Manet was no impressionist




Edouard Manet

1832 – 1883

was no Impressionist

more a Realist

Edouard Manet is seen as the leader of the ‘impressionist’ art-movement. Still, he never wanted to join the ‘impressionist’ expositions, preferring to submit to the Salon. And it is under influence of namely Monet in 1874 that he started to paint in a more impressionist painting style (R3,p162-5). Before that he used a lot of blacks and browns and mostly painted in the studio. So, overall Manet was more a Realist, than an Impressionist.


Manet never joined the ‘impressionist’ expositions:
Edouard Manet repeatedly refused invitations to participate in the ‘impressionist’ expositions (R2,p21). He thought that the Salon had to be conquered. For him this was no strange thought. Manet was quite rich, so he was not depending on selling his paintings (though he also could be short of money). Probably Manet also disapproved the inclusion of less talented artists (R2,p22).
This fact, that Manet never joined the ‘impressionist’ expositions, makes it strange that in the 1974 exhibition “Centenaire de l’Impressionnisme” included 5 paintings of Manet, which is 1/8 of all the paintings exhibited (R87). This also makes it strange that most books on Impressionism render several pictures of Manet.

Scandal journalism:
Most books on Impressionism give attention to Le déjeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia made by Manet and many also render a picture. Already in 1906 Duret dedicated seperate chapters to these works (aR4=R260). Both paintings caused a scandal, the first at the Salon des Refusés in 1863 and the second at the Salon of 1865. Zola in his novel ‘L’Oeuvre’ (1886) extensively describes a parallel situation of his main caractere Claude Lantier, whose work caused a lot of scorn and laughter (R292). Often Le déjeuner sur l’herbe is opposed to The birth of Venus with which Cabanel had a great success at the Salon of 1863. It emphasises a Hegelian view on art-history emphasising the contradiction between the traditional painting style (Néo-Classicism) with the Avantgarde painting style, which is called ‘impressionism’, see myths on Impressionism. Elsewhere you can read that the Salon des Refusés of 1863, that was ordained by the Emperor, has not much to do with the independant ‘impressionist’ group expositions.
These works of Manet are seen as important avant-garde paintings. Thoré-Bürger reviewed the ‘vibrating and contrasting colour tones’ and the ‘loose, boisterous handling of the brush’ of his ‘Déjeuner…’ (R71,no58A). De Montifaud (1874/05/01) remarks that ’the author of Olympia’ ‘layed the colours next to each other’ (R90I,p28;R211,p13). But when we look more closely these two paintings, we see they are painted in the studio, with subdued colours using many blacks. So these paintings were not painted in an Impressionist painting style. The paintings even don’t seem very original, while Manet seems to have copied figures from other paintings. Still, Manet placed these figures in a contemporary context, both depicting prostitution. And this caused the scandal. But this typical is part of the Realist painting style, so it is strange that it is included in books on Impressionism.
Uhde writes about these works and the Balcony↓: “The values of feeling and expression were missing. The people in his paintings are not interesting. The face of the ‘Olympia’ is empty. She has nothing to tell us. The figures on the ‘picnic’ lack any human relation; one has the impression that the people who are together on the ‘balcony’ do not know each other at all. (…) The space values are not interesting, everything is close together. The movement value is completely missing, the figures are static and rigid.” (R211,p19).
Note: both works were later officially recognised. Olympia at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 and Déjeuner sur l’Herbe in 1900 (R231=iR40). And in 1890 Monet set up an action to buy ‘Olympia to be placed in the new Musée du Luxembourg. So in this sense, these are important paintings within art-history, but not in the history of Impressionism.

Manet liked blacks:
One of Manet’s trademarks was his skilful use of black, a colour abolished from the impressionist palet (R212,p38). Many works Édouard Manet exhibited at the Salon contained a lot of blacks, browns, greys and sub-dued colours. Uhde praises his Balcony↓ (RW134=S1869-1616) ‘Two different sorts of brown, the one even more precious than the other (…) a supernatural beautiful grey of the dress of the sitting woman’ (R211,p18). Le déjeuner dans l’atelier↑ (RW135=S1869-1617) was reviewed as ‘harmony of strong, grey hues’ (R71,no120) and Uhde writes ’the painting is dominated by black and grey’ (R211,p18;R64,p88). Still, Manet is often praised for his use of colours (R71,no58A+63+266A+271). And he advices his only pupil, Eva Gonzalès to ‘keep your colours fresh!’ (R213,p52).

