As I have said, Edouard Manet has not been entirely the originator of the Impressionist technique. It is the work of Claude Monet which presents the most complete example of it, and which also came first as regards date. But it is very difficult to determine such cases of priority, and it is, after all, rather useless. A technique cannot be invented in a day. In this case it was the result of long investigations, in which Manet and Renoir participated, and it is necessary to unite under the collective name of Impressionists a group of men, tied by friendship, who made a simultaneous effort towards originality, all in about the same spirit, though frequently in very different ways. As in the case of the Pre-Raphaelites, it was first of all friendship, then unjust derision, which created the solidarity of the Impressionists. But the Pre-Raphaelites, in aiming at an idealistic and symbolic art, were better agreed upon the intellectual principles which permitted them at once to define a programme. The Impressionists who were only united by their temperaments, and had made it their first aim to break away from all school programmes, tried simply to do something new, with frankness and freedom.

Manet was, in their midst, the personality marked out at the same time by their admiration, and by the attacks of the critics for the post of standard-bearer. A little older than his friends, he had already, quite alone, raised heated discussions by the works in his first manner. He was considered an innovator, and it was by instinctive admiration that his first friends, Whistler, Legros, and Fantin-Latour, were gradually joined by Marcelin Desboutin, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Berthe Morisot, the young painter Bazille, who met his premature death in 1870, and by the writers Gautier, Banville, Baudelaire (who was a passionate admirer of Manet's); then later by Zola, the Goncourts, and Stéphane Mallarmé. This was the first nucleus of a public which was to increase year by year. Manet had the personal qualities of a chief; he was a man of spirit, an ardent worker, and an enthusiastic and generous character.

Manet - The Dead Toreador


Manet commenced his first studies with Couture. After having travelled a good deal at sea to obey his parents, his vocation took hold of him irresistibly. About 1850 the young man entered the studio of the severe author of the Romains de la Décadence. His stay was short. He displeased the professor by his uncompromising energy. Couture said of him angrily: "He will become the Daumier of 1860." It is known that Daumier, lithographer, and painter of genius, was held in meagre esteem by the academicians. Manet travelled in Germany after the coup d'etat, copied Rembrandt in Munich, then went to Italy, copied Tintoretto in Venice, and conceived there the idea of several religious pictures. Then he became enthusiastic about the Spaniards, especially Velasquez and Goya. The sincere expression of things seen took root from this moment as the principal rule of art in the brain of this young Frenchman who was loyal, ardent, and hostile to all subtleties. He painted some fine works, like the Buveur d'absinthe and theVieux musicien. They show the influence of Courbet, but already the blacks and the greys have an original and superb quality; they announce a virtuoso of the first order.

It was in 1861 that Manet first sent to the Salon the portraits of his parents and the Guitarero, which was hailed by Gautier, and rewarded by the jury, though it roused surprise and irritation. But after that he was rejected, whether it was a question of the Fifre or of the Déjeuner sur l'herbe. This canvas, with an admirable feminine nude, created a scandal, because an undressed woman figured in it amidst clothed figures, a matter of frequent occurrence with the masters of the Renaissance. The landscape is not painted in the open air, but in the studio, and resembles a tapestry, but it shows already the most brilliant evidence of Manet's talent in the study of the nude and the still-life of the foreground, which is the work of a powerful master. From the time of this canvas the artist's personality appeared in all its maturity. He painted it before he was thirty, and it has the air of an old master's work; it is based upon Hals and the Spaniards together.

The reputation of Manet became established after 1865. Furious critics were opposed by enthusiastic admirers. Baudelaire upheld Manet, as he had upheld Delacroix and Wagner, with his great clairvoyance, sympathetic to all real originality. The Olympia brought the discussion to a head. This courtesan lying in bed undressed, with a negress carrying a bouquet, and a black cat, made a tremendous stir. It is a powerful work of strong colour, broad design and intense sentiment, astounding in its parti-pris of reducing the values to the greatest simplicity. One can feel in it the artist's preoccupation with rediscovering the rude frankness of Hals and Goya, and his aversion against the prettiness and false nobility of the school. This famous Olympia which occasioned so much fury, appears to us to-day as a transition work. It is neither a masterpiece, nor an emotional work, but a technical experiment, very significant for the epoch during which it appeared in French art, and this canvas, which is very inferior to Manet's fine works, may well be considered as a date of evolution. He was doubtful about exhibiting it, but Baudelaire decided him and wrote to him on this occasion these typical remarks: "You complain about attacks? But are you the first to endure them? Have you more genius than Chateaubriand and Wagner? They were not killed by derision. And, in order not to make you too proud, I must tell you, that they are models each in his own way and in a very rich world, whilst you are only the first in the decrepitude of your art."

