painterly skills, he also reveled in modern life and longed to put it on canvas. Paris in the 1850s teemed with precisely the sort of vitality he sought to memorialize; Manet often wandered through the city with his sketchbook, drawing whatever struck his fancy. He argued constantly with his teacher about art and modernity. Few artists had tackled subjects that were not noble, heroic, or historical, just ordinary and immediate. According to Canaday in Smithsonian, "Manet ran into trouble as a realist who rejected the prettification, the sugary idealism, the mythological travesties and inflated heroics typical of Salon demonstration pieces. He painted instead the world around him as he saw it and enjoyed it. While still a student in the lycée in the 1840s, according to his friend Antonin Proust, he declared, 'We must be of our time and work with what we see.' It became the guiding principle of his art."
Dutch portrait painter Rembrandt, Spanish court painter Goya, and French caricaturist Honoré Daumier may have provided some inspiration for Manet in this respect, but he had few predecessors in his quest to take painting out of the conservative tradition of the salon and into the street. Even after a trip to Italy in 1853, where he viewed and copied the works of the masters Michelangelo and Titian, Manet could not accept the constraints of the academic style. Around 1856, he made extensive travels through Germany, Belgium, and Holland. Prior to that, he had fathered a child with a young Dutch woman, a pianist named Suzanne Leenhoff.
Spanish art and culture enjoyed considerable popularity in France during this time, and the work of seventeenth-century court painter Velàzquez strongly influenced Manet, particularly the Spanish master's colors and spatial structure. The opening of Japan to the West in the mid-nineteenth century brought Japanese woodblock prints to Europe; radical French painters, Manet included, found them especially compelling. Manet experimented in his drawings and etchings with the flat space and heavy black outlines typical of these woodcuts. A third important influence on Manet was photography. When Louis Daguerre announced his new invention in Paris in 1839, he created a sensation. To young artists like Manet, this astonishing technology provided a new window on the world.
Stirs Controversy at the Salons
The first painting Manet submitted to the Paris Salon, 1859's The Absinthe Drinker, challenged virtually every tenet of the academic philosophy. He used a street-dweller he knew as the model for this portrait of a drunken vagrant. Employing a sharply limited range of colors, mostly browns and blacks, Manet posed the figure against a wall with a vague background. This "unpleasant" person in an "ugly" setting was of course rejected by the salon jury, as were many of Manet's paintings over the years. During this period he painted a variety of works with popular Spanish themes, such as The Dead Toreador, and portraits of street people like The Street Singer. Despite the familiar subjects—which were in themselves outside the norm—his unusual use of color, flat spaces, dark outlines, and frequently disorienting representations eluded the understanding of both the art establishment and the general public. Viewers felt threatened by Manet's paintings, which seemed to jump off the canvas at them. Their reactions did not go unnoticed by the artist, observed Kathryn Linderman in Investor's Business Daily. "Though Manet was mocked widely, he refused to change," Linderman wrote. "In fact, he used the criticism as motivation to keep painting. 'This war of daggers has done me a great deal of harm,' he said. 'But it was also a stimulus for me.'"
Manet's first taste of success came with the first of his works to be accepted into the Salon. In 1861, a canvas Manet called Le Guitarrero (The Guitar Player) won a second-prize medal, though some senior Academy members found it too radical in its realism; depictions of mythology, biblical themes, portraiture of the aristocracy, and other such rarefied subject matter were almost the only subjects deemed appropriate for art at the time. Contrastingly, Le Guitarrero depicts an ordinary street singer seated and clad in traditional Spanish garb, some onions and a jug of perhaps wine at his feet.
The year 1863 was pivotal for Manet. He gained considerable fame—though of the least desirable sort—thanks to an audacious work that would eventually be considered a masterwork. The painting, which he submitted to the salon that year, provoked responses ranging from wild laughter to complete outrage. Manet submitted Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) at the Salon, which was summarily rejected. Works by other innovative artists were also rejected, and the artists protested so vehemently that the Emperor Napoleon III declared they would be exhibited separately, in what came to be known as the Salon des Refusés. Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe caused an enormous scandal. It depicted two finely-dressed men lunching in a bucolic park setting together with a young woman who is completely unclothed. She gazes frankly at the viewer. It was deemed shameless and vulgar. In Déjeuner, Manet seemed to be toying with his audience by setting up the kind of traditional scene they might expect, then overturning those expectations. According to Jed Perl in the New Republic, "Manet's casual hedonism . . . combined elements of frankness and fantasy in ways that could leave Parisians wondering exactly what he had in mind. Even his friends weren't sure. Manet was not inclined to pronounce on artistic matters, and seemed content to leave the mystery intact."
