And the way to do that was by immersing oneself in the day-to-day of metropolitan living: watching, thinking, feeling and finally recording. This was the artistic philosophy that gave Manet the courage to define the Academy, and philosophy that has percolated through the story of modern Art.
Duchamp was a flaneur, so was Warhol, as are many artists working today, like Francis Alys and Tracy Emin. But Manet was the first, and perhaps the greatest, flaneur, or, as he saw himself, a painter of modern life.
His two major paintings of the 1860s, Olympia and Le Dejeuner sur l’Herb, are now prized as masterpieces that stand comparison with the very greatest art man has ever created.
At the time, though, the Academy’s negative response to them left Manet frustrated and bemused, A situation made worse when people leaving the Salon congratulated him on his pleasant seascapes (they had misread “Monet” for “Manet”, Much to the delight of the younger artist, who had two of his own seascapes exhibited)
Manet disliked been cast as an anti-establishment type, he saw himself as a discerning intellectual who wanted to emulate the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez (1599 to 1660), the leading painter of King Philip IV’s court, who is considered to be the “painter’s painter”, and Francisco Goya (1746 to 1828), the romantic painter and printmaker regarded as the last of the old masters.
But art history had determined that it was in the role of rebel that Manet would be cast, and so with reluctance he became the leader of a circle of dissident artists that included Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Edgar Degas; the group that would form the core of what is generally considered to be the first movement in modern art: Impressionism.
Much thanks to Will Gompertz’s book What Are You Looking At….some of the blog is directly taken from this fantastic book.