Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Édouard Manet - part 1


Édouard Manet in 1846c
Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) was a French painter. He was one of the first 19th century artists to paint modern life, and was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterworks “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” (The luncheon on the Grass) and “Olympia”, both painted in 1863, caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

Born in Paris in 1832, he was the son of Auguste Manet, a high-ranking judge, and Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, the daughter of a diplomat and the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince. Affluent and well connected, the couple hoped their son would choose a respectable career, preferably law. Édouard refused, and wanted to create art.

Manet’s uncle, Edmond Fournier, supported his early interests and arranged frequent trios for him to the Louvre. His father, ever fearful that his family’s prestige would be tarnished, continued to present Manet with more “appropriate” options. In 1848 Manet boarded a Navy vessel headed for Brazil; his father hoped he might take to a seafaring life. Manet returned in 1849 and promptly failed his naval examinations. He repeatedly failed over the course of a decade, so his parents finally gave in and supported his dream of attending art school.

At age 18 Manet began studying under Thomas Couture, learning the basics of drawing and painting. For several years Manet would steal away to the Louvre and sit for hours copying the works of the old masters. Between 1853 and 1856 he travelled through Italy, Germany and Holland to take in the brilliance of several admired painters; notably Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya.

After six years as a student Manet finally opened his own studio. His painting “The Absinthe Drinker” is a fine example of his early attempts at realism, the most popular style of the day. Despite his success with realism, Manet began to entertain a looser, more impressionistic style. Using broad brushstrokes, he chose as his subjects everyday people engaged in everyday tasks. His canvases were populated with singers, street people, gypsies and beggars. This unconventional focus combined with a mature knowledge of the old masters startled some and impressed others.

For his painting “Concert in the Tuileries Gardens,” Manet set up his easel in the open air and stood for hours while he composed a fashionable crowd of city dwellers. When he showed the painting, some thought it unfinished, while others understood what he was trying to convey. (See below in this post)

Perhaps his most famous painting “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe,” which he completed and exhibited in 1863. The scene of two young men dressed and sitting beside a female nude alarmed several of the jury members making selections for the annual Paris Salon, the official exhibition hosted by the Académie des beaux-Arts in Paris. Due to its perceived indecency, they refused to show it. Manet was not alone, as more than 4000 works were denied entry that year. In response Napoleon III established the Salon des Refusés to exhibit some of those rejected works, including Manet’s submission.

1863 Le déjeuner sur l'herbe [Luncheon on the Grass] oil on canvas 208 x 264.5 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay)

During this time he married Suzanne Leenhoff, a Dutch woman. She had been Manet’s piano tutor when he was a child. By the time they officially married, they had been involved for nearly ten years and had an infant (step)son named Leon Keoella Leenhoff. The boy posed for his father for the 1861 painting “Boy Carrying a Sword” (see in this post below). Suzanne was the model for several paintings, including “The Reading” (1865–73).

1865-73c The Reading 61 x 74.3 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Trying once again to gain acceptance into the Salon, Manet submitted “Olympia” in 1865. This striking portrait, inspired by Titian’s “Venus of Urbino,” shows a lounging nude beauty unabashedly staring at her viewers. The Salon jury members were not impressed – they deemed it scandalous, as did the general public. Manet’s contemporaries on the other hand began to think of him as a hero, willing to break the mould. In hindsight, he was ringing in a new style and leading the transition to Impressionism. Within 42 years “Olympia” would be installed in the Louvre museum.

1863 Olympia oil on canvas 130 x 190 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay)

After this unsuccessful attempt with the Salon, Manet travelled to Spain, during which time he painted a number of Spanish subjects. In 1866 he met and befriended the novelist Emile Zola, who in 1867 wrote a glowing article about Manet in the French newspaper Le Figaro. He pointed out that almost all significant artists start by offending the current public sensibilities. This review impressed the art critic Louis-Edmond Duranty, who began to support Manet as well. Painters like Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas and Monet became his friends.

Some of Manet’s best-loved works are his café scenes. His completed paintings were often based on small sketches he made whilst out socialising. These works, such as “At the Café”  and “The Café Concert” (both 1878) typically depict 19th century Parisian culture. Unlike conventional painters of his time, he strove to illuminate the rituals of both common and bourgeoisie French people.

1878 The Cafe-Concert oil on canvas 47.3 x 39 cm Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

In stark contrast to his café scenes, Manet also painted the tradegies and triumphs of war. In 1870 he served as a soldier during the Franco-German War and observed the destruction of Paris. His studio was partially destroyed during the siege of Paris, but to his delight, the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel bought everything he could salvage from the wreckage for 50,000 francs.

In 1874 Manet was invited to show at the very first exhibition put on by Impressionist artists. However supportive he was of the general movement, he turned them down, as well as seven other invitations. He felt it was necessary to remain devoted to the Salon and its place in the art world. In 1875, a year after the first Impressionist exhibition he was offered the opportunity to illustrate Edgar Allen Poe’s book-length French edition of “The Raven.”

1875 Portfolio cover and text for The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In 1881 the French government awarded him the Legion d’honneur. He died two years later in April 1883.
Biography adapted from: Edouard Manet. (2015). The Biography.com

This is part 1 of a 9 – part post on the works of Édouard Manet:


1849 Pierrot Dancing ink on paper 26.7 x 20.4 cm Private Collection

1852-58 Man Wearing a Cloak (recto) charcoal on wove paper 40.6 x 22.5 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1852-58 Man Wearing a Cloak (verso) charcoal on wove paper 40.6 x 22.5 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington DC


1855-59c The Barque of Dante
There are two versions by Manet of Delacroix’s painting of 1822 (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The more literal copy dates from around 1855, when the original was on view at the Exposition Universelle. The other freely executed study is thought to date from around 1859, the year of Manet’s first Salon submission.