In 1863 Manet again journeyed to Holland, but this time in order to study painting with Leenhoff's father; the couple married that same year. The family, often including Manet's mother, spent summers in the country, where Manet painted local scenes. In Paris, however, he became the leader of a group of young artists and writers who rejected academic painting and sought a modern vision. Among these were Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Henri Fantin-Latour. They engaged in passionate discussions in cafés and in Manet's studio and eventually became the core of the impressionist movement. But, as Robert Hughes noted in Time, Manet "never exhibited with the impressionist group; his aims were not compatible with theirs, much as they respected one another. Manet's firmly built structures of light and dark were mostly done indoors, after many preliminary studies; they have the formal diction of studio art, not the light, open qualities of plein-air painting. Atmosphere and local color were not his prime issues. And when he took what seems, on first glance, an 'impressionist' subject, he was apt to load it with ironies and contradictions until its straightforwardness evaporated."
Manet continued his innovations in color, space, and outline despite persistent criticism, waiting only two years before shocking the art world once more. In 1865 another risqué work, Olympia, was accepted by the Salon. Again, a near-riot ensued, and pregnant women were enjoined to stay away. Although nudes were far from an unusual depiction in the history of art up until that point, it was the frank gaze of Manet's reclining young woman—her only adornment the ribbon around her neck and a flower in her hair—that aroused scorn and derision. As John Carmen observed in the San Francisco Chronicle, "The main reason Olympia provoked gasps when it was first shown publicly, in 1865, was that the subject was real and not idealized. She was a prostitute, devoid of mythological or heroic ideals, who gazed brazenly from the canvas as her servant delivered an admirer's bouquet." It is difficult for contemporary viewers to imagine the outrage the work provoked in 1865. It was called wicked, shocking, and ugly. Manet considered it his masterpiece.
A Change in Tone
In the late 1860s and into the 1870s, Manet's works adopted some new elements, partly as a result of his friendship with painters like Berthe Morisot—who became his sister-in-law—Degas, and Monet. During their summers in the countryside around Paris, these painters set up their easels outdoors and tried to capture the vivid sunlight, brilliantly colored clothing, and rich vegetation they saw. Such works as Boating, Claude Monet in His Floating Studio, and Argenteuil display Manet's utter departure from the academic tradition, with his loose brush strokes, intimate sense of space, and, most particularly, modern subject matter.
In 1875 Manet developed a debilitating disease, a slow deterioration of the central nervous system, which made it increasingly difficult for him to paint; he turned to smaller works and more flexible media like pastels and watercolors. His last large painting, Bar at the Folies-Bergère, was the most complete synthesis of his work and philosophy. It is a powerful "snapshot" of a barmaid, with all the liveliness of the bar reflected in a mirror behind her. The totality of Manet's style is evident—the immediacy of the moment depicted, the complicated space, the expressive brush strokes. A contributor to the Encyclopedia of World Biography wrote, "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." Numerous attributes of this work have become defining characteristics of modern art.
If you enjoy the works of Édouard Manet
If you enjoy the works of Édouard Manet, you might want to check out the following books:
Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Manet and the Sea, 2003.
Jonathan Brown, Velasquez: The Technique of Genius, 1998.
Werner Hofmann, Goya, 2003.
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 in Paris on April 30, 1883. Summarizing the artist's career on BBC Online, a contributor observed that Manet "strove for a return to reality and a directness of presentation. He commented on this aim to record the world around him: 'I know not how to invent—if I am worth something today, it is thanks to exact interpretation and faithful analysis.'"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Brombert, Beth Archer, Édouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat, Little, Brown (Chicago, IL), 1996.
Cachin, Françoise, Manet: The Influence of the Modern, translated by Rachel Kaplan, Abrams (New York, NY), 1995.
Clark, Timothy J. The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1999.
Courthion, Pierre, Édouard Manet, Abrams (New York, NY), 1984.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Fried, Michael, Manet's Modernism, or the Face of Painting in the 1860s, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.
Garden, Robert, and Andrew Forge, The Last Flowers of Manet, Abrams (New York, NY), 1986.
International Dictionary of Art and Artists, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Krell, Alan, Manet and the Painters of Contemporary Life, Thames and Hudson (London, England), 1996.
Lallemand, Henri, Manet: A Visionary Impressionist, Todtri Productions (New York, NY), 1998.
Mauner, George, Manet: The Still-Life Paintings, Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.
Orienti, Sandra, Manet: The Life and Work of the Artist Illustrated with Eighty Colour Plates, Thames and Hudson (London, England), 1968.
Proust, Antonin, Manet: Souvenirs, [Paris], 1913.
Rand, Harry, Manet's Contemplation at the Gare Saint-Lazare, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1987.
Richardson, John, Manet: Paintings and Drawings, 4th edition, Phaidon (Oxford, England), 1982.
