Edouard Manet(1832-1883) was a French painter and one of the first nineteenth century artists to approach modern-life subjects. He is considered to have been a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. Some of his early works engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism.
Although well educated, Manet did not particularly excel within the academic environment, but he showed a propensity toward drawing and the arts. His Uncle Charles Fournier encouraged Manet’s appreciation for the arts and often took him and his childhood friend, Antonin Proust, on outings to the Louvre.
In 1850 after serving in the merchant marines, Manet entered the studio of Thomas Couture where he studied until 1856. He was influenced by the Old Masters, particulary Velazquez and Goya, but Manet reasoned that ones art should reflect ideas and ideals of the present rather then the past. So disagreeing with Diderot’s theory that great art only reflected the costume of the past, Manet sought instead to follow the advice of Baudelaire…to depict a contemporary realism, to be “le peintre de la vie moderne.”
Throughout his oeuvre Manet painted modern day life, yet many of his paintings are so much more than simple mimetic depictions. If Manet’s work seems to be full of contradictions, or to employ a lack of perspective from time to time, then perhaps that was the true reality of Paris in Manet’s time. Always controversial, Manet sought to record the days of his life using his own unique vision. From beggars, to prostitutes, to the bourgeoisie he sought to be true to himself and to reproduce “not great art, but sincere art.”
Edouard Manet died in Paris on April 30, 1883.