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Édouard Manet (1832-1883) | Legacy

Legacy

Manet's public career lasted from 1861, the year of his first participation in the Salon, until his death in 1883. His known extant works, as catalogued in 1975 by Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, comprise 430 oil paintings, 89 pastels, and more than 400 works on paper.
Although harshly condemned by critics who decried its lack of conventional finish, Manet's work had admirers from the beginning.
One was Émile Zola, who wrote in 1867: "We are not accustomed to seeing such simple and direct translations of reality. Then, as I said, there is such a surprisingly elegant awkwardness ... it is a truly charming experience to contemplate this luminous and serious painting which interprets nature with a gentle brutality".



The roughly painted style and photographic lighting in Manet's paintings was seen as specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance works he copied or used as source material.
He rejected the technique he had learned in the studio of Thomas Couture - in which a painting was constructed using successive layers of paint on a dark-toned ground – in favor of a direct, alla prima method using opaque paint on a light ground.
Novel at the time, this method made possible the completion of a painting in a single sitting. It was adopted by the Impressionists, and became the prevalent method of painting in oils for generations that followed.
Manet's work is considered "early modern", partially because of the opaque flatness of his surfaces, the frequent sketch-like passages, and the black outlining of figures, all of which draw attention to the surface of the picture plane and the material quality of paint.

The art historian Beatrice Farwell says Manet:
"has been universally regarded as the Father of Modernism. With Courbet he was among the first to take serious risks with the public whose favour he sought, the first to make alla prima painting the standard technique for oil painting and one of the first to take liberties with Renaissance perspective and to offer "pure painting" as a source of aesthetic pleasure. He was a pioneer, again with Courbet, in the rejection of humanistic and historical subject-matter, and shared with Degas the establishment of modern urban life as acceptable material for high art".