Edouard Manet:
Presenting ‘Unnecessary’ Nudity.

Influenced by Courbet, Edouard Manet (1832-83) was a realist who segued into Impressionism.

He became famous in 1863 for his painting called Dejeuner sur l’herbe or Luncheon on the Grass. It was a painting of two clothed men and a naked woman, meant to make fun of the moral pretensions of the French Academy, a very conservative academic organisation which controlled the art world in France, decided which painters could succeed and limited what they could paint.

Edouard Manet. The Picnic or Luncheon on the Grass. 1862-63. Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France.Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) by Edouard Manet

Dejeuner sur l’herbe was presented at a famous exhibition in Paris in 1863 called Salon des refuses. This translates to mean Salon of the Rejected, so it was an exhibition of the paintings that had been rejected that year to exhibit at the official Salon de Paris.

Edouard Manet was born in Paris on January 23, 1832. His father was a judge and wealthy bureaucrat and his mother was a descendant of Swedish royalty. Manet wanted to be a painter, but his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and be a lawyer. They eventually compromised in that Manet would join the navy.

Manet went to Brazil for three years with the French navy and never passed the examinations to enter the navy. When he returned to Paris in 1850, he begged his father to let him be a painter, and his father finally said yes.

He took lessons but found them too restricting so, instead, he spent a lot of years travelling and studying classic art.

Manet socialised with the elite of Paris and became very good friends with Charles Baudelaire.

In 1859, Manet submitted a canvas to the Salon de Paris. It was rejected. This canvas was called The Absinthe Drinker. Absinthe is an alcoholic drink that was popular with the lower classes in Paris. It was a depressing-looking painting and the French Academy preferred more uplifting themes.

Four years later, in 1863, Manet submitted Luncheon on the Grass. It was also rejected. As mentioned above, it did make it to the Salon des Refuses, however, but most people went there to laugh and make fun of the paintings. The nude woman in his painting shocked people.

Manet thereafter became known as leader of a group of rebel artists (most of whom became the Impressionists).

The Salon de Paris accepted his painting Olympia in 1865. This painting is Manet’s spin on Titian's Venus of Urbino from 1538, which show a ‘Venus’ lounging. The alarming differences of Manet’s were that the woman was not a goddess, but implied to be a courtesan and very real woman. Manet used only a relatively small range of colours, and used chunky, quick brush strokes instead of delicate missing. People got angry. He was making fun of traditional art and presenting unnecessary nudity.

Manet was rejected again to exhibit for the Paris world fair in 1867.

In 1871, an art dealer named Paul Durand-Ruel bought 30 paintings of Manet’s. Then Manet was accepted by the Salon de Paris two years in a row.

Even though Manet was friends with the main Impressionists, he didn’t want to display art at the first Impressionist exhibit because he still thought the typical route via Salon de Paris was the best route to success for an artist.