Manet painted in the studio:
Edouard Manet painted mainly in the studio. In this sense he was not an Impressionist. Sometimes he made sketches outdoors, like for RW148↓; but note the inconsequent shades. Around 1869 Manet began to experiment with painting en-plein-air, for example RW143↓. He was influenced by Claude Monet and  Berthe Morisot. Since then he made some paintings in the open or at least some sketches. When we look at these paintings we see that he still used subdued colours, he hardly rendered the influence of light, he didn’t use juxtaposed brushstrokes and he hardly used bluish or purplish shades. So his en-plein-air paintings were more Pre-impressionistic and not in a full impressionist painting style.
Sources: R211,p20; R212,p33+40.

Manet tutored by Monet:
Horst Keller wrote in 1974 in his book ‘The art of the (french) Impressionists’ referring to the painting Argenteuil↓ of Manet: “No other work is more suitable as introduction of Impressionism, the art-movement, born from the meeting of comradely and enthousiastic artists who had decided following Manet, to throw away from them all the conventions and academic tangles.” And also “And it is in Argenteuil, that 100 years ago, the movement was born, who meant the beginning of modern art and of all daring aesthetic experiments of the 20th century.” (R19,p9+7)
Keller refers to the fact that in 1874 Edouard Manet visited Claude Monet in Argenteuil. In that year Manet at first experimented with the impressionist painting style Monet used. Keller also acknowledges this, but this makes it ever so strange that he used a painting of the follower Manet to represent Impression. We see indeed that Manet made some beautiful paintings in Argenteuil, that are merely made in an impressionist style. He also would do so later that year in Venice↓. Also in later years he made some merely impressionist paintings.
But Manet also continued making paintings in his studio using many blacks and browns. In general his palet brightened up, but he mostly didn’t pay much attention to the rendering of the light. His work ‘Boating’ (RW223) again probably wasn’t painted outdoors (R212,p52). Note also the greyish shades on the white shirt and trousers of the man and compare this with the caleidoscope of colours that the Impressionists use in white clothes. Note also the strong lines and the use of browns and blacks (R71,p196). Manet also stayed more interested in figure painting, than in landscape painting.
Félix Fénénon in a review in 1886 remarked that Manet, who used bitumen black in his Bon Bock↓, lightened up his palet in Argenteuil under the influence of namely Monet (R90I,p441;R71,p138;R212,p48).

Manet was a follower:
In many books and also early writings Edouard Manet is depicted as the leader of the avantgarde movement which is called ‘Impression‘. But when we look more closely often Manet was a follower. We have seen this in his paintings Le déjeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia↑. We see this in his painting en-plein-air↑, in his using elements of the impressionist painting style↑. We also see this in one of his last masterpieces his Un bar aux Folies-Bergères. The concept of reflections in the mirror had already been done by Forain and Caillebotte.

Manet and the Salon:
Edouard Manet was mostly accepted at the Salon. In 1861 he made his debut and received a 2nd class medal. In 1873 he had success with his ‘Bon Bock’↑ (RW186). In 1881 again he received a 2nd class medal and later that year was appointed Chevallier in the Légion d’Honneur. After that he automatically was accepted and exhibited hors concours. Only in 1859, 1863, 1866 and 1876 Manet was rejected for the Salon. In 1874 and 1877 Manet was partly rejected for the Salon. In 1867 Manet was rejected for the Exposition Universelle and organised a one-man show / a retrospective in a private pavilion on the Place d’Alma.
Edouard Manet was in his days seen as an avant garde artist. His Spanish singer↓, was reviewed  as ‘a powerful brush stroke and bright use of colour’ (R71,no32). Later Richardson noted ’the innovations, such as the abandonment of half-tones, resulting in strong contrasts leading to particularly high brightness’ (R71,no32). Still, the many blacks and browns are most prominent.
Sources: iR1; R64,p11 +18 +25 +116/7; R211,p9+25; R213,p9+10 +41 +167 +243.

Manet as central figure within the avant-garde circles:
In 1866 Édouard Manet started visiting café Guèrbois; shortly afterwards it became an important meeting point for ‘impressionist’ and related painters. The Café Guerbois could be found at 11, Grande rue des Batignolles; now: 19, Avenue de Clichy, Paris. In the early days the ‘impressionists’ were called ‘L’Ecole des Batignolles’. Somewhere in the 1870s the Café Nouvelle Athènes took over the role of Café Guerbois as important meeting place for the ‘impressionists’. In both cases Manet was a central figure. Something that is depicted namely in the painting of Fantin-Latour ‘A studio at Batignolles’↓.
Numerous reviews on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition call Manet the leader of the avant-garde (R2,p21/22+52). Cardon (1874/04/29) spoke of the disciples of Manet (R88II,p235). Giuseppe de Nittis remarked in a letter ’they all derive from Manet’ (R1,p324). A caricature in ‘Les Contemporains’ showed Manet wearing a crown under the title ‘Manet, King of the Impressionists’ (iR374). Namely Silvestre (1876), Marius Chaumelin (1876/04/08), etc also made similar remarks.
Sources: R1,p236; R3,p78 +651; R5,p46/7; R47,p33; R11,p214/5.

