Édouard Manet was born in January 23, 1832 in Paris. His father was an officer and his mother, the daughter of an aristocrat. He was taught how to paint by his uncle, Edmond-Edouard Fournier. he was trained as a sea cadet but turned to painting as a profession after failing to pass his navy examination. He continued to study painting at the studio of Thomas Couture for 6 years. He travelled extensively over the next many years and improved his knowledge of art during these visits to Germany,Italy,Austria and Holland. He learned about the techniques of the old masters and was greatly influenced by their work. But he never blindly adopted their styles but insteead refined them to create a distinctive style of his own.
In October 28, 1863, Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff in Holland. His father had employed her to teach piano to Manet and his brother for a period of ten years.He painted a portrait of her after their marriage entitled The Reading.
In 1863 Manet participated in the famous Salon des Refuses, an exhibition consisting of works rejected by the official Salon, and he came to be viewed as the hero of the nonconformists. It seems that he didn't think of himself in that role since he was inspired by the tradionalist and only sought to explore their themes in modern terms. The scandals that he was faced with were not really due to his nonconformist styles, but due to the subject matter and references in his work. He stressed the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on
a canvas over and above its function as representation.
Manet always strayed from conventional, academic themes. His work attracted attention and his career was filled with scandal. His painting 'The Picnic' was received with contreversy. An even greater scandal was caused by Olympia, shown in 1865. The public was infuriated not only by the style, but also by the subject of the picture. ‘A yellow-bellied courtesan’, ‘a female gorilla made of india-rubber outlined in black’, ‘the Queen of Spades after her bath’, ‘a parcel of nude flesh or a bundle of laundry’, and other similar characteristics appeared in newspapers. When words were exhausted some ‘enthusiasts’ tried to finish with the picture physically, and it was saved only thanks to being hung high, above the reach of the fanatics.
Edouard Manet is considered one of the fundamental artists who redefined Impressionism and paved the way for the techniques that define modern impressionistic art. Many aspiring young painters adopted his methods of lighting and coloring. Manet exhibited his work at the Salon for the last time. After a illness lasting 5 years, he died 30 April, 1883 at the age of 51.
'Olympia' was one of his most famous and contreversial works. His intention was to translate an Old Master theme, thereclining nude of Giorgione and Titian, into contemporary terms. The depiction of the figures suggest a certain realist and classicist influence. However, the sharpness of contrast also between model and foreground items and dark background, which added a modern vivacity to the Venetian-type subject, was regarded as an intended parody. 'Bar at the Folies-Bergere' was Monet's last true masterpiece. It was painted in the artists own studio. The subject was a very well known Paris venue. The girl in the painting is a barmaid.
Manet produced three oil paintings and a lithograph of the execution of the Emperor. 'The Execution' was his final one. In the first version
the firing squad was dressed in Mexican costume. In later versions they are wearing what are virtually French Army uniforms. Manet did not attempt to conceal his political views but he wanted to paint a historical work of art that would be favourably received by the Salon jury.