Artist Biography: Edouard Manet
A concise biography about Manet's life and work.

National Gallery of Art Micro Gallery
National Gallery of Art. Micro Gallery—National Gallery of Art. Online Content. Washington, D.C., 2004.

Edouard Manet
French, 1832-1883
Edouard Manet drew his subject matter from modern life. This untraditional approach and his free handling of paint make him an unconventional, groundbreaking painter who was an important model for the impressionists. He considered himself a realist painter.

Intense study of paintings by the Spaniard Diego Velázquez eventually led Manet to reject academicism. His radical new style was founded on strongly contrasting light and shadow, a restricted palette in which black was very important, and on painting directly from the model. Despite his avant-garde style, Manet was determined to exhibit at the Salon. However, his deliberately shocking Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) was rejected and created a sensation when it was exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. It was sharply criticized by academic factions but praised by avant-garde painters and writers. The Railway, though accepted in the Salon, sparked renewed controversy.

In Paris Manet associated with modernist writers, notably Charles-Pierre Baudelaire and Emile Zola, and regularly gathered at the Café Guerbois with young artists and authors. In 1869, probably influenced by his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot, Manet began painting outdoors. He produced impressionist landscapes and street scenes inspired directly by Claude Monet's example.

Manet nevertheless declined offers to exhibit with the impressionists in 1874; he still sought unqualified approval from the Salon. He achieved this goal only in 1882 with two portraits symbolizing the seasons.