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About the artist, Edouard Manet.

There have been few true revolutionaries in the history of art--those whose work challenges the cultural status quo, resulting in a new visual landscape.

This month's featured Clip & Save artist, Edouard Manet, is one such revolutionary. Sometimes called the "father of Impressionism" (not to be confused with the younger artist Claude Monet), Manet's work was the testing ground on which modernism would ultimately stand.

Born in Paris to an upper middleclass family, Manet was expected to follow the family tradition and work in the judiciary. His father, a powerful judge who for years resisted the idea that his eldest son would become a painter, is featured in one of his earliest paintings. His mother, the goddaughter of the King of Sweden, was an accomplished musician and encouraged her son's talent.

At 17, Manet joined the French navy, journeying to Brazil. Upon his return, he convinced his father to allow him an apprenticeship with the noted history painter, Thomas Couture. Manet studied there for six years. Ironically, one of the most important lessons he learned from Couture was "to paint the world around you."

From the start, Manet's works provoked the Parisian art establishment. To the directors of the Paris Salon, his brushwork was too loose, his subjects too confrontational and his palette too extreme in its contrasts between dark and light. What the arbiters of taste failed to recognize was that Manet was following in the tradition of two of world's the greatest painters: Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya.

In June of 1863, Manet's unpopularity would reach a new low after he submitted to the Salon, Le Dejeuner sur L'herbe, which depicted a fully nude woman picnicking in a glade in the company of two fully clothed men, while another woman placed in the center background is bathing herself in a shallow pond. It was a scandal! Even the Emperor, Napolean III, participated in the Manet bashing by saying, "It offends against modesty."

From that point, Manet became a convenient target for the Salon's distaste of anything that smacked of modernism. The work was rejected, and instead was exhibited in the Salon De Rufuses, along with work by other artists that failed to make the cut.

Two years later, his undisputed masterpiece, Olympia, was exhibited at the Salon. This portrait of a nude courtesan reclining on a bed, looking squarely and unapologetically at the viewer, caused a fury. Viewers tried to tear it off the wall in order to destroy it.

Olympia, as well as Le Dejeuner sur L'herbe, are "testimony to Manet's refusal to conform to convention and his initiation of a new freedom from traditional subjects and modes of representation--[and] can perhaps be considered as the departure point for Modern Art." (Musee d'Orsay.)
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Title Annotation:Movement in art
Author:Carroll, Colleen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 27, 2012
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