Edouard Manet was born in Paris on 23 January 1832. His mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the daughter of a diplomat and the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte, and his father, Auguste Manet,was the chief of personnel at the French Ministry of Justice. Although his father wanted him to enroll in law school, Édouard could not be persuaded to do so. It was only after he failed the entrance examination for the naval academy twice that his parents allowed him to study to become a painter.
In 1850 Manet entered the studio of the classical painter Thomas Couture. From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velazquez and Francisco Jose de Goya. In 1856 he made short trips to The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. Meanwhile, at the Louvre he copied paintings by Titian and Diego Velázquez.
Manet was heavily criticized in his day for rejecting the traditionalism that was prevalent in Paris at the time, and opted for 'naturalism'. He disregarded traditional modeling and perspective, and instead painted his subjects the way that he saw them: "There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see
In 1865 the jury of the Salon rejected his Déjeuner sur l'herbe- The Luncheon on the Grass, a work whose technique was entirely revolutionary, and so Manet instead exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Refused), an exhibition place for works rejected by the Salon. Critics were offended by the presence of a naked woman in the company of two clothed young men; rather than seeming a remote allegorical figure, the woman's modernity made her nudity seem vulgar . Critics were also upset by how these figures were depicted in a harsh, impersonal light and placed in a woodland setting whose perspective was 'unrealistic'. Scholars also cite two works as important precedents for Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, Pastoral Concert, 1508, and The Tempest, Renaissance paintings attributed to Italian masters Giorgione or Titian (circa 1508).
At the Salon of 1865, his painting Olympia caused a scandal.. With the painting he again borrowed from Titian, this time from Venus of Urbino, 1538 which showed Venus in a similar pose.Everything about the painting countered modern standards, especially its rejection of modesty and expression of sexual rebellion: the self-assured pose of the nude, her confrontational gaze, and thin body. In addition, Manet bathed his Venus in a harsh, brilliant light, making her seem two-dimensional and less idealized.
I chose Manet because he was the precursor to the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, whose works I personally enjoy. His daring depiction of everyday Parisians, especially his social commentary on women and prostitutes, exposed many to the realities of French society which had been so easy to ignore and sweep under the carpet before. Also, his techniques broke the traditional painting style and developed free expression, paving the way for so many more artists to gain acceptance after Manet.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia.
The Impressionists and Edouard Manet- Stephen Mallarme: