Musée No:397.027
Musée No:397.027

Musée No:397.027

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Artist: Edouard Manet

Date:  1880

Born into a wealthy family, Édouard Manet was encouraged by his uncle and often visited the Louvre. Initially, Manet wanted to pursue a naval career however when he failed the entrance exams for the naval academy, he decided to become an artist. In 1850 he entered the studio of Couture, who wanted to avoid conventional academic training and combine traditional painting methods with new techniques like allowing under-paint to form part of the final composition. Manet would absorb this technique into his work. His wealth meant that he didn't need to sell his work but he desperately wanted recognition as an artist. Baudelaire's call to young artists to paint contemporary life rather than antiquity and to take a distanced point of view because objectivity is more sincere and honest, appealed to him.

In 1863 the Salon jury rejected more than half of the five thousand works submitted, including his ‘Déjeuner sur l'herbe’ (yes THAT one at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). The same year the Salon des Refusés was organized by Napoleon III in an attempt to calm the artists, and quell anti-government sentiment. The painting caused a “formidable succès de scandale” both for its technique and subject matter. He caused another scandal with ‘Olympia’ two years later at the Salon. Even though his work often received severe criticism, he continued to submit works to the Salon, which most he felt was the only legitimate place to prove himself as an artist.

At the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1867, Manet organized his own pavilion next to the Exposition where he showed more than fifty paintings. Émile Zola, the French writer, recognized his talent and modernity and vehemently defended him against harsh criticism and lauded him as the greatest painter of the nineteenth century. By the 1870s Manet's palette had lightened and his brushwork became freer. These new aspects of his painting technique may have come from his contact with the impressionist group that began exhibiting in 1874. Although Manet was friendly with its members, and understood their goals, he never exhibited with them and continued to show his paintings at the official Salon. During the late 1870s, he began to experience health problems that made it difficult for him to work in oil painting, instead, he began to draw using pastel. Manet was truly innovative in depicting subjects of urban life. However, during his lifetime he enjoyed little support, and it was not until the impressionists gained general recognition that Manet was acknowledged as a truly modern painter.

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