Term Paper: Edouard Manet

Pages: 6 (2166 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Topic: Art  (general)  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Edouard Manet was born on January 23, 1832 in Paris. His father was the head of a department of the French government and his mother was the goddaughter of the King of Sweden. Manet studied at the College Rollin in Paris, and encouraged by his uncle, knew he wanted to be an artist from a very young age. However, his father wanted him to be a lawyer, but he did not have the aptitude for it. His father forced him to join the Navy, and he spent eight months at sea as apprentice, but failed the naval entrance exam twice. His father finally relented, and Manet began to aggressively study art. He studied for about two years with successful artist Thomas Couture, and then struck out on his own with fellow artist and friend Count Albert de Balleroy. He also traveled heavily throughout Europe during this time studying art at the various museums (Bataille 3).

Manet's first famous artwork was "Boy with Cherries," a disturbing portrait of a young boy charged with cleaning his palettes and brushes in his studio. The boy hung himself in the studio, and Manet moved away from the troubled spot, leasing another studio in another area of Paris. His first paintings exhibited in the Salon in 1861 earned him critical praise, and he began to become better known throughout the Paris art scene. As he becomes more well-known, he begins to keep company with other artists living and working in Paris, including "Antonin Proust, Fantin-Latour, Fredric Bazille, James McNeill Whistler, Armand Silvestre, Renoir (from 1868 on), and occasionally Degas, Monet, Cezanne and Henner" (Bataille 9). In time, many of these artists will develop their own style of painting, which will develop into the Impressionist movement, in which nearly all these artists will participate (Bataille 8-9).

The public did not accept the Impressionists, and especially Manet, at first. Emile Zola, an art critic, wrote of Manet, "Our fathers laughed at Monsieur Courbet, and today we go into ecstasies over him. We laugh at Monsieur Manet; it will be our sons who go into ecstasies over his canvases'" (Bataille 10). When he praised Manet again, he was fired from his job as an art critic (Bataille 10), and this indicates how the public viewed his paintings. Many thought they were laughable, and many critics would not accept them for hanging in the Salon, the premier art exhibit held in Paris each year.

In 1867, Manet paid for an exhibit at the Paris World's Fair out of his own pocket to exhibit his works, and public ridicule was the result. A Manet biographer notes, "Feeling it was too fine an opportunity to pass up, they came to treat themselves and their families to a good laugh. Every self-respecting painter in Paris turned up at the Manet Exhibition. They all went wild with laughter... All the papers without exception followed their lead" (Bataille 10). However, Manet has the last laugh, because by 1871, he is charging between 5,000 and 25,000 francs for his paintings, and they are selling quite well (Bataille 11). By the 1870s, Manet has adopted the Impressionist manner of painting almost wholeheartedly, and his works begin to become increasingly popular with the public, and especially with critics.

Early in his career, he painted realistic works that often depicted religious subjects, but as he matured, he adopted the Impressionistic style and it seemed to suit his form of painting very well. He often painted scenes he witnessed during his travels, and he liked to paint himself, his family, and friends, as well. One critic wrote, "At any exhibition, even from many rooms away, there is only one painting that stands out from all the rest: it's a Manet every time. One is apt to laugh, for the effect is queer when a single thing differs from all the others'" (Bataille 17). However, after his death, his work came to be much more accepted and in demand.

Manet suffered from locomotor ataxy later in his life, and by 1883, he was bedridden without the use of his legs. One of his legs was amputated just 10 days before his death on April 30, 1883. He was only 51 years old, and had he lived, he certainly would have produced great volumes of additional works.

Music in the Tuileries" (also known as "Concert at the Tuileries").

This is one of Manet's first well-known works. He painted it in 1860 into 1861, and it illustrates a group of concertgoers listening to an outdoor concert in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Manet loved to paint people enjoying their leisure time, and this painting epitomizes that time. This oil on canvas painting seemed to be unfinished to many people who viewed it in 1861, and it help start the public derision of Manet's works that lasted for some time. Author Bataille writes, "[V]isitors took particular offense at Concert at the Tuileries. "One exasperated art-lover,' Zola later said, 'went so far as to threaten to take matters into his own hands if Concert at the Tuileries were not promptly removed from the gallery'" (Bataille 70). The painting depicts a large group of people, sitting and standing throughout the gardens, enjoying the music and the day. Children play, women gossip and fan themselves, and Manet placed several friends, family members, and even himself among the crowd. The forest is dark but not forbidding, and the women's costumes are bright and cheerful against the dark backdrop. It is difficult to see why people were so aghast at the painting, because today, it seems peaceful and serene, not at all controversial or unlikable.

Today, the painting hangs in the National Gallery in London, along with several others of his works. The colors in this painting are still vibrant, and his early style shows why Impressionism fit him well. He said he wanted his works to "show the contemporary scene its epic side and shows us, through line and color, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and patent-leather boots" (Bataille 31). He used this theme repeatedly in his works, and this painting truly encapsulates what he wanted to accomplish with his painting, and his unusual style that was so unique that it drew criticism. The brush strokes at times seem heavy and crude, and the dark forest seems a bit heavy for the light topic of the painting, but the details are especially delicate, like the wire chairs in the foreground, and the women's costumes, especially their hats and decorations on their clothing.

The painting is also an excellent depiction of Parisian society at the time. The people all dress richly and it is clear they are upper class, have leisure time, and enjoy the arts. Manet's painting is one of the first modern representations of real people doing real things, (Rainer and Rainer 370), which is one of the reasons people found it controversial, but it is also a leap toward the Impressionist movement that would follow the Realist movement. Another writer notes, "[We might rethink Manet's achievement as a certain 'raising the stakes' of a long tradition - doubtless as much as that achievement may continue to be discussed, in other regards, as a departure from precedent" (Galligan 140). Manet's work was certainly a departure from precedent, and the circle of artists he knew and associated with all supported that break from precedent. They all supported a new, lighter style of realist painting that would evolve into Impressionism, so Manet, with this work, really opened up a new world for many of the most prominent artists of the time.

At the time, the public wanted "high" art that depicted religious subjects or other important occasions, rather than this very real and pubic type of art, which is one reason so many people found it offensive (Rainer and Rainer 370). Therefore, this painting, with its seemingly crude brushstrokes and common topic, was offensive to many. The Rainers continue, "According to academic rules, objects from daily life had no place in a "proper" work of art - such things were "vulgar" (Rainer and Rainer 372). Manet broke those rules, and so did many of his contemporaries, which made their works difficult to sell at the time. Today, of course, Manet's works are some of the most known and loved of the early Impressionists, and this painting seems quite tame compared to many modern works that have come after.

The Luncheon on the Grass"

This is probably one of Manet's most well-known and controversial paintings. The model was a professional, "Victorine Meurent, who posed for Le dejeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia" (Waller), something Manet got away from as he gained notoriety. He did not like professional models, and would much rather have used natural, non-professionals, who seemed more natural and real to him (Waller). This is also an oil on canvas painting, and he painted it around 1863. The painting portrays a group enjoying a picnic in a dark forest, and it is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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