Olympia
1863
"Olympia" - 1863 - Musée d'Orsay

DEBUSSY - The Evening in Grenade, from "Engravings"(1903)  
 
 

Edouard MANET was born in a wealthy family of magistrates on his father side and diplomats on his mother side. After having failed the entrance examination to the Naval College, he leaves France towards Rio in 1848 as a cadet on a training ship.

Back in France, his father authorizes him to devote himself to painting, towards which he had felt attracted since his childhood. He compels him to follow a solid formation at the School of Fine Arts in the Workshop of painter Thomas COUTURE, where he was to remain during six long years. Although he had suffered from Couture's method of teaching which required "ideal and impersonality", he will keep for him all his lifetime a certain respect.

"I paint what I see, and not what others like to see" Edouard MANET used to say to oppose to the academic doctrine, intending to assert his own subjectivity and the importance of the vision of the painter compared to the conventional rules.

 


Self-portrait with the palette
1879

Private Collection

Nevertheless, MANET would always grant a great value to the humanistic heritage of meaningful painting and to pictorial work on traditional themes, which, somewhere, makes him close to COROT, considered as representative of an eclectic and historical painting.

 

A CONTEMPORARY ACADEMIC PAINTING


The absinthe drinker
1858

Ny Carlsberg-Glyptotek,
Copenhague, Danemark

 

 

The early works of Manet are inspired by Dutch and especially Spanish Painting of the XVIIth century.

Manet who accomplished many travels in Europe to study the Old Masters was to be particularly influenced by the works of Dutch Frans Hals and Spanish Diego Velasquez and Francisco Jose de Goya .

His first submission to The Salon in 1859, "The absinthe drinker", with a spanish resonance then very fashionnable - Eugenie Empress was of Spanish origin -, was refused, in spite of the favourable opinion of Delacroix, for the main reason that MANET used a traditional pictorial configuration (full-lenght portrait) to represent a marginal and socially discredited person.

Thomas Couture was to condemn this painting by saying: "does anyone paint something so ugly? My poor friend, there is only one absinthe drinker here, and this is the painter who produced this insanity "...

Manet had found a mode of creation which will characterize the essence of his future production : to combine traditional pictorial configurations and their expressive values with contemporary reality. Thus, well before Impressionism itself, Manet poses the terms of the artistic polemic to come : individual revolt against academic rules, pictorial means put at the service of new contemporary subjects...

At the beginning of the 1860s, Manet, at the manner of a stroller, walks without respite through Paris which then changed from day to day, to detect the most subtle characteristics, transformations, drawing in his notebook "a detail, a profile, a hat, in a word a fugitive impression".

Manet was accepted at the The Salon of 1861 with another more accommodating painting in the spanish mode of the same style as "Lola de Valence " (1862).

 

EARLY BEGINNINGS of IMPRESSIONISM

 

On the other hand "Music at the Tuileries" (1862)", a painting resulting from one of the strollings of Manet, of light and open style, without centralizing composition, that he presented at a personal exhibition was negatively accepted, since contradicting the established necessity for a finished pictorial form.

One however can see in this painting, by its subject, its composition and its style, one of the ways of Impressionism which was going to appear a few years later.

 


The music at the Tuileries
1862

National Gallery, Londres

In 1863, he exhibits "The bath", which will be renamed as "Luncheon on the grass" (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), at the Salon des Refusés, a new place inaugurated by Napoleon III on the artists' request, to exhibit works that were rejected at the official Salon.



Luncheon on the grass
1863

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

 

This painting of Manet represents a scene of the Parisian bohemian life of little accordance with the puritan morals of that time : in a pastoral decoration, by a river, a young woman is shown naked after a bath, her clothes posed beside her, between two men in costume sitting for a picnic.

Here too, Manet transposes academic quotations in a contemporary scene with an extraordinarily fertile modernity, where many ones, at the time, only saw a lack of formal invention by the artist.

