The Luncheon on the Grass, 1863, by Edouard Manet (Musée d’Orsay)
Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was a study in contradictions. A Parisian bourgeois flaneur, he became associated with the avant-garde painters known now as the impressionists. He had a traditional art education and admired the old masters, but he developed a loose, painterly technique and preferred to paint scenes of everyday urban life. In his most daring works like Dejeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia, he rejected traditional conventions, creating art that followed artist and social observer Honore Daumier’s mandate: One must be of one’s own time.
Viewed as a trailblazer of the impressionist movement, he was influenced by fellow artists Monet, Renoir, Degas, and supported by art critics like Emile Zola. But he turned down invitations to exhibit at the impressionists’ group shows, and pursued success through the more traditional Paris Salon. It was a frustrating choice, as there seemed to be no way to predict the Salon jury’s reaction to his submissions.
Manet’s final work, A Bar at the Folies Bergere, was shown at the Salon of 1882; he died the next year. It was a masterpiece that clearly trumpeted Manet as a premier painter of modern life who chose to follow his own vision to the end.
Art historian Bonita Billman discusses Manet’s life and career and analyzes his contributions to the impressionist movement.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit