Artists Who Died Before 50: Edouard Manet

Updated on August 8, 2016
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

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Absinthe Drinker
Absinthe Drinker | Source
Boy with Cherries
Boy with Cherries | Source

Edouard Manet (1883-1932).

Artists are memory makers… or rather, memory keepers. What we do is immortalize a time, an era, a community, a person in a portrait. It is why we are still fascinated with a little known lady captured in the Mona Lisa. It is why an era that lasted a little more than 11 years and dancers who only danced 2 years at best, are immortalized forever in the posters of the Moulin Rouge by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. It is why the era of this artist will be forever remembered. This is the artist who started the direction of the artists’ movement that has remained a favorite of people for a century: the Impressionist movement.

It’s so sad when anyone dies young, but doubly so for artists because there is so much more they could have done to make the world a more beautiful, colorful place. The sad fact is that artists feel deeply, all the highs and all the lows of life. Sometimes I envy people like my mother, who have a very “even keel.” People like that seldom get mad or upset (although when they do, look out). However they also don’t get overly jovial or jocular. Every day is a straight line from sunrise to sunset. That’s my Mom.

Gratefully, I don’t live like that. I am one of the artists. When I am happy, I am a very ecstatic, giggling fool. And when I’m sad, I am in the dismal dumps. No halfway for me. I feel it all and it often shows up in my work.

This is the story of an artist who felt deeply the things of ordinary life in Paris: Edouard Manet (1883-1932).

Still Life
Still Life | Source

There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.

— Edouard Manet
Woman with a Jug
Woman with a Jug | Source

Forerunner of the Impressionists

Manet was the French painter who was considered the pivotal figure in the transition between Realism and Impressionism. He was the first 19th century artist to begin painting modern life instead of symbolism, mythology and classical subjects. His work is considered the forerunner and origin of Impressionism although he didn’t really paint in the impressionist style that one would recognize today: that of Dega, Monet or Van Gogh. Instead he opened the way for these great figures of the Impressionist movement.

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Expected to pursue a law career

He was born to an upper-class household with strong political connections. He was expected by his father to pursue a career in law but he had other ambitions, directed to art by his uncle. His father insisted he join the Navy but having failed the entrance exam twice, he had to relent to the boy’s wishes of pursuing art. Just imagine if he had become a French Naval officer, the direction of the art world may have been very different.

You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real.

— Edouard Manet
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The common man's painter

During his studies, he had opportunity to visit Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, where he was influenced by many painter’s works such as the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya. In those early years his style was characterized by loose brush strokes and simplification of details. He began painting contemporary subjects such as beggars, singers, Gypsies and people in cafes. The usual subjects for painters was religious, historical or mythological but Manet preferred to stay away from those subjects and paint the average people of the day. He also had a tendency to leave the figures less modeled by light and shadow and instead paint them as large shapes of color. His work was received in the annual art show, The Paris Salon, but was considered “slightly slapdash” when compared to the more meticulous style of other Salon paintings. This is the very thing that intrigues and inspired so many younger artists at that time.

No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.

— Edouard Manet
The Balcony
The Balcony | Source
Le Fifre
Le Fifre | Source

Exhibits and Rejections

Later what is considered some of Manet’s major works, such as The Luncheon on the Grass, was rejected by the Paris Salon and was not exhibited. Some considered this piece to be unfinished while at the same time the composition revels his study of the old masters style. The Salon challenged him to give a nude painting, to which he painted Olympia, a self-assured prostitute and it was accepted and exhibited. The public was so outraged and offended by the painting that only the precautions in the exhibit hanging prevented people from puncturing or tearing the painting. One of the things that was so unusual about his paintings is the lack of modeling, the manipulation of light and shadow. Many of the figures appear to have been cut out of colored paper and pasted on, which was something inspired by Japanese block prints: large areas of flat color. This is what made many people think the work was unfinished.

Olympia, 1863 (Exhibited 1865)

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Have you heard of Manet before? or did you think it was the other Impressionist, Monet?

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Friends with the Impressionists

He became friends with the Impressionists, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro, and they drew him into their group and activities. He continued to seek to exhibit at the Paris Salon although the others wished to abandon it and pursue their own exhibitions. His mother worried that he would waste and exhaust all his inheritance on this art pursuit, which was proving to be expensive. Most of the Impressionists refused to use the color black, but Manet continued using it and continued exhibiting at the Salon. There were some critics who championed him in the press, among them Emile Zola, whom he in turn painted.

Bar at Folies-Bergere.
Bar at Folies-Bergere. | Source

Black is not a color.

— Edouard Manet
Emile Zola
Emile Zola | Source

Married Suzanne

After his father died, Manet married a young woman who had been employed by the family to teach piano and whom Manet had be romantically involved with for 10 years. She had a child out of wedlock and it is assumed that the child was either Edouard’s or his brother’s. The boy was used as a model in several of Manet’s paintings, as was his mother, Manet’s wife, Suzanne.

It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.

— Edouard Manet
Boating
Boating | Source

Died at 49.

In his forties Manet contracted syphilis which went untreated. He also suffered from rheumatism. In his final years he was in considerable pain due to the side-effects of syphilis. He died at the age of 49.

Self-portrait with Pallet.
Self-portrait with Pallet. | Source

Spoofs

Like most famous artists and famous paintings, the begin to have a life of their own and then people can’t help but do a spoof on them, changing them just enough to make them funny or iconic. Manet was no different. Here is one of the many you can find spoofing his famous works.

The Reader
The Reader | Source
Spring, sold at auction for $65 million dollars.
Spring, sold at auction for $65 million dollars. | Source

Worth $65 million dollars.

