Edouard Manet

This will be about Edouard Manet (1832-1883). The photo above is from his grave at the Passy Cemetery (see previous post).

I will somehow try to make a chronological / geographical tour of his life – in Paris. He travelled quite a lot, spent summer holidays elsewhere…, but somehow most of his works were certainly brought back to his different studios, where he finished them, kept them, tried to sell them…

This is as how I have managed to trace places where he lived (to the left) and where he worked (to the right). It has not always been easy, as street names and numbering often have changed, many of the buildings have been replaced…

I have more or less neglected the first years of his life. However, a few words: He was born to fairly wealthy bourgeois parents, on the left bank, now rue Bonaparte. (One detail: His mother was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, my own birth place. Her father worked then as a diplomat in Sweden, got to work closely with the newly nominated heir of the Swedish Crown, Count Bernadotte, who became her godfather and she got the name of Bernadotte’s wife, Eugénie-Désirée.)

Manet made short “normal” studies, started to go to art schools at the age of 13. At the age of 16 he made a trip on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro, then failed twice to join the Navy… and started his artistic career. In 1861 (age 19), he got two paintings accepted to the “Salon”, the portrait of his parents and “The Spanish singer”. He had then already painted “The Absinthe Drinker”, but it was refused for the "Salon" and finally, after a number of modifications, sold in 1872.

At the age of about 20 he moved to a studio, where many of his most famous paintings were to be made, including “The luncheon on the grass” and “Olympia”, both from 1863. The first one was rejected by the “Salon”, but exhibited at the “Salon des Refusés” (Salon of the rejected). “Olympia” was exhibited at the “Salon” in 1865, creating uproar. The painting was finally purchased by the French government seven years after Manet’s death after a public subscription organised by Claude Monet. “The Balcony” is from 1868 and was presented at the “Salon” in 1869. We can see some of Manet’s friends: Berthe Morisot (I will revert to her) sitting, the violinist Fanny Claus standing and the painter Antoine Guillemet.  

It was not easy to find where the above studio was situated - once again changed street names and numbers -, but I’m rather convinced that this must be the one, now 8 rue Médéric. The studio should have been on the back side with light coming from the north-east. I feel that this is somehow proved by the Google Earth helicopter view.  

Addendum December 9, 2014: I had the chance to see someone open the door to this building today and I could take some pictures from the interior court - see below. The information about the whereabouts of this studio is quite contradictory, but I'm rather convinced that it must have been here. I would be happy to see some comments and additional information, especially if someone has some documented information. 

A little parenthesis: We are very close to where, some 15 years after Manet’s departure, the “Statue of Liberty” was created, before being put in pieces and shipped to New York (see previous post).

Back to the studios and the chronology! Manet who during many years gave his parents’ address (rue de Clichy), obviously for a period lived on Boulevard des Batignolles, but then moved more permanently to Rue de Saint-Petersbourg. Once again, the street numbers have changed and do not correspond to the present ones. He also took different studios on the street, one for a longer period at no. 4. It’s indicated that he lived his last years at no. 39.  

His last years, he obviously took different studios on the nearby street, Rue d’Amsterdam. He had then difficulties to walk, painted a lot sitting. We can see the portrait of his lifetime friend Antonin Proust, of Georges Clemenceau and the famous “Un bar aux Folies Bergère” (A bar at the Folies Bergère) from 1882… Regarding the asparagus paintings: He felt that he had been overpaid for the first one and offered an extra one, with one asparagus – free of charge.

Manet did not consider himself as an impressionist, but certainly influenced them … and was influenced by them and had many friends among them. Just have a look on this painting and compare it with Monet’s “Impression, soileil levant” which gave the name to impressionism (1874), both painted around 1872-73.

This may bring us to talk about this friendship (I already did, e.g. in this post). In the beginning of the 1870’s Manet was a frequent visitor to “Café Guerbois” on Avenue Clichy, where he met Degas, Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Pisarro, Bazille… Zola and the photographer Nadar, who offered his studio for the first impressionist exhibition in 1874. Today the place is a mens’ clothing shop. To the left of this café was the “Père Lathuille” restaurant, which Manet and others also frequented. Today it’s a cinema. To the right of the café was the “Hennequin” shop where the artists could buy paint and brushes. I was there to take some photos the day it closed (end 2010). Today it’s a sports shoes shop.

Another proof of the close relationship between these artists are the paintings from two studios: One was on Rue la Condamine (neighbour to my favourite street art gallery), where Fréderic Bazille had his studio. On his painting from 1870 we can see Manet, Monet, Renoir… and Manet added Bazille on the painting. Bazille died later the same year in the Prussian war. The other painting we see here, by Henri Fantin-Latour, also from 1870, is referred to as “Un atelier aux Batignolles” (A studio at..). We can see Manet painting, with Monet, Renoir, Zola, Bazille… in the background. Has it been painted at Manet’s studio Rue Médéric? Today the Batignolles area refers to a more restricted area, but during Manet’s time, what we today refer to as the Monceau area, was a combination of Batignolles – Monceau.  

