xxxxxThe French painter Édouard Manet, was a disciple of the realist artist Gustave Courbet and a devoted admirer of the works of the old masters, especially Goya and Velasquez, but his insistence on painting everyday scenes from contemporary life cast him in the role of a revolutionary. Two works in particular, The Picnic on the Grass and Olympia, painted in 1863, shocked both the artistic establishment in Paris and the general public by their unseemly portrayal of nude women (one of them a prostitute) in an everyday setting. As a result, Manet found himself the rebel leader of a group of young artists seeking a new kind of realism -
ÉDOUARD MANET 1832 -
Manet: The Café-
xxxxxThe French painter Édouard Manet, one of the most original artists of the 19th century, became a rebel in spite of himself. An elegant and cultured man of good breeding, he craved to be accepted by the French artistic establishment but, in fact, only gained public recognition towards the end of his life. A disciple of the French realist artist Gustave Courbet, and inspired as a student by the works of the old masters -
xxxxxManet was born in Paris, the eldest son of a highly-
xxxxxWith this in mind, he produced The Absinthe Drinker in 1859, a back-
xxxxxWorse was to come. In 1863 his new painting Picnic on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe) (illustrated), exhibited in the newly formed Salon des Refusés, provoked a furious outcry of scorn and disapproval, depicting as it did a contemporary outdoor scene in which a common, naked woman is pictured sitting alongside two fully clothed male companions. And this hostile reception was nothing compared with the furore that greeted his next major painting Olympia, exhibited at the Salon two years later and owing much in composition to Titian’s Venus of Urbino. The portrait of a prostitute, reclining provocatively on a couch and confronting the world with an impertinent, unashamed gaze of defiance, was seen as an affront to public good taste and attracted an unprecedented volume of abuse. “Insults,” he remarked at the time, “are pouring down on me as thick as hail stones”.
xxxxxFrom then on -
xxxxxAs we shall see, the Impressionists acquired their name from a work by Monet entitled Impression: Sunrise, produced in 1872, and the movement gave its first exhibition two years later.
xxxxxThroughout his career Manet painted pictures of modern life in a spontaneous style, freed from excessive detail. For the most part he captured the atmosphere of the day-
and Edgar Degas
xxxxxNotable among his enormous output were his portraits of his friends Émile Zola and Émile Bellot (Le Bon Bock), The Fifer of 1866, (clearly showing the influence of Velasquez), The Balcony of 1868, painted while on holiday in Boulogne, The Railway of 1873, and The Suicide of 1877, a grim image of death. And he also recorded current events. The Execution of Maximilian, based on photographs and eye-
xxxxxApartxfrom his friendship with the Impressionists -
xxxxxIncidentally, in 1850 Manet started an affair with his piano teacher, a pretty Dutch girl named Suzanne Leenhoff. When, two years later, she gave birth to a boy -
xxxxx…… ThexSalon des Refusés was instituted by Napoleon III in 1863 after more than half the paintings submitted to the official Paris Salon were rejected -
xxxxxInx1876 Manet produced the frontispiece (illustrated) for the poem L’Apres-
xxxxxMallarmé made his living as an English teacher -
xxxxxThe French painter Edgar Degas (1834-
xxxxxThe French artist Edgar Degas (1834-
xxxxxDegas was born into a wealthy Parisian family, the eldest of five children. To meet the wishes of his father, a city banker, he began studying law in 1853. He had no interest in the subject, however, and two years later, after a meeting with the celebrated neoclassical painter Jean Auguste Ingres, then aged 75 -
xxxxxOn returning to Paris and meeting Manet he gave up “history”, as he put it, and in the late 1860s turned to scenes of contemporary life and portraiture. His candid capture of commonplace incidents -
xxxxxOn returning to Paris, however, he rebelled against the rigid restrictions and judgments imposed by the Salon and, like Manet before him, joined the “Impressionists”, a group of young artists who sought a new departure in subject matter and style. He exhibited in all but one of their eight exhibitions, held from 1874 to 1886, and mixed with the likes of Monet, Renoir and Sisley, all of whom he had met at the Café Guerbois in the 1860s. Not surprisingly, in the eyes of the public he was seen as an Impressionist and in certain aspects that was perfectly understandable. He used strong colours, laid on with bold brush strokes, chose workaday subjects as seen through the keyhole, as it were, and aimed to capture a fleeting, often moving image of his subject, as though it were frozen in time like a photographic snapshot.
xxxxxHowever, at heart, as in the case of Manet, he remained true to his classical training. Unlike the Impressionists he showed little interest in landscape painting, was bluntly opposed to working out of doors, and made no effort to convey the transitory effects of changing light, realised in part by ”colour-
xxxxxDegas was a prolific artist and he experimented with a variety of media, including oil, watercolour, pastel, aquatint and etching. By the 1870s he had become a master in oil, but it was in pastel that he best achieved his unique patterning of colour, another product of his classical training. He was primarily a figure painter, and he showed a remarkable talent for depicting the feeling of movement, clearly visible in his depiction of ballet dancers and horses. In these and all his common-
xxxxxDegas was one of the outstanding exponents of modern art in the late 19th century -
xxxxxDegas was not an easy man to get along with. He often appeared haughty and aloof but, as his work shows, he possessed a wealth of sensibility. He outlived most of his closest friends and ended his days a lonely, sad figure. Thexart world didn’t quite know how to take him. Some dismissed him out of hand, whilst others, like Henri de Toulouse-
xxxxxIncidentally, Degas was strongly anti-
xxxxx…… On one occasion Degas painted his close friend Édouard Manet while he was listening to his wife playing the piano. Manet was so displeased with the portrait of his wife that he cut the canvas in order to take her out of the picture! ……
xxxxx…… During his long career Degas built up a large art collection. This included paintings by Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, as well as works by El Greco and the two artists he most admired, Delacroix and Ingres. In addition he amassed a large number of drawings and Japanese prints.