Manet - Olympia


Thus it must be firmly established that from this moment Manet passed as an innovator, years before Impressionism existed or was even thought of. This is an important point: it will help to clear up the twofold origin of the movement which followed. To his realism, to his return to composition in the modern spirit, and to the simplifying of planes and values, Manet owed these attacks, though at that time his colour was still sombre and entirely influenced by Hals, Goya and Courbet. From that time the artist became a chief. As his friends used to meet him at an obscure Batignolles café, the café Guerbois (still existing), public derision baptized these meetings with the name of "L'Ecole des Batignolles." Manet then exhibited the Angels at the Tomb of Christ, a souvenir of the Venetians; Lola de Valence, commented upon by Baudelaire in a quatrain which can be found in the Fleurs du Mal; the Episode d'un combat de taureaux (dissatisfied with this picture, he cut out the dead toreador in the foreground, and burnt the rest). TheActeur tragique (portrait of Rouvière in Hamlet) and the Jésus insulté followed, and then came the Gitanos, L'Enfant à l'Epée, and the portrait of Mme. Manet. This series of works is admirable. It is here where he reveals himself as a splendid colourist, whose design is as vigorous as the technique is masterly. In these works one does not think of looking for anything but the witchery of technical strength; and the abundant wealth of his temperament is simply dazzling. Manet reveals himself as the direct heir of the great Spaniards, more interesting, more spontaneous, and freer than Courbet. The Rouvière is as fine a symphony in grey and black as the noblest portraits by Bronzino, and there is probably no Goya more powerful than the Toréador tué. Manet's altogether classic descent appears here undeniably. There is no question yet of Impressionism, and yet Monet and Renoir are already painting, Monet has exhibited at the Salon des Refusés, but criticism sees and attacks nobody but Manet. This great individuality who overwhelmed the Academy with its weak allegories, was the butt of great insults and the object of great admiration. Banished from the Salons, he collected fifty pictures in a room in the Avenue de l'Alma and invited the public thither. In 1868 appeared the portrait of Emile Zola, in 1860 the Déjeuner, works which are so powerful, that they enforced admiration in spite of all hostility. In the Salon of 1870 was shown the portrait of Eva Gonzalès, the charming pastellist and pupil of Manet, and the impressive Execution of Maximilian at Queretaro. Manet was at the apogee of his talent, when the Franco-German war broke out. At the age of thirty-eight he had put forth a considerable amount of work, tried himself in all styles, severed his individuality from the slavish admiration of the old masters, and attained his own mastery. And now he wanted to expand, and, in joining Monet, Renoir and Degas, interpret in his own way the Impressionist theory.

Manet - The Woman with the Parrot


The Fight of the Kearsage and the Alabama, a magnificent sea-piece, bathed in sunlight, announced this transformation in his work, as did also a study, a Garden, painted, I believe, in 1870, but exhibited only after the crisis of the terrible year. At that time the Durand-Ruel Gallery bought a considerable series by the innovator, and was imitated by some select art-lovers. The Musique aux Tuileries and the Bal de l'Opéra had, some years before, pointed towards the evolution of this great artist in the direction of plein-air painting. The Bon Bock, in which the very soul of Hals is revived, and the grave Liseur, sold immediately at Vienne, were the two last pledges given by the artist to his old admirers; these two pictures had moreover a splendid success, and the Bon Bock, popularised by an engraving, was hailed by the very men who had most unjustly attacked the author of the portrait of Mme. Morisot, a French masterpiece. But already Manet was attracted irresistibly towards the study of light, and, faithful to his programme, he prepared to face once again outbursts of anger and further sarcasms; he was resolved once again to offer battle to the Salons. Followed by all the Impressionists he tried to make them understand the necessity of introducing the new ideas into this retrograde Milieu. But they would not. Having already received a rebuff by the attacks directed for some years against their works, they exhibited among themselves in some private galleries: they declined to force the gate of the Salons, and Manet remained alone. In 1875 he submitted, with his Argenteuil, the most perfect epitome of his atmospheric researches. The jury admitted it in spite of loud protests: they were afraid of Manet; they admired his power of transformation, and he revolted the prejudiced, attracting them at the same time by the charm of his force. But in 1876 the portrait of Desboutin and the Linge (an exquisite picture,—one of the best productions of open-air study) were rejected. Manet then recommenced the experience of 1867, and opened his studio to the public. A register at the door was soon covered with signatures protesting against the jury, as well as with hostile jokes, and even anonymous insults! In 1877 the defeated jury admitted the portrait of the famous singer Faure in the part of Hamlet, and rejected Nana, a picture which was found scandalising, but has charming freshness and an intensely modern character. In 1878, 1879 and 1880 they accepted la Serre, the surprising symphony in blue and white which shows Mr George Moore in boating costume, the portrait of Antonin Proust, and the scene at the Père Lathuile restaurant, in which Manet's nervous and luminous realism has so curious a resemblance to the art of the Goncourts. In 1881 the portrait of Rochefort and that of the lion-killer, Pertuiset, procured the artist a medal at the Salon, and Antonin Proust, the friend of Manet's childhood, who had become Minister of Fine Arts, honoured himself in decorating him with the legion of honour. In 1882 appeared a magnificent canvas, theBar des Folies-Bergère, in which there is some sparkling still-life painting of most attractive beauty. It was accompanied by a lady's portrait, Jeanne. But on April 30, 1883, Manet died, exhausted by his work and struggles, of locomotor ataxy, after having vainly undergone the amputation of a foot to avoid gangrene.

