Edouard Manet Life and Art Periods

"I paint what I see and not what others like to see."

EDOUARD MANET SYNOPSIS

Édouard Manet was the most important and influential artist to have heeded poet Charles Baudelaire's call to artists to become painters of modern life. Manet had an upper-class upbringing, but also led a bohemian life, and was driven to scandalize the French Salon public with his disregard for academic conventions and his strikingly modern images of urban life. He has long been associated with the Impressionists; he was certainly an important influence on them and he learned much from them himself. However, in recent years critics have acknowledged that he also learned from the Realism and Naturalism of his French contemporaries, and even from seventeenth century Spanish painting. This twin interest in Old Masters and contemporary Realism gave him the crucial foundation for his revolutionary approach.

EDOUARD MANET KEY IDEAS

Manet's modernity lies above all in his eagerness to update older genres of painting by injecting new content or by altering the conventional elements. He did so with an acute sensitivity to historical tradition and contemporary reality. This was also undoubtedly the root cause of many of the scandals he provoked.
He is credited with popularizing the technique of alla prima painting. Rather than build up colors in layers, Manet would immediately lay down the hue that most closely matched the final effect he sought. The approach came to be used widely by the Impressionists, who found it perfectly suited to the pressures of capturing effects of light and atmosphere whilst painting outdoors.
His loose handling of paint, and his schematic rendering of volumes, led to areas of "flatness" in his pictures. In the artist's day, this flatness may have suggested popular posters or the artifice of painting - as opposed to its realism. Today, critics see this quality as the first example of "flatness" in modern art.
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EDOUARD MANET BIOGRAPHY

Childhood

Édouard Manet was born into an upper-middle class Parisian family. His father, August, was a dedicated, high-ranking civil servant and his mother, Eugenie, was the daughter of a diplomat. Along with his two younger brothers, Manet grew up in a bourgeois environment, both socially conservative and financially comfortable. A mediocre student at best, he enrolled at thirteen in a drawing class at The Rollin School.

Manet had a passion for art from an early age, but agreed to go to the Naval Academy to appease his father. When he failed the entrance exam, he joined the Merchant Marine to gain experience as a student pilot and voyaged to Rio de Janeiro in 1849. He returned to France the following year with a portfolio of drawings and paintings from his journey, and used it to prove his talent and passion to his father, who was skeptical of Manet's ambitions.

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Early Training

In 1849, Manet fell in love with his piano teacher, Suzanne Leenhoff. This affair resulted in a boy, Leon (b. 1852), who was passed off to Suzanne's family and, to avoid scandal, was introduced to society as Suzanne's younger brother and Manet's godson. The following year, Manet traveled to Italy, both for the art and for social distraction.

Édouard Manet Biography

Reluctantly, his father allowed Manet to pursue his artistic goals. In January 1850, true to his contrary nature, instead of going to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to learn what he considered outdated modes, Manet joined Thomas Couture's studio. While Couture was an academic painter, and a product of the Salon system, he encouraged his students to explore their own artistic expression, rather than directly adhere to the aesthetic demands of the days.

He trained under Couture for six years, finally leaving in 1856 and starting his own studio in the rue Lavoisier. His ability to set up his own space (although it was a joint endeavor with painter Albert de Balleroy) was entirely due to his financial security, which also enabled him to live his life and create art in his signature fashion. Becoming a flaneur of Parisian life and translating his observations onto his canvases came naturally for Manet. His financial security also enabled him to travel through Holland, Germany, and Austria, and to visit Italy on several occasions. In 1857, he met Henri Fantin-Latour while copying paintings at the Louvre; theirs would become an important lifelong friendship.

Many works were produced during this time, yet it was with The Absinthe Drinker (1858) that Manet broke from Couture's teachings and began to express his own style.

Mature Period

Friends with poet Charles Baudelaire and artist Gustave Courbet, Manet moved amongst other progressive thinkers who believed that art should represent modern life, not history or mythology. This was a tumultuous artistic shift that pitted the status quo of the Salon with avant-garde artists who suffered mightily at the hands of the conservative public and vicious critics. Manet was the focus of several of these controversies and the Salon of 1863 refused his paintings. Manet and others protested and the Emperor relented by putting all of the rejected works into the secondary Salon des Refuses, so the public could see what had been deemed unworthy.

Édouard Manet Photo

The shocking Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1863) drew the most criticism for a number of reasons. The Renaissance allusions did not make sense to viewers, but what they did understand was the shameless and realistically rendered nudity of a woman - likely a prostitute - staring at them from the canvas. Critiques included comments that the painting was "vulgar," "immodest," and "unartistic," comments that deeply distressed Manet and likely caused him a serious bout with depression.

