Saturday Art: Édouard Manet
Officially it’s the dog days of summer, and the National Gallery of Art a haven of experiences that are welcome in more ways than one.
Edouard Manet can easily be confused with Monet, last week’s subject, because the time of their painting, their names and styles are so close. Impressionism is associated with both.
Manet’s work was somewhat confrontational, and early paintings took subjects treated by artists that preceded him and reinterpreted.
The roughly painted style and photographic lighting in these works was seen as specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance works Manet copied or used as source material. His work is considered ‘early modern’, partially because of the black outlining of figures, which draws attention to the surface of the picture plane and the material quality of paint.
Manet tried linear effects, as opposed to Monet’s visual lighting, and they went in separate paths to the same goal of creating an impression rather than strict representation.
Although his own work influenced and anticipated the Impressionist style, he resisted involvement in Impressionist exhibitions, partly because he did not wish to be seen as the representative of a group identity, and partly because he preferred to exhibit at the Salon.Eva Gonzalès was his only formal student.
He was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Monet and Morisot. Their influence is seen in Manet’s use of lighter colors, but he retained his distinctive use of black, uncharacteristic of Impressionist painting. He painted many outdoor (plein air) pieces, but always returned to what he considered the serious work of the studio.
Manet remained aloof but still part of what was the major shift to styles that interpret rather than portray.
Below is one of his most controversal paintings. “Historian Isabelle Dervaux has described the reception this painting received when it was first exhibited at the official Paris Salon of 1874: “Visitors and critics found its subject baffling, its composition incoherent, and its execution sketchy. Caricaturists ridiculed Manet’s picture, in which only a few recognized the symbol of modernity that it has become today”.
(Picture courtesy of profzucker at flickr.com.)