Édouard Manet was born on 23 January 1832 to an affluent family in Paris. Despite his father insisting pursue a career in law, then the navy, Manet was resolutely committed to becoming an artist and enrolled in a drawing course in 1845 where he met Antonin Proust, the future Minister of Fine Arts and a lifelong friend. Between 1850 and 1856, Manet studied under Thomas Couture and travelled to Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, where he was influenced particularly by the work of Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.
In 1856, Manet opened a studio and began to develop a style predicated on loose brush-strokes, simplification of details and the suppression of transitional tones. His subjects became increasingly contemporary – café and leisure scenes, urban ‘characters’ from singers to lone drinkers – moving away from the religious, mythological or historical subjects associated with academic painting. Music in the Tuileries, 1862 (Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; National Gallery, London), is exemplary of this style. In 1861, he exhibited at the Salon for the first time. In 1863, however, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), was rejected and subsequently exhibited in the newly created Salon des Refusés, causing consternation for both its subject and style. Manet would exhibit at the the Salon in 1865, though his reclining nude Olympia, 1863 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), incited a similarly acerbic reaction.
Although publicly derided, Manet did have good relations with many of his peers, including Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Émile Zola and Berthe Morisot, who features in Le balcon, 1868 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) – exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1869. Manet had developed friendships with many of the future Impressionist group through discussions at Café Guerbois in the 1860s. Manet served as a staff lieutenant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Shortly after returning, Paul Durand-Ruel bought the entirety of Manet’s studio. Meanwhile, Manet would frequent the Café Nouvelle-Athènes, which had replaced Café Guerbois. In 1872, Manet visited the Netherlands and he exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1873. Manet and Monet would become increasingly close during the 1970s. Yet, despite being close with the Impressionists, and sharing ideas and inspiration, such as Japanese prints and painting en plein air, he would never exhibit with them.
Manet’s health deteriorated over the course of the 1870s and by 1880, his legs were seriously affected by illness. In 1881, he featured in an important exhibition of French Art at Burlington House, London, and was awarded the Légion d’honneur. The following year, he exhibited A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Institute of Art, London) at the Paris Salon. Manet died on 30 April 1883, in Paris. In 1884, a posthumous retrospective was held at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, with a preface written by Zola.
Manet’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Louvre, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon; the National Gallery, London; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.