Manet - The Bar at the Folies-Bergere


It will be seen that Manet fought through all his life: few artists' lives have been nobler. His has been an example of untiring energy; he employed it as much in working, as in making a stand against prejudices. Rejected, accepted, rejected again, he delivered with enormous courage and faith his attack upon a jury which represented routine. As he fought in front of his easel, he still fought before the public, without ever relaxing, without changing, alone, apart even from those whom he loved, who had been shaped by his example. This great painter, one of those who did most honour to the French soul, had the genius to create by himself an Impressionism of his own which will always remain his own, after having given evidence of gifts of the first order in the tradition handed down by the masters of the real and the good. He cannot be confused either with Monet, or with Pissarro and Renoir. His comprehension of light is a special one, his technique is not in accordance with the system of colour-spots; it observes the theory of complementary colours and of the division of tones without departing from a grand style, from a classic stateliness, from a superb sureness. Manet has not been the inventor of Impressionism which co-existed with his work since 1865, but he has rendered it immense services, by taking upon himself all the outbursts of anger addressed to the innovators, by making a breach in public opinion, through which his friends have passed in behind him. Probably without him all these artists would have remained unknown, or at least without influence, because they all were bold characters in art, but timid or disdainful in life. Degas, Monet and Renoir were fine natures with a horror of polemics, who wished to hold aloof from the Salons, and were resigned from the outset to be misunderstood. They were, so to say, electrified by the magnificent example of Manet's fighting spirit, and Manet was generous enough to take upon himself the reproaches levelled, not only against his work, but against theirs. His twenty years of open war, sustained with an abnegation worthy of all esteem, must be considered as one of the most significant phenomena of the history of the artists of all ages.

This work of Manet, so much discussed and produced under such tormenting conditions, owes its importance beyond all to its power and frankness. Ten years of developing the first manner, tragically limited by the war of 1870; thirteen years of developing the second evolution, parallel with the efforts of the Impressionists. The period from 1860 to 1870 is logically connected with Hals and Goya; from 1870 to 1883 the artist's modernity is complicated by the study of light. His personality appears there even more original, but one may well give the palm to those works of Manet which are painted in his classic and low-toned manner. He had all the pictorial gifts which make the glory of the masters: full, true, broad composition, colouring of irresistible power, blacks and greys which cannot be found elsewhere since Velasquez and Goya, and a profound knowledge of values. He has tried his hand at everything: portraits, landscapes, seascapes, scenes of modern life, still-life and nudes have each in their turn served his ardent desire of creation. His was a much finer comprehension of contemporary life than seems to be admitted by Realism: one has only to compare him with Courbet, to see how far more nervous and intelligent he was, without loss to the qualities of truth and robustness. His pictures will always remain documents of the greatest importance on the society, the manners and customs of the second Empire. He did not possess the gift of psychology. His Christ aux Anges and Jésus insulté are obviously only pieces of painting without idealism. He was, like the great Dutch virtuosos, and like certain Italians, more eye than soul. Yet his Maximilian, the drawings to Poe's Raven, and certain sketches show that he might have realised some curious, psychological works, had he not been so completely absorbed by the immediate reality and by the desire for beautiful paint. A beautiful painter—this is what he was before everything else, this is his fairest fame, and it is almost inconceivable that the juries of the Salons failed to understand him. They waxed indignant over his subjects which offer only a restricted interest, and they did not see the altogether classic quality of this technique without bitumen, without glazing, without tricks; of this vibrating colour; of this rich paint; of this passionate design so suitable for expressing movement and gestures true to life; of this simple composition where the whole picture is based upon two or three values with the straightforwardness one admires in Rubens, Jordaens and Hals.

