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Summary Article: Manet, Edouard
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French painter. One of the foremost French artists of the 19th century, he is often regarded as the father of modern painting. Rebelling against the academic tradition, he developed a clear and unaffected realist style that was one of the founding forces of Impressionism. His subjects were mainly contemporary, such as A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882; Courtauld Art Gallery, London).

Manet received a very traditional academic art education under a history painter; his real influences were Goya, Velázquez and Courbet. His Déjeuner sur l'herbe/Picnic on the Grass 1863 and Olympia 1865 (both Musée d'Orsay, Paris), though both based on Renaissance masterpieces, offended conservative tastes in their matter-of-fact treatment of the nude body.

Though he never exhibited with the Impressionists – he had a classical sense of order and composition – many of them were were strongly influenced by his pioneering works, and he in turn,from the early 1870s, was influenced by figures such as Berthe Morisot, his works becoming lighter in both touch and colour.

The son of a magistrate, he was allowed (after a trial voyage as naval cadet 1848–49) to enter the studio of Thomas Couture, with whom he studied for six years, gaining, in spite of frequent clashes with his academic master, a sound technical training. He copied Titian and Velázquez in the Louvre, and though he did not visit Spain until 1865 his early work shows the influence of 17th-century Spanish masters, this being underlined by his paintings of Spanish dancers in Paris, for example Lola de Valence, 1861–62 (Louvre).

The first picture he sent to the Salon, the Buveur d'Absinthe, 1859, was refused, inaugurating a long series of rejections. He brilliantly succeeded in his aim of handling an old master subject in contemporary fashion in the two celebrated pictures of the 1860s, Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, 1863 (translating Giorgione's Concert Champêtre into modern terms), and Olympia, 1865 (Titian's Venus brought up to date), but both pictures were misunderstood, their unconventional nudities causing a scandal. Zola, Baudelaire, and Mallarme were his defenders against popular clamour. Exhibited in the Salon des Refusés 1863, the Déjeuner became the symbol of revolt against academic and Philistine prejudice, and Manet, though no rebel by nature, became the centre of the group of younger artists whose meetings and discussions at the Café Guerbois were the seeding-ground of Impressionism.

For political rather than aesthetic reasons his Execution of Maximilian, 1867 (of which there are four versions, at Boston, Mannheim and Copenhagen, with fragments of the second version in the National Gallery, London), was barred from his one-man show of that year.

After the Franco-Prussian War, in which he served as an officer in the National Guard, he took to plein-air painting under the influence of Monet and Berthe Morisot, his pupil and sister-in-law. He worked at Argenteuil with Monet and Renoir 1874, but abstained from exhibiting at the Impressionist exhibitions. His colour freshened, though he was Impressionistic rather in giving the vividness of the first sketch than in systematic division of colour. The cabaret and its frequenters figure largely in his later work (as in that of Degas), the Bon Bock, a success of 1873, being followed by La Servante de Bocks, 1878–79, and the famous masterpiece (executed after the first onset of fatal illness) Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1881–82 (Courtauld Institute Gallery, London).

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