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Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet

 Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life and was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

His early masterpieces caused much controversy and served as an influence for the young painters who would create Impressionism. In the last two decades of Manet’s life, he developed a style that had a significant impact on future painters.

A Virtual Tour of Édouard Manet

Highlights of Édouard Manet’s Art


“Olympia” by Édouard Manet shows a nude woman lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia’s confrontational gaze caused astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because some of the details in the painting identified her as a prostitute.

Also, “Olympia” was a name associated with prostitutes in the 1860’s Paris. Most paintings during this period of art that were this large size depicted historical or mythological events, so the significant proportions of this picture is another factor that caused surprise.

Olympia is identified in the painting as a courtesan or prostitute. Based on the symbols of the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, the pearl earrings, and the oriental shawl.

The black ribbon around her neck is in stark contrast with her pale skin, reinforcing wealth, and sensuality. Museum: Musée d’Orsay

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” by Édouard Manet depicts a scene in the Folies Bergère nightclub in Paris. This painting shows Manet’s commitment to Realism in its detailed portrayal of a contemporary scene even though he has experimented with perspective and points of view.

The central figure of the barmaid stands before a mirror, facing the gentleman we can see in the reflection on the right. In the mirror’s reflection, we can see the world the barmaid surveys in front of her.

In the mirror reflection, she seems engaged with a customer, whoever in full face, she appears protectively withdrawn and remote. In the reflection, she seems to lean in and engage with her customers. In the other reality, she is ambivalent about the scene. Museum:  Courtauld Gallery

In the Conservatory

“In the Conservatory” by Édouard Manet is set in a conservatory in Paris, it shows a fashionable couple of some social rank. Their rings convey their married status. Also, by the proximity of their hands, which reflects a hint of intimacy.

The woman is the focus of the portrait, as she is more prominently placed plus her more colorful attire. Their lack of engagement with the viewer creates a sense of detachment. The conservatory in this painting was in Paris, which was then owned by painter Otto Rosen.

Manet used the conservatory as a studio from 1878 to 79. The couple was Manet’s friends, the Guillemets, who owned a clothing shop. Museum:  National Gallery (Berlin) – Alte Nationalgalerie

The Balcony

The Balcony by Édouard Manet depicts four figures on a balcony, one sitting, and the others standing. The painting was inspired by “Majas on the Balcony” by Francisco Goya.

The three people in the foreground were all friends of Manet, and yet seem to be disconnected from each other. The seated figure looks like a romantic and inaccessible heroine. The two standing characters seem to display indifference.

The boy in the background is not explicitly shown. For this painting, Manet adopted a restrained color palette, dominated by white, green, and black, with an accent of blue and red. Museum: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France


Spring by Édouard Manet depicts the Parisian actress Jeanne DeMarsy in a floral dress with parasol and bonnet against a background of lush foliage and blue sky, as the embodiment of Spring.

She is portrayed poised and looking straight ahead, a picture of detachment even though she seems fully aware of our gaze. This painting was the first of a planned quartet of allegorical works using chic Parisian women to depict the four seasons.

The idea was to produce a series of seasons personified by contemporary ideals of women, fashion, and beauty. The series was never finished, and Manet died a year after completing only the second of the series, Autumn. Museum: Getty Museum


Nana by Édouard Manet shows a young woman who stands before a mirror with two extinguished candles; her face turned to the viewer. Her dress is incomplete.

She is wearing a white chemise, blue corset, silk stockings, and high-heeled shoes. The interior suggests that it is a boudoir. Behind the woman is a sofa with two pillows.

An elegantly dressed man sitting on the couch can be partly seen on the right of the painting.

The title and the many details suggest that the picture represents a high-class prostitute and her client. “Nana” was a popular assumed name for female prostitutes during the second half of the 19th century.

Painted in 1877, it was refused at the Salon of Paris because it was deemed to be contemptuous of the morality of the time.

French society was not prepared for such frank depictions of prostitution, and the critics did not see the artistic qualities of the work as they focused on the subject of the painting. Museum: Kunsthalle Hamburg

Édouard Manet

A Tour of Artists

Édouard Manet Quotes


“There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another.”


“If I’m lucky, when I paint, first my patrons leave the room, then my dealers, and if I’m fortunate, I leave too.”


“I paint what I see and not what others like to see.”


“It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us, imagination is worth far more.”


“I would kiss you, had I the courage.”


“There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. When you haven’t, you begin again. All the rest is humbug.”


“The country only has charms for those not obliged to stay there.”


“I am influenced by everybody. But every time I put my hands in my pockets, I find someone else’s fingers there.”


“One does not paint a landscape, a seascape, a figure. One paints an impression of an hour of the day.”


“No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.” ‘


“One must be of one’s time and paint what one sees.”


Edouard Manet: A collection of 210 paintings

Édouard Manet- Understanding Modern Art


“Color is a matter of taste and sensitivity.” 
– Édouard Manet


Photo Credit:Édouard Manet [Public domain]