Edouard Manet, Part 1

…his life up to the suicide of Alexandre

Edward Manet, 1832-1883

Manet was born on 23 January 1832 at 5, rue Bonaparte, known at the time as rue des Petits Augustins, in the area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, of parents who were affluent bourgeois.
His father, Auguste Manet, 1796-1862, was an official in the Ministère de la Justice and a judge, and his mother, Eugénie-Désirée Manet, née Fournier, 1811-1884, was the daughter of Joseph Fournier, 1761-1824, a wealthy merchant in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Adélaïde Elise de la Noue. She was the goddaughter of Crown Prince Bernadotte of Sweden. The couple were married in 1831, a year before Edouard’s birth. Auguste and Désirée had two more sons, Eugène Manet, 1833-1892, who married Berthe Morisot, and Gustave Manet, 1835-1884, who later became an inspector of prisons. Edouard’s paternal grandfather had also been a judge, and Auguste had plans for Edouard to study law as well.


Edouard Manet, Portrait de M. et Mme Auguste Manet, 1860, oil on canvas, 111 × 91 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The portrait of his parents was painted by Manet in 1860, when his father was 64 and his mother 49. Even taking into account the formal standards of the day, they are not represented as a happy couple. Auguste had an affair with Suzanne Leenhoff, whom he had employed to give piano lessons to his sons, and may have been the father of her son, Léon. He died of syphilis, although this was never mentioned in the family or admitted publicly. The painting was presented at the Salon of 1861, together with Le chanteur espagnol. It served to reassure his parents that he had been not mistaken in leaving the navy and pursuing a career in art.
Manet painted his mother in mourning dress, three years after the death of his father. She outlived her son by a year.


Edouard Manet, Mme Auguste Manet, 1865, oil on canvas, 98 x 80 cm, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA

Between 1838 and 1841 Manet attended the Institut run by Abbé Poiloup in Vaugirard, a suburb in the XVe arrondissement. Although he was unhappy there, he was just as unhappy at home. Later he attended the Collège Rollin, until 1848, and it was here that he met his lifelong friend Antonin Proust, who later became Ministre de Beaux Arts, and who was instrumental in ensuring that Manet was awarded the Légion d’Honneur shortly before his death.
Manet’s childhood was austere, but thanks to his mother’s eccentric art loving brother, Edmond Fournier, 1800-1865, about whom little is known, he was taken to the Louvre, often with Antonin, where he saw the paintings by Goya, El Greco and Velázquez and began to appreciate their work. He also listened to the discussions between Edmond, who was a monarchist, and his father, a fervent republican. Fournier, loyal to Louis-Philippe, resigned his commission in the army in 1848.
In 1848, Manet failed to gain entrance to the Ecole Navale, but took advantage of the alternative of qualifying by sailing from Le Havre to Rio de Janeiro as a cadet. One day after his embarkation, Louis-Philippe was overthrown and Louis Napoléon became president of the Republic. Although he was bored by the voyage and his stay in Brazil, he later admitted that the sea and the light had been an influence in his evolution as a painter. On his return, he failed again in his attempt to enter the college. Present on this voyage was Adolphe Pontillon, who later married Edma Morisot, the sister of Berthe.


Edouard Manet, Pierrot Dansant, 1849, ink on paper, 27 x 20 cm, Private Collection

It was shortly after his return in 1849 that he met Suzanne Leenhoff, an accomplished musician whom Auguste had hired to give piano lessons to his younger sons. Eugénie was interested in music, and it may have been she who employed Suzanne. Manet married her in 1863, and although it is possible that he, and not Auguste, was the father of Léon, he never recognised him as his son.


