Oil on canvas214 x 269 cm (84 1/4 x 106 1/4″) Musee d’Orsay, Paris
He was influenced by the old masters, particulary Velazquez and Goya, but Manet reasoned that ones art should reflect ideas and ideals of the present rather then the past. So disagreeing with Diderot’s theory that great art only reflected the costume of the past, Manet sought instead to follow the advice of Baudelaire…to depict a contemporary realism, to be “le peintre de la vie moderne.”
He is often identified with the “Impressionists,” and was influenced by them. However, because of the Paris generally hostile regard for Impressionism, he chose not to exhibit with them. He preferred to show his work in the more conservative exhibitions sponsored by the French government. Manet scandalized the people of Paris with a number of works containing nudes painted in bold poses with direct, outward gazes.
His “Luncheon on the Grass” (see picture above), in which a nude woman sits besides two fully dressed men, based on a classical work by Giorgione, virtually created a scandal. Exhoibited with other impressionist paintings at the Salon des Refuses in 1863, this painting earned the impressionists a great deal of attention. This scandal might seem ridiculous by today’s standards, but it marks a turning point in the history of art and in its freedom of expression.
In 1864 the official Salon accepted two of his paintings, and in 1865 he exhibited his Olympia (1863, Musée d’Orsay), a nude based on a Venus by Titian, which aroused storms of protest in academic circles because of its unorthodox realism.
Manet was one of the most influential artists of the 19th century. However, coming from a highly respectable social background, his intention was not to be an artistic rebel, insisting that he was not trying to overthrow traditional ideas.
Throughout his career he sought conventional success and honours in the art world. Two years before his death, with pressure from his friend Antonin Proust, the French government awarded Manet the Légion d’honneur
He died on 30 April 1883, in Paris after a disease which caused him considerable pain and partial paralysis.
Edouard Manet in Discover France