Likewise to Camille Pissarro and Frederic Bazille, Edouard Manet had also his fair share of fame and success in Impressionist painting. He was even recognized as one of the founding fathers of the said artistic movement which emerged in France during the mid-19th century. He was among the first painters to depict the modern life and common people in their art works that made Impressionism different from Realism.
Manet was raised by a noble family as a child but he grew up accustomed to bohemian life practices during his adulthood. He was one of those artists who expressed dismay against the state-run Salon for rejecting Impressionist works. At the time, he had a scandalous life for painting vulgar images of the Parisian life, ignoring the formal standards and genre hierarchy of the Salon. For Manet, he wanted to re-invent French art by updating the older genres with new techniques and content qualities. He had made his art look very unconventional which eventually led him to a scandalous life.
Nevertheless, Edouard Manet was such a great inspiration to his contemporaries. He pioneered alla prima, a technique in painting wherein Manet was able to apply the hue close to the final effect he wanted instead of applying various layers of colors until he got what he sought. The technique was widely used by Impressionist painters because it was meant to aid them when painting outdoor.
Eduaord Manet began his successful career stint around 1860’s and had spent most of his life in Paris. His major works include The Luncheon on the Grass (1863), Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets (1872), The Races at Longchamp (1864), and at A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882).
Edouard Monet was born on January 23, 1832 in Paris. He was raised in hotel pariculier, an ancestral house of his wealthy and influential family. His maternal grandfather was Charles Bernadotte, Swedish crown prince so that makes his mother Eugenie Desiree Fournier a direct descendant of a monarch. Meanwhile, his father was a jury named Auguste Manet who wanted the young Edouard to take up a law degree.
During his boyhood, Edmond Fournier introduced him to painting. His maternal uncle took him to the Louvre for a tour hoping to help Edouard pick up a source of inspiration. In 1841, he attended the College Rollin for his secondary education. Three years later, he took an elective class that would develop his drawing skills significantly. There he met Antonin Proust who became the country’s Minister of Fine Arts years later.
Edouard Manet crossed the Atlantic Ocean to get to Rio de Janeiro in 1848 as part of his naval training, which was demanded by his father. Unfortunately he failed the naval exams twice because he had little passion for it compared to his tremendous desire to pursue painting. So Manet entered the studio of Thomas Couture around 1850 and completed his apprenticeship by 1856.
During this period, Manet would have traveled to different countries in Europe such as Italy, Netherlands and Germany. He is said to be influenced by Frans Hals when he visited the Netherlands as well as the Old Spanish Masters Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez upon seeing their works in various art museums.
By 1856, Manet was independent enough to establish his own studio. He became quite popular in the small world of French painters for his freer brush strokes and simplicity. He initially adopted the dominating style at the time, which was realism. He found Gustave Courbet as a great source of inspiration most especially when he painted The Absinthe Drinker of 1858. Courbet was one of the few artists who had been known for using common people and scenes as subjects.
When he reached 29, Edouard Manet was given the chance to exhibit two of his paintings at the Salon of 1861. His painting The Spanish Singer was particularly well-received by the jury, however the salon’s seemingly positive appropriation of his work would not last long.
In 1863, the Salon rejected half of the works that had been submitted to them, including Manet’s paintings. This elicited a strong emotional reaction from the public and artists which led the incumbent Napoleon III to form Salon des Refuses, where rejected works could still be exhibited at a different gallery.
At Salon des Refuses, Manet submitted three paintings such as the infamous Dejeuner sur I’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass). The painting garnered such reputation because of the chosen subject: a nude woman accompanied by two well-dressed men having a picnic on the grass while the second near-naked woman dips in a stream. Manet clearly depicted a 19th century debauchery that the public was not ready to see. Many critics think that the controversial painting was an upgraded and modern-day version of Titian’s Concert champetre.
But the critics refused to recognize Manet’s critical take about his society at the time, and instead, attacked his painting style. In 1864, he tried to submit another batch of paintings to the Salon again only to be rejected. The critics found his Incident at a Bullfight rather vulgar and erroneous. There was also traces of blasphemy in his representation of Dead Christ and the Angels canvas. Manet thought to have idealized the figures by painting the dead body of Christ lacking any sense of divinity and the angels that looked like mortals physically.
For that, Manet remained a target of harsh criticism throughout the 1860’s. Another controversy that he faced was his nude painting of Olympia in 1865. This particular art work was his attempt at modernizing Titian’s Venus of Urbino but the fact that he hired a prostitute to model for him was made it all more controversial.
Edouard Manet was heavily criticized for his controversial and unconventional works. He could no longer take it that he opted to settle in Spain for a while in August 1865. In Spain, he believed that his unconventional views of society would be accepted because the 19th century Spanish people were more open-minded than his fellow countrymen. In fact, Goya painted a couple of female nude paintings but he was not ruthlessly attacked for it.
The Spanish culture had great influence on him as one could see in his The Spanish Singer, Young Man in the Costume of a Majo, and Mademoiselle V paintings. The model wore Andalusian-inspired costumes and adorned them with props, but more importantly, Manet was keen to paying homage to Goya and Velazquez.
In 1867, Manet was disbanded from the Exposition Universelle. This caused him anxiety after realizing that he will no longer have means to reaching out to this audience. What he did then was to build a pavilion in front of the Exposition Universelle’s entrance. There he would have been exhibiting his own paintings such as Young Lady of 1866 and A Matador.
Although he’s got some critics for himself for being so brutally honest and eccentric with his works, he has also gained some great friends such as Emile Zola who believed in the potential of The Luncheon of the Grass, saying it will be displayed at the Louvre (Salon) someday. Seven decades later, the Louvre Museum did hang the controversial painting as part of their collection.
Edouard Manet’s social life had been quite healthy. He was friends with Edgar Degas whom he met in 1859, fomented collaboration with Berthe Morisot who eventually became his sister-in-law, and he has met several Impressionist painters after going to the Café Guerbois. For these painters, Manet was an inspiration for his ambitious attempts in changing the French art landscape with his rather eccentric style.
Once, he believed that Claude Monet was making pastiches of his original works which he deemed as despicable. And so, the two painters confronted each other at the café to clear things up. Fortunately, things have fallen into place and they became great friends afterward. In fact, Manet painted a few paintings with Monet in it such The Monet Family and Boating.
During the 1870’s, the Impressionist painters had been practicing en-plein-air technique. Monet together with a small group of painters would paint outside of their studio somewhere in a suburb north of Paris. Together, they have observed nature and realized how they should depict light and color based on what they see.
At spring of 1874, Monet, Morisot, and Degas were selected to exhibit at Societe Anonyme des Artistes, Sculpteurs, and Graveurs. It was the first ever Impressionist exhibition and it was done by group, although it was the first and last time that Monet would exhibit his paintings there.
Toward the latter part of 1870’s, Edouard Manet was having bouts of illnesses such as syphilis, rheumatism, locomotor ataxia, and gangrene. He was then advised to recuperate at Bellevue in 1880, where he stayed in a vial near a suburb. There he executed a portrait of his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff. He painted her within a garden under the spring weather. Also around the time, the Salon awarded him the second-class medical for his Henri Rochefort portrait and after two seasons, he received the Chevalier of the Legion Honour title.
Edouard Manet painted until the last of his days. In 1883, he contracted gangrene to which he was going to have his left foot amputated. Eleven days after his operation, he died at his home in Paris. He was buried in Passy Cemetery, Paris.