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edouard manet
(1832 - 1883)

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"Black is not a colour."
- Edouard Manet


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manet


    biography

    Édouard Manet (January 23, 1832 - April 30, 1883) was a noted French painter. One of the first nineteenth-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, his works bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism.

    Edouard Manet was born in Paris, France; his mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the goddaughter of a Swedish prince, and his father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge. He wanted Édouard to also pursue a career in law, but Édouard wanted a career in the arts. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting seriously; he often took young Édouard to exhibitions at the Louvre.

    From 1850 to 1856, after failing his naval examinations, Manet went to study under academic painter Thomas Couture. He would copy the Old Masters in the Louvre in his spare time. He spent some time visiting Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, during which he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals and the Spanish artists Diego Velasquez and Francisco José de Goya.

    Manet, in imitation of the current style of Realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, painted many everyday subjects like beggars, cafés, bullfights, and other events and scenery. He produced very few religious, mythological, or historical paintings.

    One of Manet's most famous paintings at this time is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Lunch on the Grass), originally exhibited as Le Bain (The Bath). The Salon refused to exhibit it in 1863 but he exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Refused Works) later in the year. Its juxtaposition of dressed men and a nude woman was controversial, as was its abbreviated sketch-like style - an innovation that distinguished Manet from Courbet. However, Manet's composition derived from Raphael's Judgement of Paris and Giorgione's Concert Champetre, both of which included naked women beside fully dressed men. Manet was taking respected works by Renaissance artists and updating them, a practice he had also adopted in Olympia, a nude portrayed in a style that recalled the early studio photographs of the day, but which was based on Titian's Venus of Urbino. The foreground nude is Victorine Meurent, Manet's favourite model. The two men are one of Manet's brothers and Rodolphe Leenhoff, Manet's future brother-in-law.

    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. Manet consistently believed that modern artists should seek to exhibit at the Salon rather than abandon it. 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. His own work had influenced and anticipated the Impressionist style. However, Manet 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.

    However, he was influenced by the Impressionists, especially by Monet, and to an extent Morisot. Manet was influenced to use lighter colors. Nevertheless he retained his distinctive use of blocks of black, uncharacteristic of other Impressionists. He painted many plein air studies - paintings created outdoors - but always returned to what he considered serious work in the studio.

    Throughout his life, though resisted by art critics, Manet had many champions. He knew Zola, who supported him publicly in the press, and Mallarmé, as well as Baudelaire, who had challenged him to depict life as it was. He in turn made many sketchings of them.

    In 1881, under pressure from his friend Antonin Proust, Édouard Manet was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government. His last major work, Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère (A Bar at the Folies-Bergère), was painted in 1881-2. It was exhibited at the Salon that same year.

    Manet died of untreated syphilis, which caused him much pain and partial paralysis from locomotor ataxia in his late days. His left foot was amputated because of gangrene eleven days before he died.

    He died in Paris in 1883 and is buried in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris, France.

    In recent years, the price for his works exceeded US $26 million.

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    biography | books | prints
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