Edouard Manet, Mme Manet au piano, 1867-68, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris


Edouard Manet, Madame Manet, Suzanne, 1874–76, oil on canvas, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA

The following year he entered the studio of Thomas Couture, along with Antonin Proust, where he remained for six years. He became frustrated with the methods of Couture and took time off to visit the Netherlands in 1852, and Italy, with his brother Eugène and Emile Ollivier in 1853. In the same year he travelled to Prague, Vienna, Munich and Dresden. He visited Italy again in 1857.
On his return he went to see Eugène Delacroix in his studio to ask for advice, and for permission to copy La Barque de Dante, Delacroix was generous in his advice and ecouragement; and Manet attended his funeral in 1863.
During his apprenticeship he learned the techniques of painting and spent time copying the works of the masters in the Louvre and in the museums he visited on his travels. During his time in the Louvre he became friends with Henri Fantin-Latour and also of Edgar Degas, who drew some sketches of him. Degas later gave the sketches of Manet to Berthe Morisot, as a wedding present.

Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet en buste, 1864-1865, etching, drypoint and aquatint, on off-white wove paper, 31 x 22 cm, Art Institute, Chicago

Edgar Degas, Manet assis, tourné à gauche, c1864, black chalk on vellum, 33 x 23 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Edgar Degas, Portrait d’ Edouard Manet, c1866-1868, drawing, Musee D’Orsay, Paris

Manet drew some inspiration from the work of Couture, notably from his portraits. Couture asked his opinion of Portrait de Mlle Poinsot, which he painted in 1853.
Manet finally broke away from Couture in 1856, when he set up his own studio in rue Lavoisier, with his friend Albert de Balleroy. In this studio Manet had employed Alexandre, a fifteen year old boy, to clean his brushes and tidy the place. One day Manet had scolded him for his bad work, and had returned to find that Alexandre had hanged himself from a hook in a cupboard. Manet had already used him as a model for L’Enfant aux cerises or L’Enfant à la toque rouge, and the suicide had a profound effect on him. His friend Charles Baudelaire wrote a piece entitled “La Corde”, expressing his horror at finding the body.


Edouard Manet, Garçon aux cerises, 1858, oil on canvas, 55 x 65 cm, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon


Other works included in the talk

Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot au bouquet de violettes, 1872, oil on canvas, 55 x 38 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Edouard Manet, Nature morte, bouquet de violettes, 1872, oil on canvas. 22 x 27 cm, Private Collection
Edouard Manet, Auguste Manet, 1860, drawing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Edouard Manet, Portrait d’Antonin Proust, 1880, oil on canvas, 129 x 159 cm, Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
Anders Zorn, Portrait of Antonin Proust, 1888, oil on canvas, 106 x 136 cm, Private Collection
Kim Hong-do, Dancing Boy, from Scenes from Daily Life, (detail), 19th Century, Korea
Edouard Manet, La Lecture, c1868, oil on canvas, 61 x 73 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Edouard Manet, La Nymphe surprise, 1861, oil on canvas, 122 x 144 cm, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires
Edouard Manet, Portrait de Madame Manet sur un canapé bleu, 1874, pastel on brown paper applied on canvas, 49 x 60 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Edouard Manet, Garçon à l’épée, 1861, oil on canvas, 131 x 93 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Edouard Manet, Les Bulles de savon, 1867, 100 × 81 cm, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
Edouard Manet, Portrait de Léon Leenhoff, 1868, oil on canvas, 85 x 71 cm, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
Edouard Manet, Déjeuner à l’atelier, 1868, oil on canvas, 118 x 154 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich
Thomas Couture, Autoportrait, Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
Thomas Couture, Les Romains de la décadence, 1847, 472 × 772 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Eugène Delacroix, La Barque de Dante et Virgil, 1822, oil on canvas, 189 x 246 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Edouard Manet, Copie de La Barque de Dante d’Eugène Delacroix, 1854-58, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm, Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon
Titian, Venere di Urbino, 1538, oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm, Galleria degli Uffizzi, Florence
Edouard Manet, Copie de Vénus d’Urbin par Titien, 1858, oil on canvas, 24 x 37 cm, Private Collection
Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, oil on canvas, 130 x 190 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Henri Fantin-Latour, Hommage à Delacroix, 1864, oil on canvas, 160 x 250 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Henri Fantin-Latour, Un atelier aux Batignolles, 1870, oil on canvas, 204 × 273 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

BT, 20 February 2018, Meeting No 11


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