Being included in the Salon des Refuses would have been upsetting for Manet's ego and personal reputation. His rebellious instincts encouraged him to want to change the system of exclusion under which the institutions - i.e. the Salon and Ecole des Beaux Arts - operated, but he did not want them eliminated. Firm in his upper-middle class background, Manet was embedded with certain ideals of achievement and he wished to be successful at the Salon - only on his terms, not theirs. The result was the creation of an unwitting revolutionary, and, arguably, the first modern artist.

More controversies continued in the following year when he produced Olympia (1863), which featured another nude of his favorite model, Victorine Meurent. Manet claimed to see the truth in her face, while painting her entire body for the world to see. This proved to be too confrontational and unacceptable to the Parisian public when viewed at the 1865 Salon. He wrote to an unsympathetic Baudelaire, "They are raining insults upon me, I've never been led such a dance."

After the death of Manet's father in 1862, he and Suzanne wed to legitimize their relationship, although their son Leon may never have known his true parentage. Manet's mother had likely helped the two conspire to keep the secret from Manet's father as he would not have tolerated the disgrace of an illegitimate child in the family. This would have been the end of Manet's artistic career before it even began. There has also been some speculation that Leon was actually Manet's father's child, but this is extremely unlikely.

In 1864, Manet lived on the rue des Batignolles, and from 1866 he began to hold court every Thursday at the Cafe Guerbois, with the likes of Henri Fantin-Latour, Edgar Degas, Emile Zola, Felix Felix Nadar, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and, by 1868, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. The meetings of what Zola termed "the Batignolles Group" were a mixture of personalities, attitudes, and classes; all joined together as independent-minded, avant-garde artists to forge the principles of their new artistic styles. With the assembling of such minds and talents on a regular basis, there was a great degree of mutual influence and such a mixing of ideas that they could all be said to have influenced one another. However, Manet was an early leader with his avant-garde realism, along with Monet and Renoir, who eventually emerged as leaders of what would be called Impressionism.

The Salon of 1866 refused his pieces The Fifer (1866) and The Tragic Actor (1866). In response, Manet held a public exhibition in his own studio. In support of this avant-garde move, Zola wrote an essay about Manet in L'Evenement, for which he was fired. The following year Manet was excluded from the Paris Exposition Universelle, and decided not to submit anything to the Salon and instead set up a tent near Courbet's to exhibit his work outside the Exposition, where he again was criticized soundly.

Having painted a troupe of Spanish performers in 1861, Manet had been interested in Spanish culture, and after visiting Spain in 1865 he was affected by the works of Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya. This was expressed both in his style and subject matter. As a staunch Republican, Manet was unhappy with Napoleon III's government. In the painting The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1867), which compositionally gave a nod to Goya, he implicated the French government in the tragic death of Maximilian in Mexico. This work was considered too politically controversial and its display was forbidden, even in his own tent.

Another important meeting was in 1868, when Henri Fantin-Latour introduced Manet to the Morisot sisters. Manet's relationship with Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot was fraught at best. He respected her as a painter, and even had her model for him on multiple occasions. While there was a mutual infatuation, a true affair was impossible. So to avoid any domestic disturbances, Morisot married Manet's younger brother Eugene. This effectively ended their personal relationship, as Morisot never sat for him again, but she never stopped being Manet's biggest advocate.

Édouard Manet Image

Fantin-Latour's A Studio at Batignolles (1870), which depicts a gathering of Monet, Zola, Bazille, and Renoir, among others, all admiring Manet as he paints in his own studio, demonstrates Manet's significance to the modern art world. However, while some of his friends, like Monet, went to London to escape the Franco-Prussian War, Manet joined the National Guard. The political events of the next few years forced Manet to stay out of Paris, returning only briefly during the Versailles repression. He was later forced to leave his destroyed studio and set up in the rue de Saint-Petersbourg in 1872.

While the public disliked his Bon Bock (1873), in the Salon of 1873, despite it receiving an honorable mention, several of his paintings were well received later that year, with fifteen works selling to one buyer alone. Yet Manet angered the Salon once again, in 1875, with his submission Argenteuil (1874), which showed a lighter palette and the influence of Monet's Impressionism. With Argentueil, Manet sent the Salon what was essentially a manifesto of the emerging style, intended for those who had not attended the group's seminal exhibition in 1874.

In 1876 the Salon rejected several of his works, so Manet responded by hosting another exhibition at his own studio, which drew over 4,000 visitors. And while many in the press claimed the Salon's rejection was unfair, he continued to be ostracized, with a subsequent denial coming in 1877. Refusing to submit to the 1878 Salon or to hold his own exhibition, Manet showed nothing that year and instead changed studios. Coincidently, that same year ill health began to affect his daily life.

Late Period

After taking some time away from Paris to aid his declining health, at the Salon of 1880 Manet was awarded a 2nd place medal, granting him a pass from future competition and the chance to become a permanent exhibitor at all future Salons. Among further accolades, Manet was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1881. Continuing his life as the flaneur, Manet recorded the modern changes in the streets of Paris and the lives of its inhabitants. The cafe concerts were a great symbol of these changes - a place where men and women from varying levels of society were able to mingle, enjoying company, drinks, and entertainment. Set in his favorite cafe concert, he created one of his most lauded works, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-82). This work, along with Spring (1881), was well received at the 1882 Salon.

Édouard Manet Portrait

Manet continued to paint portraits of women, still-lifes, landscapes, and flowers, even from his sickbed (he was unable to visit his studio in the last months of his life). Succumbing to a nervous disorder - most likely from tertiary syphilis - Manet died at only 51 years of age. In his will, he left his estate to Suzanne and obliged her to leave everything to Leon upon her death, which for all practical purposes confirms Leon as Édouard Manet's son and heir.

EDOUARD MANET LEGACY

After his death, Manet's wife and friends worked to secure his memory and legacy, through extraordinary sales of his paintings, acquisitions by the French government, and by publishing several biographies. Considered by many art historians to be the father of modern art, Manet's influence on art and the art world is immeasurable. While greatness and scandal characterized his professional life, his desire for respectability ultimately dictated his private life. In spite of his relatively short career, spanning a little over two decades, his works are held in most major international museums and galleries.

Original content written by Ashley E. Remer
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EDOUARD MANET QUOTES

"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real."

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another."

"A painter can say all he wants to with fruit or flowers or even clouds... You know, I should like to be the Saint Francis of still life."

"No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else."

"There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug."

"It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more."

Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet Influences

Interactive chart with Edouard Manet's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.

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Titian
Titian
Titian was the leading painter of the Venetian school in sixteenth century Italy, spanning a more than sixty-year career. His wide range of subject matter and deep interest in color has heavily influenced further developments in Western art.

Modern Art Information Titian
Thomas Couture
Thomas Couture
Thomas Couture was a French painter who found moderate success at the Salon before starting his own rival school. Best known for history and genre painting, he trained many students who went on to greatness, yet he never reconciled his academic side with his non-conformist ideals.

Modern Art Information Thomas Couture
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a French painter and chief figure in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. His paintings often contained an emotional bleakness, and were praised for their precision and use of light. Along with Delacroix, Courbet was a key influence on the Impressionists.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Gustave Courbet
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix was a mid-nineteenth-century French painter and pioneer of European Modernist painting. Known primarily as a Romantic, Delacroix's paintings were passionate in their depictions of love, war and human sensuality, earning the artist both praise and controversy in his time. His preoccupation with color-induced optical effects and use of expressive brushstrokes were crucial influences on Impressionism and Pointillism.

Modern Art Information Eugène Delacroix
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya was an eighteenth-century Spanish painter, and is considered by many to be "the father of modern painting." Informed by the Baroque style and the Classicists, Goya's art bridged the gap between Realism and Romanticism, but also contained provocative elements such as nudes, war, and allegories of death. He is considered a major influence on the works of Manet and Picasso.

Modern Art Information Francisco Goya
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet and art critic during the mid-nineteenth century. His poetry depicted the harsh realities of urban poverty in nineteenth-century Paris, and often focused on the flanuer (one who wanders the city to experience it). The Baudelarian idea of the flaneur is a lasting legacy of the modern era.

Modern Art Information Charles Baudelaire
Antonin Proust
Antonin Proust
Antonin Proust was a French anti-imperialist journalist and politician. Having earlier served as a war correspondent, he became the Minister of Fine Arts in Leon Gambetta's cabinet, where he assisted several of his friends, including Manet, with honors.

Modern Art Information Antonin Proust
Henri Fantin-Latour
Henri Fantin-Latour
Henri Fantin-Latour was an Academy painter at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was best known for his still-lifes and group portraits of his Parisian artist and writer friends.