This painting immediately drew the attention of the public and was subject to sarcastic remarks. It will be violently attacked by critics, and be the cause of a particular scandal inside the general scandal caused by the Salon des Refusés.

Greeted by many young painters who admired him as an innovating painter conscious of his effects, Manet was, a bit against his will, at the center of an argument opposing the defenders of academic art to the "refused" artists .

Manet, who had an ambition of bourgeois success, will suffer all his life time that his painting, carried out by a great artistic intuition, would only deserve him sulfurous notoriety, but no official recognition.

 

By 1864, the official Salon accepted two of his paintings, and in 1865, he presented "Olympia" (1863, Musée d'Orsay, Paris), a nude inspired from "The Venus of Urbino" by Titien, which caused a scandal even bigger than "Luncheon on the grass".

There too, Manet, quoting classics, represents a woman who is supposed to be a divinity of the Renaissance referring to Antiquity, as the luxury Parisian girl who had posed for model (Victorine Meurent), with such a faithful realism and so little in accordance with the puritain ideology of Second Empire, that it raised waves of protest within the academic circles.

Manet who was aware to have accomplished something important shall keep this painting until his death, and Claude Monet, after Manet' death, will start a fund to prevent Manet' widow, then in financial difficulty, from selling " Olympia " to an american buyer. "Olympia" will enter the Louvre in 1893 .

 


 
Olympia
1863

Musée d'Orsay, Paris


THE LEADER OF THE NEW SCHOOL

From 1866, Emile Zola, who was going to become his friend, will defend Manet' cause in "the Event" as well as the new artistic school which he names "Naturalism".

During the second half of the 1860s, Manet became the most respected painter of a group of artists, writers and art lovers, who met at the "Café Guerbois", in the street of Batignolles. The painter Fantin-Latour, after his "Homage to Delacroix ", will paint "A workshop at the Batignolles " (1870) where Manet appears in turn as the venerated Master in front of a circle made of Zola, Astruc, Renoir, Monet and Bazille.

If the young painters who were going to be the core of Impressionism, Edgar Degas , Claude Monet , Auguste Renoir , Alfred Sisley , Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne , underwent the influence of Manet, those were in return to influence his art, making it more sensitive to light and color effects.

Manet was still to paint several masterpieces in this decade, such as "The fifre" (1866), "The reading" (1865-73), "The rest" (1870)

In 1874, the artist chooses not to take part to the first Impressionist show. He continued to exhibit regularly at the Salon where his notoriety did not cease to grow. Manet may be seen as a powerful inspirer rather than a strict representative of Impressionism, of which he would always remain distinct.

 

MANET SUPPORTS THE IMPRESSIONISTS

Manet whose convictions were republican engaged in the National Guard at the time of the war of 1870 and lived the Commune in Paris.

Under the influence of his pupils, Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzalès, and of his Impressionist friends, Manet was going to try out the painting of figures in natural light with paintings such as "The railroad, Gare Saint-Lazare" 1872-73 or "On the beach" 1873 .

In 1874, the artist chooses not to take part in the first Impressionist show. He will continue to regularly exhibit his works to the Salon where his notoriety will not cease growing .

During the summer of 1874, Manet will visit Monet and his family installed in Argenteuil opening himself to Impressionism while painting in the open air. He painted there "The Monet family at the garden", "Claude Monet and his wife in his floating studio", "Argenteuil" .

Manet was going from now on to adhere completely to Impressionism and to support Monet in particular, by buying his paintings which Monet sold off 100 francs at that time, or by tring to gain the art critic Wolff at Monet' art .

In 1877, Manet was again to cause criticisms with "Nana", a representation of a young woman, in underskirts and blouse, powdering herself in the presence of a man who awaits her, which will be refused at the Salon.


