Edouard Manet Biography1832-1883
French Realist/Impressionist Painter
Édouard Manet was born in Paris. His mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte from whom the current Swedish monarchs are descended, and his father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge. His father wanted him to also pursue a career in law, but he wanted a career in the arts. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and often took young Manet to the Louvre.
From 1850 to 1856, after failing the examination to join the navy, Manet studied under academic painter Thomas Couture. In his spare time he copied the old masters in the Louvre. 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.
Manet, in imitation of the then current style of realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, painted everyday subjects like beggars, cafés, bullfights, and other events and scenery. He produced very few religious, mythological, or historical paintings.
Music in the Tuileries
Manet painted a picture of people he knew enjoying themselves in the Tuileries Gardens. Music in the Tuileries was a painting of the sort of lifestyle which he enjoyed; music, conversation, dancing and fun. While the picture has been regarded as not very well finished by some, the atmosphere created gives the viewer a sense of what it would be like in the Tuileries gardens at the time; the music which would be playing, the conversation and the sounds of glasses clinking. The senses are very much a part of this work. The work includes a self-portrait. The painting shows people he knew personally; artists, authors and musicians. He based the work on a series of sketches which he did when he visited the Tuileries gardens and did sketches of people relaxing and playing.
Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe)
One of Manet's best known early paintings 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 initiated The Salon des Refusés, after the Paris Salon rejected more than 4,000 paintings in 1863.) The painting's juxtaposition of dressed men and a nude women was controversial, as was its abbreviated sketch-like style — an innovation that distinguished Manet from Courbet. However, Manet's composition is derived from Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving The Judgment of Paris (c. 1510) after a drawing by Raphael.
Manet took respected works by Renaissance artists and updated them, a practice he also adopted in Olympia (1863), a nude portrayed in a style reminiscent of the early studio photographs, but which was based on Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538). The painting was seen as 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, she has a look of defiance as well. It also has a fully dressed servant next to her, the same effect of having a nude next to fully dressed people, as in Luncheon on the Grass.
Life and times
The roughly painted style and photographic lighting in these works was seen as specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance works Manet updated. His work is considered early modern because of its black outlining of figures that draws attention to the surface of the picture plane and the materiality of paint.
He became friends with the impressionists Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro in part through his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot, who was a member of the group. Eva Gonzalès was his only student.
Unlike the core impressionist group, Manet consistently believed that modern artists should seek to exhibit at the Paris Salon rather than abandon it. Though 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 of his disapproval of their opposition to the salon system. Nevertheless, when Manet was excluded from the International exhibition of 1867, he set up his own exhibition.
He was influenced by the impressionists, especially by Monet, and to an extent Morisot. Their impact is seen in Manet's use of lighter colors, but he retained his distinctive use of blocks of black, uncharacteristic of impressionist painting. He painted many outdoor (plein air) pieces, but always returned to what he considered serious work in the studio.
Throughout his life, though resisted by art critics, Manet had many champions. Émile Zola supported him publicly in the press, and Stéphane Mallarmé, as well as Charles Baudelaire, who had challenged him to depict life as it was. Manet, in turn, made many sketchings of them.
Manet's paintings of cafe scenes show the leisurely world of restaurants in Paris. People are depicted doing many activities such as drinking beer, listening to music, flirting, reading or waiting. He often visited the Brasserie Reichshoffen on boulevard de Rochechourt, and based on what he saw there, he painted At the Cafe in 1878. This painting shows several people at a bar, a woman looking towards the viewer while others wait to be served. He also painted typical views of what he would have seen upon going to one of these places, a crowded scene of people drinking, enjoying themselves, talking, having fun. They are painted in a style which is loose, yet captures the mood and feeling of a bar at night; crowded with many things happening.
In Corner of a Cafe Concert, Manet shows a person smoking while behind him a waitress is in the middle of serving drinks. In The Beer Drinkers a woman drinks from a glass at a table with another woman. In The Cafe Concert a more sophisticated looking gentleman sits at a bar while a waitress stands very confidently in the background sipping her drink. Many of these paintings he based on sketches which he did at the cafes. These paintings usually showed a happy party going atmosphere. In The Waitress, a waitress 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 often sat at the restaurant on the Avenue de Clichy called Pere Lathuille's, which had a garden as well as the eating area. One of the paintings he produced here was At Pere Lathuille's showing a man looking very interested in a woman sitting at a table at the restaurant who does not seem as interested in him as he is in her. He looks like he is getting too close and possibly annoying her, while she sits rigidly and disinterested.
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, from where he sits at the corner of a bar.
Paintings of social activities
Social activities were portrayed in works by Manet. In Masked ball at the Opera, Manet shows a crowd of people enjoying a party. Men stand with top hats and long black suits while talking to women with masks and costumes. It is a crowded atmosphere of an enjoyable activity. He included portraits of his friends in this picture.
Manet depicted other popular activities in his work, such as the races in Racing at Longchamp, which shows popular horse racing, where the excitement of the horses as they rush towards the viewer is shown. In Skating Manet shows a well dressed woman in the foreground, with people simply having fun skating in the background.
In View of the International Exhibition, Manet's painting shows soldiers relaxing seated and standing; several couples of well to do people talking; a gardener; a boy with a dog; a woman on horseback; a sample of all the classes and ages of the people of Paris.
Masked Ball at the Opera shows men with bow ties and black suits stand around chatting with fancifully dressed women with masks.
Manet depicted many scenes of the streets of Paris in his works. He did several paintings showing the streets when french flags were unfurled along the sides, and the horses and carts, and people walking past could be seen. The Rue Mosnier decked with flags, which is quite a blurry work, shows the red, white and blue flags all over the buildings on either side of the street. He did another painting of the same subject with the same title, showing a man with one leg walking by with crutches at the bottom left and flags all over. Again depicting the same street, but this time in a different context, is Rue Monsnier with Pavers, where he shows the men repairing the street while people and horses move past in the background.
He also painted a scene of a woman waiting for a train in Paris in The Railroad, where a woman who is the middle of reading a book looks up at the viewer momentarily, while a young girl stands looking at the nearby train with all its noise and smoke. It is an oil painting on canvas. It is currently displayed in Washington D.C. in the National Gallery of Art.
On holidays Manet painted his surroundings such as when he went to Bologne during the summer. On these trips he painted Departure of the Folkestone Boat which shows a crowd of well dressed people milling about in front of where they would watch the boat leave, or possibly wave to people they knew on the boat. The lady in the long white dress holding a dainty umbrella to the left of centre sums up this relaxed scene. He also painted Moonlight over Boulogne Harbour which is a darker painting at night time, which nevertheless shows the moonlight glistening off the water; a calm view of the serene harbour at night.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
He painted his last major work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère), in 1881–1882 and it hung in the Salon that year.
In 1875 a French edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven included lithographs by the Manet and translation by Mallarmé.
In 1881, with pressure from his friend Antonin Proust, the French government awarded Manet the Légion d'honneur.
Manet died of untreated syphilis, which caused much pain and partial paralysis from locomotor ataxia in his later years. His left foot was amputated because of gangrene 11 days before he died.
He died in Paris in 1883 and is buried in the city's Cimetière de Passy.
In 2000, one of his paintings sold for over $20 million.