Title page

MANET, Edouard
(b. 1832, Paris, d. 1883, Paris)

Biography

French painter and printmaker. He was the eldest son of Auguste Manet, a high-ranking city servant in the Ministère de la Justice, and Eugénie-Désirée Fournier, the daughter of a French diplomat posted to Stockholm. He intended to become a naval officer, and embarked for Rio de Janeiro aboard a trainee-ship. On his return to Le Havre he failed the entrance exam to the École Navale, and in 1850 he started a career in art in Paris. He studied with the French academic painter Thomas Couture.

In 1862 Manet met Victorine Meurent who became his mistress and favourite model. In 1863 he married Suzanne Leenhoff (1830-1906), who had given piano lessons fourteen years before for Manet and his brothers.

In 1861 he exhibits the Spanish Singer at the Salon and received a 'mention honorable.' In 1863, his Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe) and Mademoiselle V. in the Costume of an Espada were shown in the Salon des Refusés. The former 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, a supposedly suggestive painting of a nude courtesan, was shown in 1865. It was met by outrage and abuse from critics and public alike. Depressed by the reaction, Manet leaves for Spain, where he survives cholera during the epidemic. His interest in Spanish culture already had been apparent for years. He garbed his studio models in Andalusian costumes and outfitted them with Spanish props, often in fanciful ways.

In 1867 he organised a solo exhibition featuring 50 pictures in a specially built pavilion. In 1868 he painted the Portrait of Zola in gratitude for services rendered. The portrait was sent to the Salon. In 1869 The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian was refused by the Salon, and the lithograph was banned. In 1872 Manet's 14 paintings were exhibited at the Society of French Artists in London by Durand-Ruel. In 1873 Le Bon Bock had some success at the Salon where it was shown alongside Repose.

In 1875 he illustrated Mallarmé's French translation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". To please Mallarmé, he illustrated his poem "L'Après-midi d'un faune" with woodcuts. In 1876 he opened his studio to the public to present his pictures refused by the Salon. Among the visitors he met Méry Laurent, his future muse and model.

From 1880 Manet's health declined. His health made the completion of his last masterpiece, the Bar at the Folies-Bergère, an ordeal. On 20 April 1883 his left leg is amputated, and he died on 30 April and was buried at the Passy cemetery on 3 May.

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 was on good terms with many of his peers. His friends included Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir. In 1874 Manet, Monet, and Renoir painted together at Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris. In the same year Degas, Monet, and Morisot were among the artists who exhibited together as the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (the first Impressionist exhibition), but Manet declined invitations to participate in this or any of the seven subsequent exhibitions organized by the group.

Once classified as an Impressionist, he has subsequently been regarded as a Realist who influenced and was influenced by the Impressionist painters of the 1870s, though he never exhibited with them nor adopted fully their ideas and procedures. His painting is notable for its brilliant alla prima painterly technique; in both paintings and prints he introduced a new era of modern, urban subject-matter. In his relatively short career he evolved from an early style marked by dramatic light-dark contrasts and based on Spanish 17th-century painting to high-keyed, freely brushed compositions whose content bordered at times on Symbolism.



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