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Edouard Manet was a French painter who depicted everyday scenes of people and city life. He was a leading artist in the transition from realism to impressionism.
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Due to its perceived indecency, they refused to show it. Manet was not alone, though, as more than 4,000 paintings were denied entry that year. In response, Napoleon III established the Salon des Refusés to exhibit some of those rejected works, including Manet’s submission.
During this time, Manet married a Dutch woman named Suzanne Leenhoff. She had been Manet’s piano tutor when he was a child, and some believe, for a time,
also Manet’s father’s mistress. By the time she and Manet officially married, they had been involved for nearly 10 years and had an infant son named Leon Keoella Leenhoff. The boy posed for his father for the 1861 painting "Boy Carrying a Sword" and as a minor subject in "The Balcony." Suzanne was the model for several paintings, including "The Reading."
Trying once again to gain acceptance into the salon, Manet submitted “Olympia” in 1865. This striking portrait, inspired by Titian’s “Venus of Urbino,” shows a lounging nude beauty who unabashedly stares at her viewers. The salon jury members were not impressed. They deemed it scandalous, as did the general public. Manet’s contemporaries, on the other hand, began to think of him a hero, someone willing to break the mold. In hindsight, he was ringing in a new style and leading the transition from realism to impressionism. Within 42 years, “Olympia” would be installed in Louvre.
After Manet’s unsuccessful attempt in 1865, he traveled to Spain, during which time he painted "The Spanish Singer." In 1866, he met and befriended the novelist Emile Zola, who in 1867 wrote a glowing article about Manet in the French paper Figaro. He pointed out how almost all significant artists start by offending the current public’s sensibilities. This review impressed the art critic Louis-Edmond Duranty, who began to support him as well. Painters like Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas and Monet became his friends.
Some of Manet’s best-loved works are his cafe scenes. His completed paintings were often based on small sketches he made while out socializing. These works, including "At the Cafe," "The Beer Drinkers" and "The Cafe Concert," among others, depict 19th-century Paris. Unlike conventional painters of his time, he strove to illuminate the rituals of both common and bourgeoisie French people. His subjects are reading, waiting for friends, drinking and working. In stark contrast to his cafe scenes, Manet also painted the tragedies and triumphs of war. In 1870, he served as a soldier during the Franco-German War and observed the destruction of Paris. His studio was partially destroyed during the siege of Paris, but to his delight, an art dealer named Paul Durand-Ruel bought everything he could salvage from the wreckage for 50,000 francs.
In 1874, Manet was invited to show at the very first exhibit put on by impressionist artists. However supportive he was of the general movement, he turned them down, as well as seven other invitations.
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Derived from Claude Monet's piece entitled Impression, the term "impressionism" was created to describe the work of a select group of Parisian painters in the late 19th century. With their thin brush strokes and explosion of color and lighting on mundane subjects, impressionists painters like Monet, Mary Cassatt, and Alfred Sisley confounded critics, defied conventions, and sparked scandal. A century and a half later, they are among the most revered and influentional artists of all time.
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