The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Edouard Manet, 1832-1883

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1832.01.23
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1883.04.30
Place of Death: Paris


Edouard Manet, painter, was the eldest of three sons of Auguste Manet, a distinguished civil servant in the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie Désirée Fournier, daughter of a diplomatic envoy to the Swedish court. He married Suzanne Leenhoff (1830-1906), a musician and his family's music teacher, in 1863.


Manet enrolled in the Parisien atelier of Thomas Couture in September 1850. Although often classified with the Impressionists, it is Manet's position as a Realist which has most relationship to JW. His technique is painterly, and in both paintings and prints he introduced modern, urban subject-matter. Like JW, he was influenced by the chiaroscuro and drama of Spanish 17th-century painting in his early career, what JW called 'la manière noir'; he later evolved to freely-brushed compositions whose content bordered at times on Symbolism. Manet also played an important part in the etching revival, beginning his career as a printmaker about 1860, with one lithographic caricature and a number of etchings. Etching was his favoured medium until the late 1860s, after which he was more interested in lithography.

JW met Manet through Fantin-Latour in 1861, and he was part of the artistic milieu of Paris, who JW kept in touch with across the Channel. They frequented the Café du Bade with mutual friends like Fantin-Latour, who painted his portrait in 1867, H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait de Manet (FL.296) (z121). Manet appeared, like JW, in H. Fantin-Latour, Hommage à Eugène Delacroix (FL.227) (z100), signifying their artistic allegience. Manet was one of those who enthusiastically followed JW to Madame Desoye's shop to buy Oriental porcelain, prints and fabrics.

Manet was also no stranger to artistic scandal: three of Manet's paintings were rejected from the 81st exhibition, Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1863, to be hung at Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, gravure, lithographie et architecture, refusés par le Jury de 1863, et exposés, par décision de S. M. l'Empereur, au salon annexe, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1863; they vied with Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38) for notoriety in the press (see Fantin-Latour to JW, 1 May 1863, #01079). As he was not invited to participate in Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867, Manet took matters into his own hands and set up a private exhibition of 50 of his works in a pavilion close to the exposition grounds. Although this was ignored by the public and press alike, this action aligned him the supreme Realist, Courbet who had exhibited similarly in 1855.

After JW failed to exhibit anything at the Royal Academy of 1874, he set up his first one-man show, Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874. JW included works by Manet in Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1898. In 1900, JW rather irritably described Manet to the Pennells as 'always l'écolier - the student with a certain sense of things in paint, and that is all! - he never understood that art is a positive science, one step in it leading to another'.

However, in the 1860s they were close, as JW was pleased to receive via Manet, a letter asking about the price of At the Piano (YMSM 24) (E. Thoré to E. Manet, [15 April/May 1867], #00433). Standing before W. P. Frith, Derby Day (z82), JW exclaimed 'How did he do it? It's as good as Manet'.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 2, p. 261; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, p. 78; Isaacson, J., exh. cat. Manet and Spain: Prints and Drawings, Ann Arbor, 1969; Rouart, D., and D. Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue Raisonné, 2 vols, Geneva, 1975; Wilson, J., Dessins, aquarelles, eaux-fortes, lithographies, correspondance, Paris, 1978; Art Journal, vol. 55, Spring 1985 [issue dedicated to Manet]; Clark, T. J., The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, New York, 1985; Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; Beatrice Farwell: 'Edouard Manet', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 10 June 2003).