Monet, Manet, What’s the Dif?

“Déjeuner sur l’Herbe”, or “Lunch on the Grass”.

In addition to the different vowel, there is a world of difference. While they are technically contemporaries, Edouard Manet is eight years older, and painted in an entirely different style. Manet is a modernist/romantic painter, and Claude Monet is the father of the Impressionists. It has been said that the Impressionists were more concerned with rendering light, sacrificing detail in the process. I think that is a fair description.

Monet was eight years younger but lived almost forty years after Manet’s death in 1884.

The title Impressionism was actually a critics slam, Louis Leroy, who was trying to criticize Monet’s works at the Exhibition Of The Impressionists. He called the painting an “impression” because he thought that the works looked incomplete,” he said upon viewing “Impression, Sunrise, 1872.”

Both painters had a massive impact upon Western Art. Manet pushed directly against the accepted standards of the times in composition, and came from a very influential family. In fact, Manet’s father was the Chief Justice of the French Court. It was perfectly okay to paint nudes so long as they were mythical or Ancient Greek or Roman, but Manet painted contemporary nudes of women. In fact, one critic said that Manet did not paint “nude” women, he painted “naked” women.

Manet was famous for the painting of “Déjeuner sur l’Herbe”, or “Lunch on the Grass”. It was rejected by the Annual Salon of 1863, and caused quite a stir because of the content. Two typical art students (modeled by Manet’s two brothers), accompanied by two women in different states of nudity, in public. The fully nude model was the famous model, Victorine Meurent.

My personal favorite is the painting, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere”, 1882. I have studied, sketched, and repainted this piece several times. Manet was in the final stage of syphilis during the painting and died two years later in 1884, but had won the “Legion d’Honneur” for his artistic work in 1883.

My tribute version of Manet’s study of “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere”

Manet had also painted, “Madame Manet in the Conservatory”, in 1879. This was a classic Modernist composition done with great skill. Manet apparently saw the painting done by Monet, “Camile Monet on a Garden Bench, 1873” and was inspired to paint his own version.

My tribute version of “Madame Manet in the Conservatory”, 1879
My tribute to “Camile Monet on the Garden Bench” 1873

Monet’s father was a middle-class merchant and wanted Claude to follow in the family business. His mother was a singer and encouraged his artistic development, unfortunately she died when he was sixteen.

Monet was following his studies of light. His painting “Impression: Sunrise, 1872” gave the name to the painting style. He also painted a series of haystacks in 1890-91, exploring the quality of atmospheric light. He had been introduced to “plein air” by Eugène Boudin In 1856 when he was just starting to paint, and most of his paintings were done outside, and not in the studio.

‘Impression, Sunrise”

During the last thirty years of his life he painted over 250 separate paintings of lily pads. It is said that during these last years he was suffering from cataracts.

In 1923, Monet underwent cataract surgery on his right eye; he refused, however, to have his left eye operated on. As a result, he could see violets and blues through his right eye but not his left. It is also believed that due to the removal of the lens, which filters out ultraviolet wavelengths, Monet began to perceive—and paint— a spectrum of color typically unseen by the human eye.

His impact on painting was so significant that many art historians label him as the greatest artist of all time.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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