A bar at the Folies-Bergère
about 1881-82

Courtauld Institute Galleries
London

 

Manet will tardily gain some official recognition to which he had aspired : he will become in 1881 one "out of contest" of the Salon by obtaining a medal with "The portrait of Mr. Pertuisait" , and will be made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, on proposal of his friend A. Proust, who had become Minister for the Arts.

In 1882, he was present for the last time at the Salon with "A bar at the Folies-Bergères" (Courtauld Institute Galleries, London), one of his most brilliant and famous work.

 

He died in Paris on April 30, 1883, leaving an important work, including more than four hundred oil paints, many pastels and watercolours.


Chronology

1832

Born in Paris on January 23 in an well-to-do family of civil servants and officers. His father is a director at the Ministry for Justice.
Edouard receives a good education and grows in a refined atmosphere

1844

Enters the Rollin College. Meets Antonin Proust.

1848

Fails the entrance Examination to the Naval college, leaves to Rio on a training ship

1849

Remains in Rio , then goes back to Paris.

1850

Enters the Fine Arts School
Follows courses in the Workshop of Thomas Couture and makes copies at the Louvre.

1852

Has a son, Leon, of Suzanne Leenhoff , a Dutch piano teacher, whom he will marry only in 1863
Officially, hisr son Leon-Edouard Leenhoff, who will his model on many occasions, was introduced as the little brother of Suzanne and the godson of Manet

1853

Travels throughout Europe, to Holland, to Germany, to Italy, where he visits the great museums

1855

Meets Delacroix in his workshop within Notre-Dame.

1856

Leaves the Workshop of Couture to create to his own workshop
Visits Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

1857

Meets Fantin-Latour in the Louvre. Travels to Italy.

1858

Meets Charles Baudelaire .

1859

' The absinthe drinker' is refused at the The Salon.
Moves in a new workshop

1860

Moves in with Suzanne and Leon in an apartment at the Batignolles.
Becomes an accustomed member of the Café Guerbois.

1861

Exposes for the 1st time to The Salon with a "Portrait of Mr.et Mrs. Manet" and "The Spanish singer" which receives a honorable mention
Meets with Degas

1862

Death of Manet's father.
Manet paints "Musique at the Tuileries" and meets Victorine Meurent , who will be the model of the " Luncheon on the grass " and of "Olympia".

1863

Exposes " Luncheon on the grass " at the The Salon des Refusés.
Manet marries Suzanne in Holland

1864

Exposes "Corrrida scene" at the Salon.

1865

"Olympia" causes a scandal within the Salon.
Travels to Spain

1866

"The fifre" and "The tragic actor" are refused at the Salon.
Meets with Cézanne and Monet .

1867

Holds a major personal exhibition in margin of the "Universal Exhibition".
Paints the first version of "The execution of Maximilian Emperor" .

1868

Meets Berthe Morisot.
Paints the "Portrait of Emile Zola" .

1869

Eva Gonzales becomes his pupil and model.
Exposes "The balcony" at the Salon, but the final version of the "Execution of Maximilien Emperor" is refused

1870

Franco-Prussian War. Manet joins the National Guard.

1871

Is in Paris during the Commune of Paris.

1872 Travels to Holland

1873

"The Good Glass of bier" is exposed to the Salon.
Meets Stéphane Mallarmé .

1874

Declines the proposal to take part in the 1st exhibition of Impressionists.
His brother Eugene Manet marries Berthe Morisot.
Spends the summer painting with Monet in Argenteuil

1875

Exposes "The Seine at Argenteuil" at the Salon.
Travels To Venice.

1876

Paints "The Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé" .

1877

"Nana" is refused at the Salon.

1878

Paints "Autoportait with the cap" .

1880

"Portrait of Antonin Proust" is shown at the Salon.

1881

Antonin Proust becomes Minister for the Culture. Manet receives the "Legion of Honor"

1882

His health worsens.
"A Bar at the Folies-Bergères" is shown at the Salon.

1883

Amputation of his left leg on April 19. Dies on April 30

1893

Olympia enters the Louvre Museum