Manet and Astruc:
August 1865 Édouard Manet went for a trip to Spain. Manet highly admired the spanish painter Velasquez. This trip was (partly) prepared by Zacharie Astruc, whom was portrayed several times by Manet. Astruc, who also was an art-critic, defended Manet and others in his reviews on the Salon. In 1867  Manet held a retrospective close to the Exposition Universelle. Astruc wrote the preface to the catalogue, wrting that Manet just wanted to convey his own impressions (…) and never wished to make a protest (…) he never had the intention to overthrow the old painting art, neither to create a new kind of art’ (R213,p43;R71,p141;R5,p45). So, the intentions of Manet weren’t so revolutionary as many want us to belief. Manet and Astruc would regularly correspond. Astruc would in 1874 join the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition.
Sources: R5,p37; R64,p30; R231,p34-36.

Manet and Duret:
During his trip through Spain, Édouard Manet accidently met Théodore Duret in Madrid in 1865. After that they would regularly correspond (R213). Duret would buy some of Manet his art-works and during the French-Prusian war (1870/71) he would shelter some of Manet his paintings. In 1883 Duret took charge of the will of Manet.
In 1906 and 1910 Duret wrote two books on Manet (aR4=R260; aR5=R262). But Duret didn’t include Manet as one of the Impressionists in his famous book ‘Les peintres Impressionnistes; Claude Monet, Sisley, C. Pissarro, Renoir, Berthe Morisot’ (1878) (R142). In a later edition he mentioned that Manet just so now and than painted en-plein-air and belonged to an earlier generation (R7,p22+52).
Sources: R64,p53; R71,no119; R211,p15; R213,p56+267.

Manet and Berthe Morisot:
Édouard Manet did meet Berthe Morisot and her sister Edma in the Louvre in 1868*. Manet would attent the soirées of their mother. Manet would paint Berthe many times↓. Morisot influenced Manet to paint en-plein-air. 1874/12/22 Berthe married his younger brother Eugène (born 1833). In 1879 they gave birth to a daughter Julie Manet, who also was portrayed by her uncle (RW399=R120;R213,no231).
Note*: Several sources render different dates.

Manet and Durand-Ruel:
January 1872 the art-dealer Durand-Ruel bought 25* oil paintings of Édouard Manet for 35.000fr (R213,p163). Some of these paintings would be exhibited in London in the early 1870s. In 1873 Durand-Ruel made a catalogue of 300 art-works he had in stock (R243). Here he included 4 oil paintings of Manet. In 1886 Durand-Ruel organised the famous exposition Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris in New York. It included 15 oil paintings of Manet. So, Manet was presented as an Impressionist. Still, many works were done in sub-dued colours, using many blacks and browns, so clearly not in an impressionist painting style.
Note*: this number differs in several sources, but 25 is the accurate number.
Sources: R5,p72+80; R64,p17; R211,p21; R213,p158; R243; iR19.

Manet was a portraitist:
Édouard Manet portrayed many artists and others, including partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions, like Astruc↑, Félix Bracquemond, Desboutin↑, Maureau, Claude Monet several times, namely in Argenteuil in 1874, Berthe Morisot several times. Manet portrayed other artists like Carolus Duran and Eva Gonzalès. He portrayed art-critics like Duret, Mallarmé, George Moore, Albert Wolff. Manet portrayed art-collectors like Chabrier, Faure and Ernest Hoschedé. Manet also portrayed others that were involved in the art-world, like the musician Cabaner↓.
Manet himself was portrayed by Astruc, Félix Bracquemond, Degas and Legros↓.

Manet admired by the ‘impressionists’:
I think Edouard Manet has a much to prominent place in books and exhibitions on Impressionism. But this doesn’t mean he has to be left out. Manet had many contacts with the ‘impressionists’. In the Café Guerbois, which was an important meeting place, he had a prominent role. This prominent role is also depicted by Fantin-Latour↑. The ‘impressionists’ eagerly wanted Manet to join their expositions. He was often portrayed↓ by the partakers of the  ‘impressionist’ expositions. His funeral in 1883 was attended by many ‘impressionists’, namely Pissarro. In 1890 Monet set up an action to buy ‘Olympia to be placed in the new Musée du Luxembourg↑. Many partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions did contribute: Bracquemond, Caillebotte, Degas, Desboutin, Pissarro, Raffaëlli, Renoir and Rouart.
Sources: R22I,p258; R312,p35; R71,p91.

