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  • Russ Ramsey

Getting to Know Édouard Manet

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at the life and work of the French modernist painter Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Born in Paris to an upper-class family, Manet convinced his father to let him study art by showing him an impressive portfolio of his drawings.

Édouard Manet, c. 1870


Influenced by Peter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio, Goya, and Velazquez, Manet studied their techniques in order to master his own—in much the same way a blues guitarist might study Clapton, Muddy Waters, or Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Manet, Music in the Tuileries, 1862


Manet is known for influencing and even pioneering Impressionism. He was friends with Monet, Bazille, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro and Berthe Morisot, who eventually married Manet’s brother Eugene.

Manet, The 'Kearsarge' at Boulogne, 1864


One good way to have a work selected for the Salon—the most prominent art show in Paris—was to paint a Biblical theme. Though this wasn’t Manet’s strength, he was able to show some works, which helped him gain notoriety.

Manet, The Dead Christ with Angels, 1864


The Races at Longchamp (1864), housed at the Chicago Art Institute, shows a unique perspective, with the horses coming straight at the viewer. Everything but the horses is blurry, giving the viewer to sense that these horses are bearing down quickly.

Manet, The Races at Longchamp, 1864


Manet’s Boating (1874) is a composition of color fields and angles. Manet spent his summers in Gennevilliers with Monet and Renior, painting and enjoying the leisurely summer life of the well off. Mary Cassatt called this one “the last word in painting.”

Manet, Boating, 1874


Considered Manet’s last major work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882) depicts a nightclub in Paris. Critics regard this as a “realist” painting, which sought to show things as they were, but the mirror’s reflection has puzzled scholars, due to its odd angle.

Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, 1882


Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1875) was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990—part of the heist that claimed Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert. It’s a simple, yet dignified image of a man enjoying a beer.

Manet, Chez Tortoni, 1875

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