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Artists Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet Photo

Édouard Manet

French Draftsman and Painter

Movements and Styles: Impressionism, Realism

Born: January 23, 1832 - Paris, France

Died: April 30, 1883 - Paris, France

Édouard Manet Timeline


"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."
Édouard Manet
"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another."
Édouard Manet
"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."
Édouard Manet
"No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else."
Édouard Manet
"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."
Édouard Manet
"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."
Édouard Manet

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

Édouard Manet Signature


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 17th century Spanish painting. This twin interest in Old Masters and contemporary Realism gave him the crucial foundation for his revolutionary approach.

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.


Édouard Manet Photo


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.

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Édouard Manet Biography Continues

Important Art by Édouard Manet

The below artworks are the most important by Édouard Manet - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1863)

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 - Musée d'Orsay

Olympia (1863)

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 - Musée d'Orsay

Alabama and Kearsage (c.1865)

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

More Édouard Manet Artwork and Analysis:

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1867-68) Boating (1874) A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-82)

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Édouard Manet
Interactive chart with Édouard Manet's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Thomas CoutureThomas Couture
Gustave CourbetGustave Courbet
Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix
Francisco GoyaFrancisco Goya

Personal Contacts

Charles BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire
Antonin ProustAntonin Proust
Henri Fantin-LatourHenri Fantin-Latour



Influences on Artist
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Years Worked: 1850 - 1883
Influenced by Artist


Claude MonetClaude Monet
Pierre-Auguste RenoirPierre-Auguste Renoir
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Berthe MorisotBerthe Morisot

Personal Contacts

Émile ZolaÉmile Zola
Stéphane MallarméStéphane Mallarmé
Theodore DuretTheodore Duret
Alfred StevensAlfred Stevens



Useful Resources on Édouard Manet





The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Édouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat Recomended resource

By Beth Archer Brombert

The Life and Works of Manet

By Nathaniel Harris


Manet's Modernism: or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s Recomended resource

By Michael Fried

Manet: A Visionary Impressionist

By Henri Lallemand

More Interesting Books about Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882)

Discussion and analysis of Manet's painting by SmartHistory

Édouard Manet: The Man Who Invented Modern Art

BBC documentary on Manet's life and work (not available online)

articles and reviews

The Naked Truth

By VR Main
The Guardian
October 2, 2008

Manet Finds Fodder in the French Debacle in Mexico

By Holland Cotter
The New York Times
November 3, 2006

Thoroughly Modern Manet Recomended resource

By Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
June 26, 2006

Impressionism, Born of the Sea

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
February 13, 2004

More Interesting Resources about Édouard Manet
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Ashley E. Remer

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Ashley E. Remer
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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