Modern Art Information Henri Fantin-Latour
Classicism
Classicism
Classicism refers to the traditions, canons and aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome. In the arts, it is used to describe work created during the historic Classical era. It generally evokes the adherence to ideals rather than personal expression.

Modern Art Information Classicism
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism encompasses several distinct movements in the arts and architecture during the mid-1700s to the late 1800s that drew specifically on ancient Western cultures for inspiration. Looking back to the arts of Greece and Rome for ideal models and forms, both human and structural, Neo-Classicism was a category for literature and music as well as the visual arts. Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were the most iconic French Neo-Classic painters.

Modern Art Information Neo-Classicism
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was a nineteenth-century movement that celebrated the powers of emotion and intuition over rational analysis or classical ideals. Romantic artists emphasized awe, beauty, and the sublime in their works, which frequently charted the darker or chaotic sides of human life.

Modern Art Information Romanticism
Realism
Realism
Realism is an approach to art that stresses the naturalistic representation of things, the look of objects and figures in ordinary life. It emerged as a distinct movement in the mid-nineteenth century, in opposition to the idealistic, sometimes mythical subjects that were then popular, but it can be traced back to sixteenth-century Dutch art and forward into twentieth-century styles such as Social Realism.

Modern Art Information Realism
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a French artist who helped pioneer the painterly effects and emphasis on light, atmosphere, and plein air technique that became hallmarks of Impressionism. He is especially known for his series of haystacks and cathedrals at different times of day, and for his late Waterlilies.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Claude Monet
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the leading figures of French Impressionism during the late-nineteenth century. Renoir tended to favor outdoor scenes, gardens bathed in sunlight, and large gatherings of people. Known as a master of light, shadow and color, Renoir was also highly esteemed for his depiction of natural movement on the canvas. In terms of the French Impressionists' lasting popularity and fame, Renoir is perhaps second only to Monet.

Modern Art Information Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was a French Impressionist painter, printmaker and sculptor with an extraordinarily long career from the mid-nineteenth century until after WWI. As one of the original group of Impressionists, although he preferred to be called a Realist, he traveled widely and employed the use of photography in his creative process. He is most renowned for his painting and drawings of ballet dancers in rehearsal and performances in the theatre.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Edgar Degas
Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot came from a family with a long history of successful painters. She was the only woman painter accepted and respected by the Impressionist circle. Morisot served as a model for Manet, married his brother, and went on to have a solo exhibition herself.

Modern Art Information Berthe Morisot
Emile Zola
Emile Zola
Emile Zola was a nineteenth-century French novelist, playwright, essayist and political activist. He was also the self-proclaimed leader of literary French Naturalism. As one of the leading cultural figures in France, Zola was close with the likes of Manet and Cézanne, and was the favorite writer of Vincent van Gogh.

Modern Art Information Emile Zola
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé was a French Symbolist poet and critic in the late 1800s. Densely written, his poetry played with both the meaning and sound of words, making it difficult to translate. His work was greatly influential on the Dada and Surrealist movements.

Modern Art Information Stéphane Mallarmé
Theodore Duret
Theodore Duret
Theodore Duret was a French brandy merchant during the mid-nineteenth century. Able to visit Japan when it was closed to foreigners, he wrote several books about his travels. He was a staunch Republican and defender of the Impressionists.

Modern Art Information Theodore Duret
Alfred Stevens
Alfred Stevens
Alfred Stevens was a Belgian artist who went to Paris and studied at the Academy under Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. He found great success at both the Paris and Brussels International Exhibitions.

Modern Art Information Alfred Stevens
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Post-Impressionism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Symbolism
The French Salon
The French Salon
The Salon was a biannual Paris exhibition that, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, became the most important regular exhibition in Europe. Initially restricted to members of the French Academy, it was later opened up; however, it remained strongly associated with the Academy's conservatism, and this eventually encouraged artists to exhibit outside of its confines.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information The French Salon
Naturalism
Naturalism
As a distinct artistic medium, Naturalism began as far back as the Florentine School, with artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo, and still survives to the present day. The term is meant to be self-explanatory, referring to the artist's depiction of realistic objects and settings, and their naturalistic movement. A common theme in naturalist paintings is nature's predominance over humankind.

Modern Art Information Naturalism
Felix Nadar
Felix Nadar
Félix Nadar was the popular moniker of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, nineteenth-century French artist, photographer, balloonist and journalist. Nadar was a champion of the Impressionists, best known for his portrait photographs of the significant personalities of Parisian avant-garde.