Manet - Dejeuner


Manet will occupy an important position in the French School. He is the most original painter of the second half of the nineteenth century, the one who has really created a great movement. His work, the fecundity of which is astonishing, is unequal. One has to remember that, besides the incessant strife which he kept up—a strife which would have killed many artists—he had to find strength for two grave crises in himself. He joined one movement, then freed himself of it, then invented another and recommenced to learn painting at a point where anybody else would have continued in his previous manner. "Each time I paint," he said to Mallarmé, "I throw myself into the water to learn swimming." It is not surprising that such a man should have been unequal, and that one can distinguish in his work between experiments, exaggerations due to research, and efforts made to reject the prejudices of which we feel the weight no longer. But it would be unjust to say that Manet has only had the merit of opening up new roads; that has been said to belittle him, after it had first been said that these roads led into absurdity. Works like the Toréador, Rouvière, Mme. Manet, the Déjeuner, the Musique aux Tuileries, the Bon Bock,Argenteuil, Le Linge, En Bateau and the Bar, will always remain admirable masterpieces which will do credit to French painting, of which the spontaneous, living, clear and bold art of Manet is a direct and very representative product.

There remains, then, a great personality who knew how to dominate the rather coarse conceptions of Realism, who influenced by his modernity all contemporary illustration, who re-established a sound and strong tradition in the face of the Academy, and who not only created a new transition, but marked his place on the new road which he had opened. To him Impressionism owes its existence; his tenacity enabled it to take root and to vanquish the opposition of the School; his work has enriched the world by some beautiful examples which demonstrate the union of the two principles of Realism and of that technical Impressionism which was to supply Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley with an object for their efforts. For the sum total of all that is evoked by his name, Edouard Manet certainly deserves the name of a man of genius—an incomplete genius, though, since the thought with him was not on the level of his technique, since he could never affect the emotions like a Leonardo or a Rembrandt, but genius all the same through the magnificent power of his gifts, the continuity of his style, and the importance of his part which infused blood into a school dying of the anaemia of conventional art. Whoever beholds a work of Manet's, even without knowing the conditions of his life, will feel that there is something great, the lion's claw which Delacroix had recognised as far back as 1861, and to which, it is said, even the great Ingres had paid homage on the jury which examined with disgust the Guitarero.

Manet - Portrait of Madame M.L.


To-day Manet is considered almost as a classic glory; and the progress for which he had given the impulse, has been so rapid, that many are astonished that he should ever have been considered audacious. Sight is transformed, strife is extinguished, and a large, select public, familiar with Monet and Renoir, judge Manet almost as a long defunct initiator. One has to know his admirable life, one has to know well the incredible inertia of the Salons where he appeared, to give him his full due. And when, after the acceptance of Impressionism, the unavoidable reaction will take place, Manet's qualities of solidity, truth and science will appear such, that he will survive many of those to whom he has opened the road and facilitated the success at the expense of his own. It will be seen that Degas and he have, more than the others, and with less apparent éclat, united the gifts which produce durable works in the midst of the fluctuations of fashion and the caprices of taste and views. Manet can, at the Louvre or any other gallery, hold his own in the most crushing surroundings, prove his personal qualities, and worthily represent a period which he loved.

An enormous amount has been written on him, from Zola's bold and intelligent pamphlet in 1865, to the recent work by M. Théodore Duret. Few men have provoked more comments. In an admirable picture,Hommage à Manet, the delicate and perfect painter Fantin-Latour, a friend from the first hour, has grouped around the artist some of his admirers, Monet, Renoir, Duranty, Zola, Bazille, and Braquemond. The picture has to-day a place of honour at the Luxembourg, where Manet is insufficiently represented by Olympia, a study of a woman, and the Balcony. A collection is much to be desired of his lithographs, his etchings and his pastels, in which he has proved his diversified mastery, and also of his portraits of famous contemporaries, Zola, Rochefort, Desboutin, Proust, Mallarmé, Clemenceau, Guys, Faure, Baudelaire, Moore, and others, an admirable series by a visionary who possessed, in a period of unrest and artificiality, the quality of rude sincerity, and the love of truth of a Primitive.

Manet - The Hothouse