By Paul Dunwell, writing for EasyFrame
© Copyright EasyFrame 2020
This article is about the innovative French painter and printmaker (1832–83), a 'modernist' who is sometimes credited with being not only the father of modernism but one of the artists (if not the artist) whose work initiated the transition from realism to impressionism.
Manet was famous for working quickly and roughly, banging on the paint in a slapdash way and often finishing a work in a single sitting. This was at odds with the traditional way of painstakingly building up layers of oils, so his results looked a little flat in comparison. If you look carefully you'll see he also put black outlines on figures which doesn't accord with observed reality. Moreover Manet's approach wasn't everyone's cup of tea so it was commercially risky, though he came from a privileged background and didn't really have to pander to the public in order to sell work and keep the wolf from the door. Despite this he did achieve recognition within his relatively-short lifetime.
Manet should not be confused with Monet, though this often happens. They were both born in Paris and were not only contemporaries but friends who had both very similar skillsets and approaches to art. Yet Claude Monet was born 8 years later and lived to be much older, which explains why he left a more expansive legacy. Moreover he was the one whose painting 'Soleil Levant' (or 'Impression of Sunrise') gave the impressionist movement its name.
Manet was born in an ancestral mansion to an affluent and politically-well-connected family. His mum Eugénie-Desirée Fournier was related to Swedish royalty and his dad Auguste Manet was a judge who expected his son to be a lawyer. But young Manet's uncle, Edmond Fournier, had other ideas and took the lad around the Louvre then later enrolled him on a drawing course where he met a future Minister of Fine Arts who became his lifelong friend.
Manet senior, despairing that his son was not going to go into the law, then tried to bounce him into the navy. But young Manet fluffed the entry exam twice, at which point dad seems to have thrown in the towel and let Édouard (now 18) study under the academic painter Thomas Couture for six years. A keen student, in his spare time Manet copied works in the Louvre. During the second half of that apprenticeship, so from 1853 to 1856, he visited Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. And the key formative influences became the Dutchman Hals as well as the Spaniards Goya and Velázquez. By the time Manet was 24 he was ready to open his own studio. He then went on to form friendships with Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Cézanne, Morisot, Corot, Pissarro and Degas.
Manet's privileged upbringing might explain his transition from traditional, religious and classical early works to a preoccupation with bars, beggars and bullfights, gypsies and good-time girls, absinthe and asparagus, and cafés, chanteurs and chanteuses. But he was also interested in war. And what might be considered as voyeurism though, to be fair, it was a bit tame by modern standards.
Manet was increasingly to paint subjects that illustrated a taste for hedonism that was sadly to cut his life short. Works such as 'The Spanish Singer', The Absinthe Drinker' and 'Music in the Tuileries' all demonstrate this.
'The Luncheon on the Grass' (or 'Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe' but originally called 'The Bath' or 'Le Bain') was rejected for exhibition by the influential Paris Salon in 1863. But this refusal allowed it to be shown at the alternative exhibition at the Salon des Refusés (or Salon of the Rejected) in the Palais des Champs-Elysée and was an endorsement of sorts. Napoleon III had dreamt up this alternative to encourage the majority of artists whose work was turned down by the selection committee.
Yet, stung by the criticism, most rejected artists didn't avail themselves of the opportunity. But Manet was one of those who knew better.
He hired a model and got her to pose with his wife Suzanne, his future brother-in-law Ferdinand Leenhoff and one of his brothers. As fully-dressed males accompanying a naked female they mimicked a piece originally by Raphael but copied since then anyway, though Manet apparently recycled aspects that Giogione and Titian had both used in their work too. So it was a bit of a composite rip-off though a testimony to the fact that Manet knew his art and had been soaking it all up whilst wandering around the Louvre. This subject-matter was always likely to raise eyebrows. Manet, though, was not above encouraging a little nudge-nudge voyeurism!
Édouard Manet only married his wife (his former piano-teacher) after his father died, which may have been because it seems likely that she had been having an affair with Manet's father and had an illegitimate child by him. But the child may instead have been the artist's. It's not clear.
He started getting sick in his forties with what were probably the symptoms of syphilis, so it seems the hedonism did for him. These symptoms affected his spine and legs so they impacted on his mobility. He therefore ended up painting flowers at home. But even that was cut short when he had a foot amputated for gangrene, after which he only lasted a short time.
In summary Manet was a versatile game-changer who painted the aesthetically pleasing and his work is good enough to grace anybody's walls. Nobody is expecting you to buy an original, though he left almost a thousand works. It seems that the most expensive Manet to date has been 'Le Printemps' which the J. Paul Getty Museum bought for .1m.
So, you'd need deep pockets. But high-resolution fine prints are available. One excellent place to purchase unframed prints of Manet's work is at https://artuk.org/shop/artists/edouard-manet.html
You'll want to frame whatever you buy. Any good framers will be able to show you a vast range of different solutions and advise on what might be the most suitable given the work and its proposed location.
Article Posted: 17/06/2020 10:03:10