Modern Art Information Felix Nadar
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter. Known as the "Father of Impressionism," he used his own painterly style to depict urban daily life, landscapes, and rural scenes.

Modern Art Information Camille Pissarro
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Paul Cézanne
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley was an English Impressionist landscape painter who spent much of his life working in France. As an enthusiast of plein air painting, Sisley was among the group of artists that included Monet, Renoir and Pissarro who dedicated themselves to capturing the transient effects of sunlight. He was a true Impressionist and committed landscape painter who never deviated from this style or subject into figurative work like many of his contemporaries.

Modern Art Information Alfred Sisley
Diego Velazquez
Diego Velazquez
Diego Velazquez was a Spanish artist, court painter for King Philip IV, and one of the leading figures in the Baroque period. Known as a master of detail and light, Velazquez's work has been a significant influence on generations of artists and movements, from Realism to Surrealism.

Modern Art Information Diego Velazquez
Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe
Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe

Title: Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1863)

Artwork Description & Analysis: As the primary talking point of the Salon des Refuses in 1863, it is fairly clear to see why this canvas shocked the bourgeois patrons and the Emperor himself. Manet's composition is influenced by the Renaissance artist Giorgione and by Raimondi's engraving of the Judgment of Paris after Raphael, but these influences are fractured by his disregard for perspective and his use of unnatural light sources. But it was the presence of an unidealized female nude, casually engaged with two fashionably dressed men, that was the focus of the most public outrage. Her gaze confronts the viewer on a sexual level, but through her Manet confronts the public as well, challenging its ethical and aesthetic boundaries.


Oil on canvas - Musee d'Orsay

Olympia
Olympia

Title: Olympia (1863)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Representing a lower-class prostitute, Manet's Olympia confronts the bourgeois viewer with a hidden, but well-known, reality. Purposefully provocative, it shocked the viewers of the 1865 Salon. Olympia's references to Titan's Venus of Urbino (1538) and Goya's Maja Desnuda (1799-1800) fit easily into the traditional "boudoir" genre, yet they culminate in a rather informal and individual portrait of a woman unashamed of her body. It is popularly thought that Olympia is a pictorial depiction of passages from Baudelaire's famous collection of poems called Les Fleurs du Mal (1857). For instance, Manet rather overtly includes a black cat, symbolizing heightened sexuality and prostitution - a characteristically Baudelarian symbol.


Oil on canvas - Musee d'Orsay

Alabama and Kearsage
Alabama and Kearsage

Title: Alabama and Kearsage (c.1865)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Since his days as a Merchant Marine, Manet was always fascinated with the sea. This unusual canvas was inspired by text and photographic accounts of the American Civil War battle which occurred off the coast of Cherbourg, where the Union ship Kearsage sank the Confederate ship Alabama. While there is nothing revolutionary in representing contemporary scenes of ocean battles, the traditional panoramic view is skewed by an elevated vantage point, as if the scene was recorded from the mast of an observing ship. The composition is rather flat with little gradation in color of the ocean to show distance, similar to a Japanese print.


Oil on canvas - Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian
The Execution of Emperor Maximilian

Title: The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1867-68)

Artwork Description & Analysis: France was shocked by the execution of Maximilian of Austria, Emperor of Mexico, on June 19, 1867. The politics behind Napoleon III's withdrawal of troops from Mexico also outraged the public. This canvas is clearly a nod to Goya's similar execution scene in The Third of May 1808 (1814). Manet was a devout Republican and was keenly influenced by political events, and here he sought to record contemporary events like a grand history painter, but with his own modern vision. However, the painting's subject matter was too sensitive to be exhibited at the time, especially with the overt implication of Napoleon III's culpability by dressing Maximilian in a sombrero and the soldiers in French uniforms. The Romantic spirit and muted tones create a distinctly somber, yet immediate scene.


Oil on canvas - Kunsthalle, Mannheim

Boating
Boating

Title: Boating (1874)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Manet painted many works based on his visits to Argenteuil where he and Renoir often visited Monet. The flatness of the background was created by filling its entirety with water, making the boat's shape the painting's only sense of space. Manet often took advantage of the light on the river Seine early in the morning, on his "floating studio" specifically built for this purpose. Evidence of the influence of his Impressionist friends can be seen in the quick, fluid brushstrokes of the woman's dress.


