Édouard Manet             

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Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was born in France in 1832. His father intended for him to have a naval career, but when he twice failed the entrance exam to the naval academy, he was permitted to pursue his love of art instead. He studied under Thomas Couture and copied the Old Masters in the Louvre. He became a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism, though he fell more into the Modernist school.

From 1853 to 1856, he traveled extensively through Europe, and was influenced by the works of Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya. In 1856 he opened his own studio. Many of his works were displayed in the Paris Salon. His early painting The Spanish Singer caused a sensation. Even though we might consider it very realistic, his brush strokes were looser and less meticulous than previously fashionable.

The Spanish Singer, Manet
The Spanish Singer, Manet

In 1862, Manet’s father, Auguste, died, and in 1863, he married Suzanne Leenhoff, a piano teacher who his father had hired to teach Édouard and his younger brother. (Suzanne was also likely the father’s mistress. She gave birth to a son, Leon, in 1852. Leon’s father may have been Auguste or even Édouard.) Both Suzanne and Leon modeled for Manet.

Boy Carrying a Sword, 1861, Manet
Boy Carrying a Sword, 1861, Manet. Leon Leenhoff was the model for this painting.

In 1863, The Luncheon on the Grass was rejected by the Salon; the portrayal of a nude woman dining with fully clothed men was deemed inappropriate (even though it was inspired by works of the Old Masters). However, the Salon des Refusés (started by Emperor Napoleon III as an option when the Paris Salon that year rejected 2,783 of the offered 5,000 works) was delighted to exhibit it.

Luncheon on the Grass, Manet
Luncheon on the Grass, Manet

In 1865 the Paris Salon accepted Manet’s Olympia, a nude based on Titian’s Venus of Urbino; but unlike Venus, Olympia is a prostitute, not a goddess. She caused quite a scandal at the Salon.

Edouard Manet - Olympia
Olympia, Manet

As controversial as these two early masterpieces were, they marked the start of modern art and also sparked the beginnings of the Impressionist movement.

Édouard Manet - Still Life, Lilac Bouquet, 1883
Still Life, Lilac Bouquet, 1883, Manet

Manet had many friends among the Impressionists, notably Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, and Berthe Morisot. Even so, he resisted placing his work in Impressionist exhibitions, partly because his style really wasn’t all that impressionistic, and also because he preferred the Paris Salon, which the Impressionists eschewed.

The Railway, 1873, Manet
The Railway, 1873, Manet

Manet was one of the first nineteenth century painters to paint scenes of daily contemporary life. He painted many portraits, some landscapes and still lives, military battles and political scenes. His work includes 430 oil paintings, 79 pastels, and 400 drawings and works on paper. He died in 1883.

Boating, Manet
Boating, Manet
Chez la pére Lathuille, 1879, Manet
Chez la pére Lathuille, 1879, Manet. I love the intimacy of this painting, the intensity of the man’s gaze. (I think the woman is Joan Kusack; the man may be John Belushi–just kidding!)
House in Rueil, 1882, Manet
House in Rueil, 1882, Manet
Young Flautist, 1866, Manet
Young Flautist, 1866. Do you think this fellow could also have been Leon?

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

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