Our Art / Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet

One of the first 19th-century artists to portray modern life in France, Manet (1832–1883) was an influential figure who laid the foundations for modern art. Though educated in Realism depicting religious imagery and portraits with impeccable precision, Manet quickly broke away from convention. Instead he painted Paris's fashionable high society, the marginalized poor, and the spectacle of the boulevard, café, and racetrack. Answering the call for art capturing the epic, heroic qualities of modern life, Manet produced large canvases of contemporary subjects. For example, he depicted the city's down-and-out on a scale once reserved for royal portraiture. Manet was equally provocative in his approach to painting, laying down intense contrasts of light and dark and boldly flattened fields of color and pattern.

His now notorious paintings were famously rejected from the Paris salons, and instead exhibited in Salon des Refusés exhibiting artwork rejected by the jury. Though at first the work in this salon was ridiculed, it came to legitimize the emerging avant-garde and laid the groundwork for modern art and Impressionism.