EDOUARD MANET: Painting the Non-traditional Subjects

Theme: Impressionist painters, In search of new and Non-traditional subjects.

Manet (1832 – 1883) was one of the frequent travellers of the European countries for artistic purpose. But his work was generously inspired by the Dutch and Spanish painters. We can see these masters’ influence in Manet’s work. His pool of inspiration was the Spanish paintings of seventeenth century. Painters like Frans Hals, Goya and Velasquez were among those who stirred the artist in Manet.

The absinthe drinker - by Edouard Manet

It was the year 1859, when the Colorado Gold Rush was started in Nebraska (USA), Manet had made his first submission to The Salon. He exhibited his painting, "The absinthe drinker", there. Ironically enough, his work had faced initial rejections by the traditional artists and the viewers. It was because of choice of his subjects for painting. He had painted the marginal and socially discredited people in his paintings. His subjects were carving out a new brand in the art circle. And Manet became the pioneer of this newly found basket of the subjects. Thus in addition to becoming an impressionist painter, Manet had put forward an aggressive argument against those who opposed painting the subjects portraying common people’s life. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


If we observe Manet’s paintings with keen eyes, we realize that he had found out his mode of creation during early stage of his career. He maintained the traditional pictorial configuration for depicting his imagination; and he used his talents in depicting the contemporary reality.

Lecture -by Manet

At the peak of his rebellion, too, he was an artist following the conventions. He was an impressionist painter with a soul of a realist. So his artworks are rare combine of traditional style prevalent in his time and the honoured expression of reality. This painting Lecture is example of the impressionist brush strokes and the convention. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Manet: Painting Hues of Sea-Scape

Seascapes Painting, exploring the hues and tonal values of cool colours.

Steamboat Leaving Boulogne

I have read the famous words written by C. S. Lewis, a British novelist. He wrote that: “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” Whenever I see the paintings, especially the seascapes paintings by Edouardo Manet, I feel the same thing about his artwork. His choice of subjects and the manner in which he remained faithful to the artistic causes artists are supposed carrying with them, we can say that “it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become”. The art, all sort of artistic performances, may it be painting or music, has an embedded meaning in it.


Édouard Manet, a French painter (1832-1883), was one of the artists who painted modern-life subjects in nineteenth century. Manet played a greater role in the movement of the art, too. He helped the transition from realism movement of paintings to the impressionism.

In the above seascape painting Steamboat Leaving Boulogne we can clearly visualize two major aspects, so far as the art of painting is concerned. One is the diagonal journey of the departing steamer, fuming and cruising, making the painting lively; and another is the slightly narrowing of the strokes as the artist approach toward the horizon.

In his seascape paintings, or call them the Marine Art, Manet mainly used horizontal strokes of blue and green paint for depicting seawater.

Sailing ships and Seagulls

The eye-catching aspect of this painting is that Manet has made a strong attempt to record the visual reality of the seascape in day time. He has succeeded in transferring the transient effects of the light and colour on canvas. He had masterly recreated the reality of the moment depicted through the hues and tones of the colours he laid on canvas. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Manet received his due respect when his painting at the fag end of his life. His painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergere was displaced in Saloon in the year 1998. Due to illness he was forced to work slowly on this master piece painting that is set in the famous Paris night-club. Parisians have been always known for their sharpened desire to live the life in full. The consuming of wine was one of the means they do so. Thus the nightclubs and bar were the places populated by rich and neo-rich people Parisians. Manet has wee-depicted this trend in many of his paintings

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere 1882 ( Image Courtesy Édouard Manet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons )

EDOUARD MANET : Adding Natural Beauty to Female Figure

Theme: Painting females and natural beauties with landscape as back ground.

In most of his portrait paintings, Edouard Manet had concentrated on the eyes; may it be the portrait of Berthe Morisot or L'Inconnue, he had positioned the models eyes adding much value to the meaning of paintings, making them more aesthetic.

La Nymphe surprise Oil on canvas
Size 146 x 114 cm by Edouard Monet

The Artist: Édouard Manet, a French painter (1832-1883), was one of the artists who painted modern-life subjects in nineteenth century. Manet played a greater role in the movement of the art. He helped the transition from realism movment of paintings to the impressionism.

Dutch painter Frans Hals, Spanish artists Diego Velázquez, and Francisco José de Goya : these were the master artist influencing Manets art and style of painting. When he opened his studeo in the year 1856, it was period of realism, the era of loose brush strokes, simplification of details, and the suppression of transitional tones. He had followed the trend for a time until he acquired his style of painting.

The Art: May it be the portrait of Berthe Morisot or L'Inconnue, Manet had used the positioning of the eyes of female model very crucially, adding value to the the painting. In this painting of Suzanne Leenhoff, the artist had painted straight look involving attention of the viewers directly to the focal point.

Manet Depicting Urban Life: Cafe scenes, social activities, active urban life, and above all the depiction of natural beauty of females; these were the subjects that occupied Manet's canvases. Here in the above painting the model is Suzanne Leenholf. She was believed to be Manet's mistress for a long period. In the later years she had become his wife. Keeping the main female figure in the centre of the canvas, Manet has added major attraction for this artwork. The yellow colour peeping from the beneath the light red adds much amount of sensuality in the painting. Hair strands resting on back of the woman acts highlighting the most sensual part of the female figure (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

when I had seen the painting The Lunch on the Grass Le Bain or The Bath, I do not remember whether I was shocked like the Parisians had been while seeing this painting by Manet. This painting was a statement of declaration of freedom by an artist. But the viewers as well as the critics of art were shocked. The reason was the woman sitting so cloth-less among the two fully dressed men. In this painting Suzanne Leenhoff had modeled for the woman sitting. She was Edouard Claude Manet’s wife. [All images are in public domain, and courtesy Wikimedia Commons ]

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