Oil on canvas - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Title: A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-82)

Artwork Description & Analysis: This melancholic cafe scene is undoubtedly Manet's last masterpiece. The Folies-Bergere was a popular cafe concert for a fashionable and diverse crowd. The lively bar scene is reflected in the mirror behind the central figure, the sad bar girl. Her beautiful, tired eyes avoid contact with the viewer - who also plays a double role as the customer in this scene. Much has been made of the faulty perspective from the reflection in the mirror, but this was evidently part of Manet's interest in artifice and reality. On the marble countertop is an exquisite still-life arrangement of identifiable bottles of beer and liquor, flowers, and mandarins, all of which anticipate the still lifes of his final two years of life.


Oil on canvas - The Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, 1863, Musee d'Orsay
Oil on canvas

As the primary talking point of the Salon des Refuses in 1863, it is fairly clear to see why this canvas shocked the bourgeois patrons and the Emperor himself. Manet's composition is influenced by the Renaissance artist Giorgione and by Raimondi's engraving of the Judgment of Paris after Raphael, but these influences are fractured by his disregard for perspective and his use of unnatural light sources. But it was the presence of an unidealized female nude, casually engaged with two fashionably dressed men, that was the focus of the most public outrage. Her gaze confronts the viewer on a sexual level, but through her Manet confronts the public as well, challenging its ethical and aesthetic boundaries.
Olympia

Olympia, 1863, Musee d'Orsay
Oil on canvas

Representing a lower-class prostitute, Manet's Olympia confronts the bourgeois viewer with a hidden, but well-known, reality. Purposefully provocative, it shocked the viewers of the 1865 Salon. Olympia's references to Titan's Venus of Urbino (1538) and Goya's Maja Desnuda (1799-1800) fit easily into the traditional "boudoir" genre, yet they culminate in a rather informal and individual portrait of a woman unashamed of her body. It is popularly thought that Olympia is a pictorial depiction of passages from Baudelaire's famous collection of poems called Les Fleurs du Mal (1857). For instance, Manet rather overtly includes a black cat, symbolizing heightened sexuality and prostitution - a characteristically Baudelarian symbol.
Alabama and Kearsage

Alabama and Kearsage, c.1865, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Oil on canvas

Since his days as a Merchant Marine, Manet was always fascinated with the sea. This unusual canvas was inspired by text and photographic accounts of the American Civil War battle which occurred off the coast of Cherbourg, where the Union ship Kearsage sank the Confederate ship Alabama. While there is nothing revolutionary in representing contemporary scenes of ocean battles, the traditional panoramic view is skewed by an elevated vantage point, as if the scene was recorded from the mast of an observing ship. The composition is rather flat with little gradation in color of the ocean to show distance, similar to a Japanese print.
The Execution of Emperor Maximilian

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, 1867-68, Kunsthalle, Mannheim
Oil on canvas

France was shocked by the execution of Maximilian of Austria, Emperor of Mexico, on June 19, 1867. The politics behind Napoleon III's withdrawal of troops from Mexico also outraged the public. This canvas is clearly a nod to Goya's similar execution scene in The Third of May 1808 (1814). Manet was a devout Republican and was keenly influenced by political events, and here he sought to record contemporary events like a grand history painter, but with his own modern vision. However, the painting's subject matter was too sensitive to be exhibited at the time, especially with the overt implication of Napoleon III's culpability by dressing Maximilian in a sombrero and the soldiers in French uniforms. The Romantic spirit and muted tones create a distinctly somber, yet immediate scene.
Boating

Boating, 1874, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Oil on canvas

Manet painted many works based on his visits to Argenteuil where he and Renoir often visited Monet. The flatness of the background was created by filling its entirety with water, making the boat's shape the painting's only sense of space. Manet often took advantage of the light on the river Seine early in the morning, on his "floating studio" specifically built for this purpose. Evidence of the influence of his Impressionist friends can be seen in the quick, fluid brushstrokes of the woman's dress.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, 1881-82, The Courtauld Institute Galleries, London
Oil on canvas

This melancholic cafe scene is undoubtedly Manet's last masterpiece. The Folies-Bergere was a popular cafe concert for a fashionable and diverse crowd. The lively bar scene is reflected in the mirror behind the central figure, the sad bar girl. Her beautiful, tired eyes avoid contact with the viewer - who also plays a double role as the customer in this scene. Much has been made of the faulty perspective from the reflection in the mirror, but this was evidently part of Manet's interest in artifice and reality. On the marble countertop is an exquisite still-life arrangement of identifiable bottles of beer and liquor, flowers, and mandarins, all of which anticipate the still lifes of his final two years of life.
Bibliography
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggests some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.