Manet posthumously honoured:
Posthumously Édouard Manet was officially honoured with an exhibition at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in January 1884. An honour not many artists received. The catalogue counted 179 art-works, including 116 oil paintings, 7 aquarelles, 31 pastels, 22 etchings (, 5 lithographs and 13 drawings. There were 26 people in the exposition committee, including just 1 partaker of the ‘impressionist’ expositions, namely Giuseppe de Nittis. Émile Zola wrote an extended preface. (aR1)
In 1867 Manet was rejected for the Exposition Universelle. He organised a solo exhibition in a wooden barrack at the Champs de Mars, close to the entries (R211,p16). In 1878 he didn’t submit or he was rejected. But in 1889 at the Centennial exhibition 23 works of Manet were exhibited (14 oil paintings and 9 other works) and in 1900 at least 13 oil paintings (R231=iR40).
In 1905 Manet was honoured at the Salon d’Automne with a retrospective of 31 art-works (=SdA-1905).

Other ways of exhibiting:
Edouard Manet often exhibited at the Salon. But sometimes, he used other ways of exhibiting his paintings.

  • Manet several times showed some works at the gallery of Louis Martinet, namely 1861/09 (R71,no19+34), 1861/10 (R71,no35), 1863/03/01 Manet showed 14 works (R5,p24;R3,p40); 1865/02/03 Manet submitted 9 paintings for the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts organised by Louis Martinet, but only 2 are accepted (R5,p34)
  • Manet also exhibited several times at the gallery of Cadart. Namely 1864/06/27 two works (R71,no66;R5,p30); 1865/06/01 3 works (R5,p35).
  • Manet sometimes showed his refused paintings in his own studio. Namely in 1866 (R71,no90+104) and in 1876 (R71,no202+209;R64,p32;R213,p159).
  • 1867/05/22: Manet held a solo exhibition in a specially build pavilion (a wooden barack) near the Pont de l’Alma, which did cost 28.305 franc (R5,p42/3;R71,p12)
  • Manet exhibited his rejected ‘Nana’ in 1877 in a shop (R3,p200).
  • In 1878 he didn’t submit to the Salon nor to the Exposition Universelle and held an exposition in his own studio (R71,p13). Note: others claim he was rejected for the last (R211,p24).

Edouard Manet his private life:
Edouard Manet was born 1832/01/23. His parents belonged to the upper-class. From 1850-56 he studied at the studio of Thomas Couture. 1862/09/25 his father died, who left him a large amount of money. Still, in the 1870s he noted in letters that he was short of money (R213,p169+186+247). 1863/10/28 Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff. She was a Dutch woman, from Zaltbommel, who had given piano lessons to his younger brothers since 1850. His political preference was with the Republicans. The later minister of Fine Arts (1881-82), Antonin Proust, was a youth friend of him. 1883/04/3 Manet died due to complications from syphilis infection.
Sources: R64,p12 +98 +116/7; R71,p6-14; R213,p8-15.


My main sources are Darragon (1998=R64), Spence (2001=R65); Braun / Dony (1967/1980=R71), Uhde (1958=R211), Harris (1994=R212), Wilson-Bareau (1991=R213), BBC documentary (1996=R215), Duret (1906=R260=aR4=iR19), Duret (1910=R262=aR5=iR19). Many refer to the Catalogue Raisonné of Rouart & Wildenstein (=RW=1975=R120=iR193),
More info: more info in Dutch (=iR21); more pictures (=iR56).

Additional references (=aRx):

  1. (catalogue of the posthumous exposition at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts January 1884; =iR19)
  2. (page in German on developments after 1874, including on Manet; =iR59)
  3. (page in German on developments after 1882, including on Manet; =iR59)
  4. (1906, Théodore Duret: Histoire de Édouard Manet et de son oeuvre; =iR19=R260)
  5. (1910, Théodore Duret: Manet and the French Impressionists; Pissarro, Claude Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Cézanne, Guillaumin; Note: the first part seems similar to the 1906 publication; it includes an inventory of the art-works of Manet; =iR19; =R262)
  6. (page with links to the 2 volumes of the Catalogue Raisonné of Manet by Rouart & Wildenstein of 1975; =RW; =iR193; =R120).



Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was no Impressionist, more a Realist. Last modified 2024/02/06.