Artists People

Édouard Manet

the railway

Édouard Manet was a French realist and impressionist painter.  He was born in Paris, France on January 23, 1832 into an established family.  His mother was the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince Charles Bernadotte.  Her name was Eugénie-Desirée Fournier.  Papa Auguste Manet was a French judge.  He wanted his son to become a lawyer.  Édouard’s uncle Edmond encouraged him to pursue a career in art.

He attended Collège Rollin in 1841.  Manet studied drawing four years later.  In 1848 he trained as a sailor at the request of his father.  Time passed and he failed the Navy examination twice.  His father conceded and Édouard was allowed to begin his artistic education.  He evolved under the tutelage of the painter Thomas Couture from 1850 to 1856.  Free time was spent wandering the Louvre and mimicking the old masters.

The second half of his education was spent traveling to the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.  He returned with the influence of Diego Velázquez, Francisco José de Goya and the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals.  Manet opened his studio in 1856.  Simple and traditional paintings were formed using loose brush strokes.  He trended towards realism by 1859 with The Absinthe Drinker.

The Races at Longchamp
The Races at Longchamp (1866) – Tulip Hysteria

Early Career

Two of his works were accepted into the Paris Salon of 1861.  One was a portrait of his parents.  It was met with sharp criticism.  The other was The Spanish Singer (1860).  It caught the eye of the writer and pundit Théophile Gautier and was moved to a more central location of the show.  The flexible style clashed with the surrounding conventional art.  The singer’s presence serenaded the upcoming artists.  The tide was breaking and the unorthodox emerged on shore.

Édouard Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff in 1863 after a ten-year relationship.  She was two years his senior and a piano teacher.  Her son Leon was born out of wedlock in 1852 and featured in Boy Carrying a Sword (1861) and in the background of The Balcony (1869).  Manet painted his beloved across numerous canvases.  The most esteemed was titled The Reading and created between 1865 and 1873.

He befriended Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and other fellow Impressionists.  The faction was later called Le groupe des Batignolles or The Batignolles group.  The name is a reference to the Batignolles district where the artists met from 1869 to 1875.  Monet was his largest influence from the group.  The relationship introduced lighter colors into Manet’s dominant use of black.

La Seine à Argenteuil
La Seine à Argenteuil (1874) – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The first painting devoted to war was The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama (1864).  It detailed a skirmish of the American Civil war near the French coast.  The reproduction of violence was his response to modern living and a therapeutic subject matter.  Three canvases were finished during the late 1860’s of the Execution of Emperor Maximilian.  The iterations critiqued domestic and foreign policy.

Time passed and inspiration was drawn from the streets of Paris.  The Railway (1873) or Gare Saint-Lazare ignores deep space and features a cold iron gate from left to right.  The train is absent and replaced with warm white steam.  It was shown at the Paris Salon of 1874.  The modern message confused the spectators.  The future peeled away the skepticism.  The painting is displayed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. today.

Édouard had health troubles in his mid-forties.  Intense pain evolved into partial paralysis of his legs.  He received hydrotherapy treatments to improve circulation.  The cure was miscalculated.  The artist was suffering from Locomotor ataxia, a common side effect of syphilis.  He painted the famous opera singer Émilie Ambre in 1880.  She hosted Manet’s first exhibition of Execution of Emperor Maximilian

the railway
The Railway (1873) – Photo Credit: Tulip Hysteria

Final Years

His last major work was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).  It was accepted into the Salon later that year.  Everything else was limited to small sized still lifes of vegetables and fruits.  The final canvas featured flowers in glass vases.  His left foot was amputated to stop gangrene in early 1883.  Rheumatism and syphilis killed the master painter on April 30, 1883 in Paris.  He was fifty-one years old.

Édouard Manet composed over four hundred oil paintings.  Another four hundred were completed on paper.  His lack of a conventional message sparked criticism throughout his lifetime.  The calm realism on his canvas created an elegant awkwardness with the viewer.  The brutal tone and meaning of his art turned gentle through its presentation.  The spectator was able to walk into the scene after the frame dissolved through repetition.  In 2010 Self-Portrait with Palette (1879) earned over thirty million dollars at auction.  Four years later the J. Paul Getty Museum purchased Le Printemps (1881) for sixty-five million. 

“It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.”

Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet – Photo Credit: CarlosR38

4 comments on “Édouard Manet

  1. Very nice article. I enjoyed it!

  2. Wonderful history of Manet! At different times I have studied his work, but I never knew how he died.

    • Unclearer

      Very cool! He is a wonderful artist!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: