Manet is commonly understood as being the leader of the Impressionist painters but he was not particularly interested in light, rather he was interested in portraying contrast. At a time when the favored style was conservative, dark, and religious, Manet challenged the accepted art world by presenting unconventional themes and effects. Thereby a better description of him would be as a leader of a new modern phase in art, rather than specifically as a leader of the Impressionist movement.
A bit of an enigma if you will, Manet never embraced the Impressionist label and was never particularly keen on historical art, but seemed to draw a lot of inspiration from the Renaissance artists. In fact, he re-created many of their paintings by bringing them up to date. Such examples are Raphael’s Judgment of Paris, which can be seen in his work Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino, which is reinterpreted in his work Olympia. A fascinating man, with complex interests and artistic influences, his passing today over 153 years ago reminds us of the limitations of labels in the art world and how important it is to challenge the conventions.
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