1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manet, Édouard

MANET, ÉDOUARD (1832–1883), French painter, regarded as the most important master of Impressionism (q.v.), was born in Paris on the 23rd of January 1832. After spending some time under the tuition of the Abbé Poiloup, he entered the Collège Rollin, where his passion for drawing led him to neglect all his other lessons. His studies finished in 1848, he was placed on board the ship Guadeloupe, voyaging to Rio de Janeiro. On his return he first studied in Couture’s studio (1851), where his independence often infuriated his master. For six years he was an intermittent visitor to the studio, constantly taking leave to travel, and going first to Cassel, Dresden, Vienna and Munich, and afterwards to Florence, Rome and Venice, where he made some stay. Some important drawings date from this period, and one picture, “A Nymph Surprised.” Then, after imitating Couture, more or less, in “The Absinthe-drinker” (1866), and Courbet in “The Old Musician,” he devoted himself almost exclusively to the study of the Spanish masters in the Louvre. A group was already gathering round him—Whistler, Legros, and Fantin-Latour haunted his studio in the Rue Guyot. His “Spaniard playing the Guitar,” in the Salon of 1861, excited much animadversion. Delacroix alone defended Manet, but, this notwithstanding, his “Fifer of the Guard” and “Breakfast on the Grass” were refused by the jury. Then the “Exhibition of the Rejected” was opened, and round Manet a group was formed, including Bracquemond, Legros, Jongkind, Whistler, Harpignies and Fantin-Latour, the writers Zola, Duranty and Duret, and Astruc the sculptor. In 1863, when an amateur, M. Martinet, lent an exhibition-room to Manet, the painter exhibited fourteen pictures; and then, in 1864, contributed again to the Salon “The Angels at the Tomb” and “A Bullfight.” Of this picture he afterwards kept nothing but the toreador in the foreground, and it is now known as “The Dead Man.” In 1865 he sent to the Salon “Christ reviled by the Soldiers” and the famous “Olympia,” which was hailed with mockery and laughter. It represents a nude woman reclining on a couch, behind which is seen the head of a negress who carries a bunch of flowers. A black cat at her feet emphasizes the whiteness of the sheet on which the woman lies. This work (now in the Louvre) was presented to the Luxembourg by a subscription started by Claude Monet (1890). It was hung in 1897 among the Caillebotte collection, which included the “Balcony,” and a study of a female head called “Angelina.” This production, of a highly independent individuality, secured Manet’s exclusion from the Salon of 1866, so that he determined to exhibit his pictures in a place apart during the Great Exhibition of 1867. In a large gallery in the Avenue de l’Alma, half of which was occupied by Courbet, he hung no fewer than fifty paintings. Only one important picture was absent, “The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian”; its exhibition was prohibited by the authorities. From that time, in spite of the fierce hostility of some adversaries, Manet’s energy and that of his supporters began to gain the day. His “Young Girl” (Salon of 1868) was justly appreciated, as well as the portrait of Lola; but the “Balcony” and the “Breakfast” (1869) were as severely handled as the “Olympia” had been. In 1870 he exhibited “The Music Lesson” and a portrait of Mlle E. Gonzales. Not long before the Franco-Prussian War, Manet, finding himself in the country with a friend, for the first time discovered the true value of open air to the effects of painting in his picture “The Garden,” which gave rise to the “open air” or plein air school. After fighting as a gunner, he returned to his family in the Pyrenees, where he painted “The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama.” His “Bon Bock” (1873) created a furore. But in 1875, as in 1869, there was a fresh outburst of abuse, this time of the “Railroad,” “Polichinelle,” and “Argenteuil,” and the jury excluded the artist, who for the second time arranged an exhibition in his studio. In 1877 his “Hamlet” was admitted to the Salon, but “Nana” was rejected. The following works were exhibited at the Salon of 1881: “In the Conservatory,” “In a Boat,” and the portraits of Rochefort and Proust; and the Cross of the Legion of Honour was conferred on the painter on the 31st of December in that year. Manet died in Paris on the 20th of April 1883. He left, besides his pictures, a number of pastels and engravings. He illustrated Les Chats by Champfleury, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

See Zola, Manet (Paris, 1867); E. Bazire, Manet (Paris, 1884); G. Geffroy, La Vie artistique (1893).  (H. Fr.)