Manet and his friends were later more frequent guests to “Café La Nouvelle Athènes” on Place Pigalle. The building is gone and there is now a bio-supermarket. On this place is also a building (“Folies Pigalle”), still there but hidden by additional structures. It used to be a place for artist studios and was also where the young Manet’s art teacher, Thomas Couture, (with whom Manet was not always too happy) had his school.

A few words also about three women, linked to some of Manet’s life and most famous paintings:

The lady who appears on “The luncheon on the grass” is his wife, Suzanne, born Leenhoff, but the face of the lady is of Victorine Meurent (see next paragraph). Suzanne was an excellent piano player and was engaged to teach Edouard and his brothers. She gave birth to a son, Léon, in 1852 (we can see him on many of Manet’s paintings) – the father being Edouard or … his father, or…  Edouard and Suzanne lived together, brought up Léon together and finally got married in 1863. They seem to have had a good relationship, she being quite tolerant with Edouard’s “adventures”. Maybe her face wasn’t that beautiful? We can see a photo… and on the Degas painting we can see that her face has disappeared.  – obviously Manet was not happy with the result.

Victorine Meurent, whose face we can see on the preceding painting, posed for the “”Olympia”. She was the model for many artists, including Degas, but gave also guitar and violin lessons. We can see her on many Manet paintings. She later became a very good painter, exhibited at the “Salon”, but hardly anything is left to be seen.

Berthe Morisot who is sitting on “The Balcony” also became an excellent – impressionist – painter. She married Edouard’s brother Eugène.

What did Edouard Manet look like himself? Here is a photo by Nadar and some of many paintings by himself and by many of his friends.

Edouard died at the age of 51. He had contracted syphilis with some side effects, his left foot was amputated because of gangrene eleven days before his death. He’s buried at the Passy Cemetery (see previous post) together with his wife, his brother Eugène and the latter’s wife Berthe Morisot. His bust is made by his wife's brother (who also appears on the painting "The Luncheon on the grass"), 

Some maps to explain the geography of the places we have talked about, including one based on an 1860 street plan.

I also add one, more detailed for the area around Rue de Saint-Petersbourg, in the middle interrupted by Place de Dublin, where Gustave Caillebotte (see previous post) in 1877 painted his famous “Rue de Paris, temps de pluie” (Paris Street, Rainy Day). Caillebotte was another of Manet’s friends and helped him – and many others – financially. He bequeathed 68 paintings (whereof 4 by Manet) to the French government, which refused 28 (whereof 2 by Manet).  


Anonymous said...

A thousand thanks, Peter for this brilliant post!

A wonderful biography, a great homage to this talented and dashing boulevardier.

Your photos are superb!

Thérèse said...

Je reviendrais m'impregner un peu mieux de tous ces details fort interessants. Comment apprecier sans revenir sur ce billet?
Coup de coeur pour le collage "Manet" photo, autoportraits/portraits.

Studio at the Farm said...

Fascinating post, Peter ... thank you!!!

Jeanie said...

Peter, I am fascinated and most grateful to you for this remarkable and well researched post. What a quest this must be for you! I have always loved the works of Manet but known little of his life and chronology, so I really appreciate your including the buildings as well as the paintings. It is one I will return to before my next visit to the art museum!

A side note -- on our quest for 48 Rue du Rome, where a noted publisher of guitar music lived (Rick could tell you but I have forgotten -- Max Escher, perhaps?) I never realized I was so close to Manet's territory at 58! Another spot for the next pilgrimage!

Alain said...

Un peintre qui n'a jamais eu très bonne réputation.

Unknown said...

I like this blog so much

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claude said...

J'ai un bouquin sur lui avec ses oeuvres, j'aime assez ce qu'il faisait. Bouquin récupéré à la loge du 9 rue Campagne Première. il avait été offert à ma Mémé et à mon Pépé par un de leurs locataires.

JPD said...

Bravo ! Brilliant !
I am speechless (et c'est rare)!

JPD said...

By the way, everywhere in Paris, I've seen sweedish flags... Is it for you ? ;-)

martinealison said...

Bonjour cher Peter,

J'ai sincèrement beaucoup aimé la manière que tu développes la biographie de Edouard Manet.
Procéder géographiquement est très astucieux. Cela permet de nous plonger plus intimement dans sa vie.
J'imagine l'énorme travail que cela t'a demandé ! Bravo !

Gros bisous ♡

Lorraine Joan said...

Beautiful job as usual. It's obvious you love your work...PARIS.