I am an artist. I appreciate the stories and struggles that other artists have had to endure to make the mark in history that some of them have made. Many times it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Other times it is a matter of patience for when the public is ready for your style. I know that it seems like artists who are not very talented or who show no more talent than some others, achieve fame, however it is a lot of chance, happenstance and who you know more than talent most of the time. In the case of Édouard Manet, he had the income from his family inheritance to support him until his artwork began to sell and pay off. He definitely had great talent but was not immediately appreciated by the public. Today you can buy a Manet print for under $20 (depending on size and frame) but the last original Manet (Spring) sold at auction for $65 million dollars. A bit out of my price range.

Questions & Answers

    Artistic Comments Welcomed

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      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        2 years ago from Fresno CA

        CorneliaMladenova,

        Again we have things in common, friend. My father wanted me to study something I could "get a job at" so he insisted I take classes in secretarial skills. I obeyed but also took art courses. Eventually I did get a secretarial job but I hated it of course. What can I say. Our parents love us... Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • CorneliaMladenova profile image

        Korneliya Yonkova 

        2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

        Oh, I love Edouard Manet. His style is incredible and I have always in my mind that adorable Le Fivre. It is so sad that such talented people sometimes commit really foolish things. If he hadn't contacted that awful disease he might have created much more magical paintings. And yes, I agree that black is not a color.

        I have something in common with this amazing artist. My mother expected from me to have a law career so I had no choice but had to study jurisprudence and get the damned diploma. But guess what happened later :D

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        2 years ago from Fresno CA

        Oztinato,

        Thank you for your insights. Many artists were guilty of that. Whistler painted the most fabulous, luminous portraits of his models... all of which he was sleeping with. Yet he made them all very angry when he married his best friend's widow. I guess he must have intimated he would one day marry one of them. Men! Artists! Oh well. Thank you for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Oztinato profile image

        Andrew Petrou 

        2 years ago from Brisbane

        Paint

        Manet's work is very close to my heart.

        Many men in the nineteenth century were up to no good with women of all ages. Manet's father looks very suspect. Manet's personal life looks a secretive mess. I believe he visited many brothels in the middle east etc.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        2 years ago from Fresno CA

        Oztinato,

        Thanks so much for your insights. I think so too. I'm not sure about the mysteries about offspring but wouldn't be surprised. People in the public eye often get those type of whispers about them published but then... we are artists and a little bit of non-conformist by nature. Thank you for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Oztinato profile image

        Andrew Petrou 

        2 years ago from Brisbane

        Manet is one of my favourite painters. I was only thinking of him today and had to stop by the hub to have a look. Some say he had a darker side and there are hushed mysteries about offspring. His art reaches a pinnacle and is a wonderful blend of naturalism and impressionism. Part real part abstract.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        lawrence01,

        Well, I'm so glad I could be of service. You have to admit they had similar names, lived in the same area and in the same era, painting the same sorts of things. Very easy to get confused. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Denise

        When it comes to artists I'm a bit of a Luddite. I had heard of Manet but thought the person meant Monet so thank you for clearing that up.

        The paintings were beautiful!

        Lawrence

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        drbj,

        As always, doc, my pleasured. I love artists and their tragic stories. It makes me feel like I'm going somewhere and the hurtles I've had to overcome may actually be good reading for someone someday. Sometimes we think of famous people as having been born famous, but they struggled and hoped and failed and tried again, just like all of us. It's so nice of you to visit all my artists' hubs. I appreciate the affirmation. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • drbj profile image

        drbj and sherry 

        3 years ago from south Florida

        Manet and his creative paintings have always been among my favorites, Denise. Thanks for bringing the artist and his artistry to vibrant life.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        BlossomSB,

        I think my favorite is the people sitting by the shore. Looks like they just took a Sunday stroll by the water. It's so fresh and summery, plus I love the attention the guy is paying his girl. Haha. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

        I knew the difference between the two painters, but it was good to read more about Manet. I think my favourite was the Fife Player, but I'm not so sure now. Did you have a favourite?

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        Thanks so much, Ann. I'd love to see that place. You are right, I could live in a museum. I got to see the Prodo in Spain... wow. It took three days to see it all and then I wanted to go back and see it all again. Isn't art fabulous? And seeing it in real life is NOTHING like the photos in books. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        3 years ago from SW England

        I love Manet, Monet, Cezanne - all who come under this umbrella, so this is the perfect hub for me.

        I saw most of these in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Only had a day there but I'll be back for more asap; I could live in that place!

        Such a shame we didn't have the privilege of more of his work.

        Ann

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        florypaula,

        Haha, you don't know how many people think the same thing. No they were two different men with different lives. Manet was short lived and Monet lived into his late 70's I believe. But the did live near each other and their lives overlapped so it is easy to get confused if you aren't into art. I'm so glad you like my series. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • florypaula profile image

        Paula 

        3 years ago

        I like your series of artists, they are insightful and nicely told. I did thought it was Monet and you might have accidentally misspelled. Funny :)

        Nice hub.

        Have a nice day Denise.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        Larry Rankin,

        Well, Larry, that makes you one of the precious few. Ha. Maybe it is because people like the work of Monet much better and also he lived longer, and painted the koi ponds and water lilies or whatever. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        3 years ago from Oklahoma

        I'm a big trivia guy, so I was aware of the difference between Monet and Manet.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        3 years ago from Fresno CA

        Rachel L Alba,

        You know when I was younger I didn't really bother with artists too much either. I just wanted to do my own art. But later I saw merit in reading about how they lived and worked. That was when I couldn't afford to go to college anymore and the library was free... so I read everything on art that I could get my hands on. There is a lot of free information out there if a person really wants to learn. thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        I never got into art that much, even though I love to look at paintings. I guess in those years there weren't the medicines that we have today or even the knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

        Blessings to you.

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