Edouard Manet: Biography, Paintings & Facts

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

Learn about the innovative style of French painter, Edouard Manet, and his impact on early modern art. Explore his life story, artistic influences, and key works, and then test your own knowledge of this groundbreaking artist with a quiz.

Who Was Edouard Manet?

When studying art history, it's easy to get Manet and Monet confused. While many of us may be familiar with Claude Monet's water lily paintings, how many of us are familiar the subtle significance of Edouard Manet?

Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was a French painter who was active during the transition from realism to impressionism. Impressionism is a style of painting noted for its visible brush strokes. In the 1800s, Manet was one of the first artists to explore modern life; most of work consisted of café and Parisian street scenes, character studies, social activities, and war. Unique to his painting style were his free, rough brush strokes, naturalistic lighting, and the way he outlined the human figure in black.

Early Life and Influences

Edouard Manet came from a wealthy family. His father hoped he'd pursue a career in law or the French Navy. However, Manet's uncle encouraged him to follow his dreams, which led him to pursue his interest in painting.

Photograph of Edouard Manet by Nadar (1874)

Among Manet's early influences were Gustav Courbet, Francisco de Goya, Frans Hals, and Diego Velazquez. He was good friends with some of the major impressionistic artists, such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as Claude Monet. Under the influence of his friend and fellow artist, Berthe Morisot, he also experimented with 'plein air' painting, which means 'in the open air', or painting outdoors.

Manet actively participated in the French salon culture. He felt strongly about exhibiting at the Salon, an annual art exhibition sponsored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, rather than mounting solo exhibitions. Ironically, many of Manet's submissions were to the annual shows were rejected. When the Paris International Exhibition of 1867 failed to include him, Manet set up his own show in a temporary pavilion across the street.

Key Works

One of Manet's early works, Luncheon in the Grass (1863), was considered immodest and created controversy. He was also criticized for using a more modern approach to representation, instead of the classical perspective.

Luncheon in the Grass (1863)

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