Schneider, Pierre, The World of Manet, 1832-1883, Time-Life Books (New York, NY), 1968.
Zola, Émile, Manet, [Paris], 1867.
Investor's Business Daily, March 31, 2000, Kathryn Linderman, "Painter Édouard Manet—He Insisted On Doing It His Way And Helped Create A New Artistic Style," p. A04.
New Republic, February 19, 2001, Jed Perl, "On Art—Basic Instinct," p. 29.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 2000, John Carman, "Wars Over Art Viewed from the Front Lines," p. B1.
Smithsonian, September, 1983, John Canaday, "We Must Be of Our Time and Work with What We See," pp. 90-99.
Time, September 19, 1983, Robert Hughes, "Édouard Manet," p. 80.
Artchive,http://www.artchive.com/ (1999), Lisa MacDonald, "Édouard Manet".
BBC Online,http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (June 16, 2004), Lara Grieve, "Édouard Manet".
CBS News,http://www.cbsnews.com/ (April 25, 2004), "Manet: Father of Modern Art".
MyStudios.com,http://www.mystudios.com/ (June 22, 2004), "Manet's Studio".
MANET, ÉDOUARD (1832–1883), French realist painter.
Édouard Manet was born on 23 January 1832, in Paris. His father, Auguste Manet, began his career in the French Ministry of Justice and was, for sixteen years, a civil judge for the Tribunal de la Première Instance, the entry-level court in Paris. Manet's mother, born Eugénie-Désirée Fournier, was the daughter of the vice-consul of France in Sweden, as well as the goddaughter of the king of Sweden, the French-born Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (r. as Charles XIV John, 1818–1844). Both parents were descendents from an aristocratic lineage of so-called gens de robe (nobility acquired through venal offices such as regional treasurer). Auguste's father and grandfather were both mayors of the town of Gennevilliers, a town north of Paris where the Manets owned extensive property, and where Manet spent family vacations. The income from this property guaranteed that Manet and his family remained extremely comfortable.
The young Manet was an indifferent student whose interest in drawing had been aided and encouraged by his maternal uncle Edmond Fournier, who lived with the Manets until Édouard was sixteen. It was determined that a naval career would be appropriate for him, and after Manet failed his entrance exam, he undertook a sea voyage to South America in 1848–1849 as a qualification for naval service. By the time of his return to Paris, however, Manet was determined to study painting, and he enrolled in the studio of Thomas Couture (1815–1879) in Paris, where he remained for six years. Couture was a respected teacher who earned official recognition; he had other illustrious pupils such as Pierre-Cecil Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1898). However, it is significant that Manet, whose career would be marked by dramatic breaks with the art establishment of his time, chose not to study at the official art school of the Academy, the École des Beaux-Arts, sited across the Rue des Petits-Augustins in Paris from the house of Manet's birth.
In 1859, Manet submitted his first entry to the Salon exhibition juried by members of the French Academy, and not surprisingly, it was rejected. The Absinthe Drinker (1858–1859) was a sketchy but full-length representation of a homeless drunkard—a type known in popular prints and legends of the chiffonnier
or ragpicker, and found on the outskirts of Paris. The chiffonnier was also notorious, as the character had figured in several poems in Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, which was published in 1857 and immediately put on trial for offending public morality. (Baudelaire was found guilty and fined; the court ordered six poems removed from the edition.) Manet and Baudelaire became friends, and Manet's early work frequently featured the kinds of urban characters—gypsies, ragpickers, street entertainers, prostitutes—that populate the poems of Baudelaire.
Although Manet shocked the public with his representations of wayward Baudelairean types, he was equally at home painting his fashionable and well-to-do friends. Until the late 1860s, Manet frequently painted the working poor, or at least models posing as such types, as well as a number of well-known artists, musicians, and writers who are also recognizable figures in his paintings. In a single painting, Music in the Tuileries Gardens of 1862, one can identify the critic Zacharie Astruc (1833–1907), painter Henri Fantin-Latour (1836–1904), poet Théophile Gautier (1811–1872), composer Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880), collector Baron Isidore-Justin-Severin Taylor (1789–1879), Baudelaire, and many other personages who form a cadre of the Parisian cultural elite.
In 1863, more than half of the over 5,000 submissions to the Salon were rejected by the Academy, and there was an outcry from the artists that the judging had been harsh. Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852–1871), in consideration of the excessive complaints, proclaimed that there would be an exhibition of the works rejected by the jury. In this unprecedented Salon des Refusés, Manet exhibited three paintings, including Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1863). Entitled Le Bain (Bathing) at the exhibition, the painting was loosely based on a Venetian Renaissance idyll, but featured two men dressed in contemporary attire, one woman bathing in the river, and a nude woman—the model Victorine Meurent—gazing actively out of the painting and at the beholder. The painting bewildered critics and visitors and remains the subject of intense scholarly debate.
Although Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe shocked critics and viewers, it was in some ways insulated from the harshest of critical responses by being in the Salon des Refusés; the Academy had, after all, not accepted it for the Salon. But in 1865, it accepted Olympia (1865), a work modeled on Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538). In place of the Renaissance Venus, however, Olympia featured a contemporary nude woman in jewelry and satin mules; she gazes directly out at the viewer as a black cat arches its back, and as a female servant of African descent brings in a bouquet of flowers, still in their street wrapper. The picture, with its stark lighting, abbreviated modeling, and references to prostitutes who sometimes rented jewelry and other accessories, or who accepted gifts in lieu of cash, caused an enormous scandal. More than seventy critics showered the picture with hostile commentary: a few associated the painting with Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) and Baudelaire, but most expressed utter shock at both the subject and the manner of painting.
Manet exhibited Olympia again in 1867 in an enormous, self-funded, solo exhibition near the Pont de l'Alma in Paris during the Universal Exposition. In doing so, Manet was following the lead of Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), who had erected a similar pavilion in 1855 during that world's fair, and did so again in 1867. The novelist and journalist É mile Zola (1840–1902) would be one of Olympia's defenders in 1867. In a pamphlet and in his published reviews, he asked viewers to look only at Manet's bold manner of painting rather than at the subject matter.
Manet's work in the 1870s took on a lighter palette, and like the impressionists who were inspired by his example, frequently featured the subject matter of modernity in Paris: cafés, fashionable men and women, the opera ball, conservatories. For instance in The Railroad (1873), Manet's model Victorine Meurent and a young girl pose near the Pont de l'Europe and the Gare St.-Lazare—landmarks of a Parisian neighborhood of rapid growth and prominence in the 1870s. In Argenteuil, Les Canotiers (1874), a man and a woman pose on a river dock in a town that was becoming almost a suburb of Paris in the period. In both paintings, the woman looks away from her companion and gazes out of the painting and at the viewer. The effect is arresting in comparison with the typically tidy narratives of mid-nineteenth-century genre painting: the viewer is put into a position of thinking critically about the subject. Manet's last masterpiece, the Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), makes use of the mirror behind the bar at a glamorous café-concert that was part of the changing urban landscape of Paris in the period: the mirror is used to suggest both the complexity of the subject and the deceptiveness of the viewer's trust in fleeting appearances. Despite his friendship with many of the impressionists, especially with Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), who married Manet's brother Eugène in 1874, he never exhibited at their independent exhibitions; instead, he preferred to risk rejection from the Salon, or he exhibited at private galleries or directly from his studio.
Manet married the Dutch-born Suzanne Leenhoff, a musician and piano teacher, in 1863. The couple had no children of their own, although Suzanne was the mother of Léon Koëlla-Leenhoff, refer red to in polite society as Suzanne' syounger brother. Questions still surround the paternity of Léon. Manet probably suffered from syphilis, and his health worsened considerably by 1880. His left leg was amputated in 1883, and he died shortly after, in Paris.
Édouard Manet has been considered by many critics and historians as the first modernist artist; that is, the first artist to impart a particular consciousness of modernity to subjects drawn from modern life, at a time when most artists still depended on recognized subjects from classical history and mythology. In Manet's work, this awareness of the particularity of the present moment is at times critical, and at times celebratory; indeed, many see it as crucial to modernism that the artist's attitude somehow oscillates between the two or even embraces both stances. As Manet gained notoriety by drawing on modern subjects and by painting them in a more sketchlike and abstract way than his contemporaries, he has been seen as paving the way for the developments in abstractions and modernism that followed, from impressionism to cubism and on into twentieth-century nonrepresentational art. Because of the complex nature of his subjects, the boldness of his style, and his continued
interest in Old Master compositions, art historians and commentators from a wide variety of perspectives, from formalism to Marxism, from feminism to psychoanalysis, continue to debate ways of seeing Manet, but agree on his fundamental importance for the history of modern art.
Cachin, Françoise. Manet 1832–1883. New York, 1983.
Clark, T. J. The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. New York, 1984.
Locke, Nancy. Manet and the Family Romance. Princeton, N.J., 2001.
Reff, Theodore. Manet and Modern Paris. Washington, D.C., 1982.
Rouart, Denis, and Daniel Wildenstein. Édouard Manet: catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. Lausanne, 1975.
Tabarant, Adolphe. Manet et ses oeuvres. Paris, 1947.
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.
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.
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.
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). □
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.
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.
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 (1840–1902) 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.
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.
http://www.musee-orsay.fr; http://www.metmuseum.org; http://www.nga.gov