Eugène Delacroix 1822 The Barque of Dante oil on canvas 189 x 246 cm Louvre, Paris

1855c The Barque of Dante (after Delacroix) oil on canvas 38.1 x 45.7 cm

1859c The Barque of Dante oil on canvas 33 x 41 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1856c Portrait of a Young Man pastel on paper 35.6 x 28.6 cm Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Photo ©2015, Detroit Institute of Arts

1856c The Anatomy Lesson (after Rembrandt) 24.9 x 39.2 cm Private Collection

1856c The Anatomy Lesson (after Rembrandt) 24.9 x 39.2 cm Private Collection

1858 A Woman Pouring Water (Study of Suzanne Leenhoff) oil on canvas 56 x 47 cm Ordrupgaard Collection, Copenhagen

1859 Study of Trees oil on canvas Private Collection

1859 The Absinthe Drinker oil on canvas 180.5 x 105.6 cm Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

1862 The Absinthe Drinker etching and plate tone on ivory laid paper 24.8 x 14.5 cm (image) Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1859 The Boy with Cherries oil on canvas Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon

1859-60c The Little Cavaliers (after an attributed Velazquez watercolour) oil on canvas 47 x 78 cm Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA

1861-62 The Little Cavaliers etching and drypoint on blue laid paper from the Strölin edition of 1905 25.1 x 38.9 cm

1859-61 The Surprised Nymph oil on canvas 146 x 114.3 cm Museu Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires

1860 Portrait of a Man oil on canvas 62 x 50 cm Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands

1860 Portrait of Monsieur and Madame Auguste Manet oil on canvas 110 x 90 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

1860 The Spanish Singer oil on canvas 147.3 x 114.3 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861-62 The Spanish Singer etching on blue laid paper 29.5 x 24.3 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1860-61 Boy Carrying a Tray watercolour and gouache over graphite on paper 8.4 x 4.5 cm The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

1862 Child Carrying a Tray etching and aquatint Cleveland Museum of Art, OH

1860c Scene in a Spanish Studio oil on canvas 45.7 x 38.1 cm Private Collection

1861 A Boy with a Dog oil on canvas 92.1 x 71.8 cm Private Collection

1862 Boy and Dog etching and aquatint on blue laid paper from the Strölin edition of 1905 20.3 x 14.1 cm (plate) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861 A Cat Curled Up, Sleeping graphite on ivory-coloured paper 11.7 x 10.8 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861 A Cat Resting on All Fours, Seen from Behind graphite on ivory-coloured paper 9.5 x 12.2 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861 Boy with a Sword
This is a portrait of Manet’s stepson Leon, dressed in a 17th Century costume and carrying a sword as a prop. It is a tribute to the great Spanish painters of that century and notably, Velazquez, whom Manet admired so much.

1861 Boy with a Sword oil on canvas 131.1 x 93.4 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Boy with a Sword, Turned Left etching and aquatint on laid paper 32 x 23.8 cm (plate) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861-62 The Reader oil on canvas 99.7 x 81.3 cm Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri

1861-62 The Reader etching


1861-62 The Little Girl etching and drypoint on blue laid paper from the Strölin edition of 1905 20.6 x 11.6 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861-62 The Toilette etching with roulette and bitten tone on blue laid paper from the Strölin edition of 1905 28.4 x 22.2 cm (plate) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1861-63 reworked by 1867 Portrait of Madame Brunet oil on canvas 132.4 x 100 cm J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA

1862 Boy and Dog etching and aquatint on blue laid paper from the Strölin edition of 1905 20.3 x 14.1 cm (plate) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Concert in the Tuileries Gardens (aka Music in the Tuileries Gardens) oil on canvas 76.2 x 118.1 cm The National Gallery, London

1862 Don Mariano Camprubi (Le Bailarin) etching 30.2 x 19.6 cm (plate) National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1862 Hat and Guitar. Cover design for "Eaux-fortes par Edouard Manet," an album of fourteen etchings. etching, drypoint, and aquatint; final state on blue laid paper 22.9 x 21.6 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Lola de Valence oil on canvas 123 x 92 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris

1862 Mademoiselle Victorine in the Costume of an Espada oil on canvas 165.1 x 127.6 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Mademoiselle Victorine in the Costume of an "Espada" etching, aquatint, and bitten tone on laid paper 33.7 x 27.9 cm (plate) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Oysters oil on canvas 39.2 x 46.8 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1862 Phillip IV King of Spain (after Velazquez) etching, drypoint and retroussage inking in bistre on China paper 31.9 x 20.2 cm (image) Art Institute of Chicago, IL

Velazquez 1632-33c Phillip IV King of Spain oil on canvas 126 x 191 cm Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

1862 Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, in Profile etching on laid paper 13.3 x 7.6 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1862 Spanish Ballet oil on canvas 24 x 35.6 cm The Phillips Collection, Washington DC


1 comment:

  1. I must be the only art historian on the planet to dislike Luncheon On The Grass and to absolutely love both The Reading and The Cafe Concert. Partially because of the content, but also because the first is distant from true Impressionism, whilst the second and third are very close.

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