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Interesting facts about Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was a French modernist painter. He was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, as well as a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

Known as one of the most controversial artists in his time, Édouard Manet has risen above his detractors to prove his genuine talent that is worthy of emulation.

With several paintings that have inspired young artists during that era, he revealed how innovation is not always welcomed by the society, but it is one’s gateway to the future. Discover the man who have lived through numerous criticisms to bring himself at the pinnacle of is success.

Born in Paris on 23 January 1832, Manet’s family was a wealthy one of lawyers, civil servants, and landowners. Manet’s father, Auguste, was a high court judge while his mother, Eugénie Désirée Fournier, also had high connections.

In 1841 he enrolled at secondary school, the Collège Rollin. In 1845, at the advice of his uncle, Manet enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts and subsequent lifelong friend.

At his father’s suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro. After he twice failed the examination to join the Navy, his father relented to his wishes to pursue an art education. From 1850 to 1856, Manet studied under the academic painter Thomas Couture. In his spare time, Manet copied the Old Masters in the Louvre.

From 1853 to 1856, Manet visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he was influenced by the Dutch painter Frans Hals and the Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.

Back in France again, Manet persuaded his father that he could pursue a career as an artist, and he enrolled in the school of Thomas Couture in 1850. His father was reluctant, having wanted Edouard to study law, but he supported his son through his career, which meant Manet was not obliged to live off his art. Manet was an admirer of past masters like Diego Velázquez and the use of dark backgrounds, flat figures, and sharp opposites of light and shade. In 1853, Manet visited Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium to see the great artworks there. He was also impressed with the freedom Dutch and Italian contemporary artists had to paint everyday life. In the 1850s in Europe, Japanese prints became popular and their ‘flatness’, and unexpected cutting of scenes would inspire Manet and others.

Manet’s public career lasted from 1861, the year of his first participation in the Salon, until his death in 1883. His known extant works, as catalogued in 1975 by Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, comprise 430 oil paintings, 89 pastels, and more than 400 works on paper.

He became friends with the Impressionists Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, and Camille Pissarro, through another painter, Berthe Morisot, who was a member of the group and drew him into their activities. The grand niece of the painter Jean-Honore Fragonard, Morisot’s paintings first had been accepted in the Salon de Paris in 1864 and she continued to show in the salon for ten years.

He was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Monet and Morisot. Their influence is seen in Manet’s use of lighter colors, but he retained his distinctive use of black, uncharacteristic of Impressionist painting. He painted many outdoor (plein air) pieces, but always returned to what he considered the serious work of the studio.

His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and Olympia, both 1863, caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism.

During the Franco-German War (1870–71), Manet served as a staff lieutenant in the National Guard and witnessed the siege of Paris.

His last work was called A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, which was displayed at the Salon, in 1882. Prior to that year, he received a special award from the French Government, which was the Légion d’honneur. It was one of the highest form of recognition that he has received throughout his life.

Manet died of untreated syphilis and rheumatism, which he contracted in his forties. The disease caused him considerable pain and partial paralysis from locomotor ataxia in the years prior to his death.

The late Manet painting, Le Printemps (1881), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum for $65.1 million, setting a new auction record for Manet, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $25–35 million at Christie’s on 5 November 2014. The previous auction record was held by Self-Portrait With Palette which sold for $33.2 million at Sotheby’s on 22 June 2010.

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