French artist Edouard Manet is regarded as one of the most influential painters in history. As one of the first 19th Century artists to paint modern life, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism – and also a key influence in movements such as Fauvism, influencing the likes of Matisse.

Born into a bourgeoisie household in Paris, France, Manet’s parents disapproved of his interest in art. Determined to pursue a career as a painter, Manet went to art school and travelled across Europe studying the old masters. Whilst travelling, Manet began to develop his palette of high key glowing colours and lighter more sketchy brushwork by taking inspiration from those he studied and worked with. The colourists Hals, Rembrandt and Titian inspired his composition, and his friendship with Impressionist artists Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley influenced his style.

Manet’s subject matter was revolutionary for the time. While many of his contemporaries were painting landscapes and rural settings; Manet chose to paint everyday Parisian life, particularly café scenes; these marked his marked a transition from Realism to Impressionism. These paintings and limited edition prints, which include, At the Café, The Beer Drinkers and The Café Concert, broke convention by illuminating the rituals of both common and bourgeoisie French people and reinterpreting still life. His portrait, Olympia, depicting a naked girl reclining on a bed is one of his most famous artworks and now resides in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; however at the time it was painted it caused quite a scandal, and critics recommended pregnant women avoid the painting.

Edouard Manet