Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


Edouard Manet

Nationality: French
Date of birth: 23 January 1832
Place of birth: Paris
Date of death: 30 April 1883
Place of death: Paris
Category: artist


Edouard Manet was the eldest of three sons of Auguste Manet, a distinguished civil servant in the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie Désirée Fournier, daughter of a diplomatic envoy to the Swedish court. He married Suzanne Leenhoff (1830-1906), a musician and his family's music teacher, in 1863.


Manet enrolled in the Parisien atelier of Thomas Couture in September 1850. Although often classified with the Impressionists, it is Manet's position as a Realist that has most relationship to Whistler. His technique is painterly, and in both paintings and prints he introduced modern, urban subject-matter. Like Whistler, he was influenced by the chiaroscuro and drama of Spanish 17th-century painting in his early career, what Whistler called 'la manière noir'; he later evolved to freely-brushed compositions whose content bordered at times on Symbolism. Manet also played an important part in the etching revival, beginning his career as a printmaker about 1860, with one lithographic caricature and a number of etchings. Etching was his favoured medium until the late 1860s, after which he was more interested in lithography.

Whistler met Manet through Fantin-Latour in 1861, and he was part of the artistic milieu of Paris, who Whistler kept in touch with across the Channel. They frequented the Café du Bade with mutual friends like Fantin-Latour, who painted his portrait in 1867, H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait de Manet (FL.296) z0121. Manet appeared, like Whistler, in Fantin's Hommage à Eugène Delacroix (FL.227) , signifying their artistic allegience. Manet was one of those who enthusiastically followed Whistler to Madame Desoye's shop to buy Oriental porcelain, prints and fabrics.

In the 1860s they were close, and Whistler was pleased to receive via Manet, a letter asking about the price of At the Piano y024 (E. Thoré to E. Manet, [15 April/May 1867], #00433). Standing before W. P. Frith, Derby Day z0082, Whistler exclaimed 'How did he do it? It's as good as Manet'.

Manet was also no stranger to artistic scandal: three of Manet's paintings were rejected from the Salon of 1863, to be hung at the Salon des refusés; they vied with Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl y038 for notoriety in the press (see Fantin-Latour to Whistler, 1 May 1863, GUW #01079).

As he was not invited to participate in the Exposition Universelle of 1867, Manet took matters into his own hands and set up a private exhibition of 50 of his works in a pavilion close to the exposition grounds. Although this was ignored by the public and press alike, this action aligned him the supreme Realist, Courbet who had exhibited similarly in 1855.

Whistler included works by Manet into the exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in 1898, during his Presidency. In 1900, Whistler rather irritably described Manet to the Pennells as 'always l'écolier - the student with a certain sense of things in paint, and that is all! - he never understood that art is a positive science, one step in it leading to another'.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908 , vol. 2, p. 261; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921 , p. 78; Isaacson, J., exh. cat. Manet and Spain: Prints and Drawings, Ann Arbor, 1969; Rouart, D., and D. Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue Raisonné, 2 vols, Geneva, 1975; Wilson, J., Dessins, aquarelles, eaux-fortes, lithographies, correspondance, Paris, 1978; Art Journal, vol. 55, Spring 1985 [issue dedicated to Manet]; Clark, T. J., The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, New York, 1985; Françoise Cachin, Manet: Painter of Modern Life, London 1995; Beatrice Farwell: 'Edouard Manet', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy. 'Édouard Manet', Wikipedia.