Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
Born: January 23, 1832
Biography of Édouard Manet
Manet’s well to do bourgeois father reluctantly allowed him to study under Couture (1850-56). He then reacted very strongly against the academic history painting of his teacher and began his career as an artistic rebel with the Absinthe Drinker, a scene from the seamier side of life. His brilliant technique, founded on the opposition of light and shadow with as little half tone as possible, on painting directly from the model with the intense immediacy, and on a restricted palette in which black was extremely important, helped him to create a new style; yet one founded on Velazquez, Goya, and Hals, all of whom could be studied in Paris.
His work was frequently rejected by the Salon jury (he played an important part in the 1863 Salon des Refuses) and, if hung, was ill-received by critics, his friend Emile Zola almost alone in defending him. After 1870, due partly to the influence of Berthe Morisot, he adopted the Impressionist technique and palette, abandoning the use of black and his genius for analysis and synthesis for a lighter, sweeter, color and freer handling. He also tended more to sentimental subjects. He always longed for official recognition and refused to take part in the Impressionist exhibitions organized by Degas. Although he was friendly with Monet, Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro he bitterly resented being coupled with them in newspaper criticisms as the leader of “Manet’s gang”. At the end of his life he was given the Legion of Honour and the vilification of his works abated, chiefly because Impressionist handling and color were beginning to affect academic painting. The tragedy of his life was that he was the perfect academic painter, unrecognized and rejected by the body whose dying traditions he alone could have revived.