Art on This Day
On this day in 1832, French artist Edouard Manet was born. Although ridiculed in his day for inadequate linear perspective, lack of spirituality, and controversial subject matter, Manet is still considered by many art historians to be the father of Modernism.
Technically his paintings are remarkable for their loose brushstrokes, nuanced colour, unusual cropping, and sense of light. His most famous and often satirized painting, Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1861) was rejected from the 1861 Salon for its shocking content: a nude woman enjoying a picnic with two fully clothed men, while a second nearly-nude woman bathes in a stream.
Déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1863, Edouard Manet
Trying once again to gain acceptance into the salon, Manet submitted Olympia in 1865. This striking portrait, inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino shows a lounging nude beauty who unabashedly stares at her viewers. The salon jury members were not impressed. They deemed it scandalous, as did the general public. Manet’s contemporaries, on the other hand, began to think of him as a hero, someone willing to break the mould. In hindsight, he was ringing in a new style and leading the transition from Realism to Impressionism. In 1865, depressed by Paris’s response to his art, Manet travelled to Spain and studied the art of Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya.
After coming back to Paris, Manet associated with avant-garde writers, notably Baudelaire. Manet's work became famous at the Salon des Refusés, the exhibition of paintings rejected by the official Salon. In 1863 and 1867 he held one-man exhibitions. In the 1870s, under the influence of Monet and Renoir, he produced landscapes and street scenes directly inspired by Impressionism. However, in 1874 Manet refused to exhibit at the very first show put on by Impressionist artists. Despite his support for the general movement, he turned them down, as well as seven other invitations. He felt it was necessary to remain devoted to the Salon and its place in the art world. Like many of his paintings, Edouard Manet was a contradiction, both bourgeoisie and common, conventional and radical.
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