Manet was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Paris, France. He studied painting under the famous academic painter Thomas Couture, but he preferred the painting art of Titian, Frans Hals, Velazquez and Francisco Goya, and was also related to realism. The painter Courbet and the writer Emile Zola were quite close friends.
Manet’s artistic career was spent in contradiction: on the one hand, he was loyal to the academic art tradition and hoped that his works would be accepted by the official salon exhibition; on the other hand, Manet was also obsessed with the innovation of artistic style, constantly exploring and Research new ways of expressing light and color. Art history often classifies Manet as a representative painter of Impressionist paintings, and young Impressionist painters also regard him as a spiritual leader. However, Manet never participated in an Impressionist exhibition. In fact, Manet yearned for official recognition throughout his life, but it was not until 1882 that his work “The Bar Rooms of Fliess Berger” was accepted for the official Salon exhibition, for which he received a Medal of Honor. Manet said that all this came too late to make up for the unfair treatment he had received over the past 20 years. Manet died the following year.
Manet seems to be a traveler between classical and modern. The themes of some of his works are derived from classical paintings, but they show the spirit of new art. “Luncheon on the Grass” is one of the representatives. The official Salon of 1863 rejected thousands of submitted works, a move that sparked an outcry among painters. Louis Napoleon had no choice but to announce the holding of a “Salon of the Unsuccessful” to exclusively exhibit the works of unsuccessful artists. Some viewers even came specifically to ridicule the artists. “Luncheon on the Grass” was the most shocking work in the “Salon of the Losers”. Critics liked neither the style nor the content of the painting. They thought that the scene in the painting showed a gentleman and a naked woman together. It’s really offensive. In fact, this composition method comes from the artistic tradition of the Venetian School of Renaissance, just like the “Pastoral Ensemble” by Giorgione and Titian. However, Manet painted the Bois de Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris, where two well-dressed modern gentlemen and an ordinary-looking naked woman openly chatted on the grass, with some food beside them.
The biggest difference between “Lunch on the Grass” and “Pastoral Ensemble” is that the former is a picnic in a modern park, while the latter expresses a poetic life like a paradise. Manet replaced the delicate light and dark changes of classical painting with flat paint of large blocks of color, thus abandoning the inherent soft colors and solid sense of form of classical painting. The composition of this painting is also very careful. There are multiple interlaced triangles in the painting: the four people form a large triangle. A naked woman and two gentlemen in the foreground are the three sides of this triangle. The one in the background bends down and lowers his head. The woman forms the top of the large triangle, and the postures of the three people in the close shot form several smaller triangles.
Critics were unable to understand the “shocking” content of this painting, especially the over two-meter-long painting – a size usually used for historical paintings, but Manet used it to represent a modern “garden party.” Manet refused to express literary, religious and mythological themes in his paintings. In this way, he declared the freedom of modern artists – artists have the right to determine the content of their works, and paintings do not have to serve religion and literature. Interestingly, in the “Salon of the Unsuccessful”, this painting was only listed as a “bathing” work.
”Olympia” is another work that Manet used to find the balance between tradition and modernity. The concept of “Olympia” comes from the Renaissance painter Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”, except that the maid holding flowers replaced the two busy maids in Titian’s painting, and the nervous black cat replaced A cute pet dog. Although nudity is a common content in Western paintings, painters have long been accustomed to showing goddesses in mythology as naked and women in real life as clothed. This is why “Olympia” suffers The cause of criticism and abuse. The audience was surprised to find that the nude in Manet’s painting was not a mythical goddess, but a “fallen female model”. She was neither plump nor delicate, and was no longer in the position of being “viewed”, but without any He looked at the audience covertly, his eyes bold and unrestrained.
Manet’s artistic innovation came partly from the influence of Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings. The decorative colors, flexible composition and flat space processing of Ukiyo-e greatly shocked European painters. “The Boy Who Played the Flute” reflects Manet’s preference for ukiyo-e. Manet uses a large area of flat, cold-colored background to make it impossible for the audience to determine where the boy is. The image of the boy relies on the flat colors of his clothing and rhythmic outlines to stand out from the background. Manet’s thin application of color negated the traditional approach of academic painters to carefully modify their works. This was also criticized by the latter, who believed that this kind of work was more like an unfinished “draft”.
”The Bar Room at Folies Bergere” was Manet’s final work that was recognized by the official Salon. In this work, Manet, as always, focuses on current life rather than the ancient world, depicting the feasting nightlife of Paris. The protagonist in the painting is not a goddess or lady in classical paintings, but a tired waitress. The waitress stood supporting the bar with both hands. The mirror behind her reflected the customers and the bustling bar in front of her, and she seemed to have nothing to do with the noisy nightclub life. This painting is a portrayal of Manet’s inner self at the end of his life – Manet longed to be recognized by the official Salon throughout his life, but he persisted in pursuing the Art Nouveau style and refused to succumb to the rigid academic painting. Manet seemed to be a lonely traveler, traveling between classical and modern times. He only received official recognition at the end of his life, and it was “too late” for him.