During the nineteenth century, the art world underwent a drastic transformation: artists began to leave realism behind in favor of impressionism, which took off at the end of the nineteenth century. Edouard Manet, an artist who studied and painted from 1850 till his death in 1883, “was a leading artist in [this] transition from realism to impressionism”. As one of the artists at the start of this artistic movement, Manet was among the many influential artists during the nineteenth century whose paintings were not always readily accepted by prestigious art galleries or salons. Some of his now famous works were sent to the Salon de Refusés which literally translates into “exhibition of rejects”. However, Manet’s biography notes that his innovative artwork did not go unnoticed. By the end of his lifetime, he was a respected, revolutionary artist. His unconventional style strove to “illuminate the rituals of both common and bourgeoisie French people”. Like in The Rue Mosnier Dressed with Flags (above) and in Chez le père Lathuille (left), Manet’s subjects are presented doing everyday things: an elderly man walking down the street, a couple sharing a meal at a café with a waiter onlooking in the background. However, with Manet’s use of color and light, these scenes are transformed into beautiful works of art. A quote from Manet himself may help us understand his expressive use of light and brushstrokes: “There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another”. Manet uses contrasting colors and to create the illusion of line and a more stylized feeling to his subjects. His figures are realistic and there is a sense of depth in his work; yet somehow, they also feel somewhat two dimensional. According to the National Gallery of Art, “viewers were not used to flat space and shallow volumes in painting. To many, Manet’s “color patches” appeared unfinished. Even more shocking was the frank honesty of [his subjects]” . Manet was constantly experimenting with color and brush strokes even amidst skepticism about the emerging Impressionist movement.
As a study on Manet’s use of color and brush strokes, I have decided to paint a scene based on some pictures I took in Tuscany. To emulate how the colors of the ocean often melt into the sky and the sand on the beach, start off with an ombre of turquoise, white, turquoise, and beige (top to bottom). If your paper starts to warp, as mine does in this image, don’t panic! As long as you are careful not to rip or crease your paper, you will be able to flatten the paper once the paint is dry. You can also tape your paper to a flat surface to prevent warping.
Next, block in the colors of your scene paying attention to the colors. Try to use warm, and light colors that contrast against each other so that you have clear forms and shapes. When painting my scenes, I always tried to keep Manet’s idea of “There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another” in the back of my mind. Especially when trying to emulate another artist’s style, art might force you to change your mindset and think about painting differently. After you block in your colors and shapes, take a break and let your paint dry. Come back later and use the darkest colors of the painting and try to add more contrast and emulate how Manet almost outlines his figures with a darker color.
As you can see, I decided to add pink flowers in the corner to make the blue of the ocean and sky and the orange and yellow of the sand seem more vibrant. It can be difficult to develop clean lines and use expressive brush strokes, but with some practice, it will get easier to build up forms, lines, and colors. In fact, several times throughout this process, I almost gave up and started over. However, I stuck with it and ended up loving the result!
I would love to see your Manet inspired scenes! Try something new, stick with it, and if you want, send them to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram @emcardsandcreations
“Edouard Manet Biography” Biography.com, April 12, 2019, https://www.biography.com/artist/edouard-manet
“Manet and His Influence.” National Gallery of Art, www.nga.gov/features/slideshows/manet-and-his-influence.html#slide_1.
“Salon de Refusés.” Wikipedia, November 15, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_des_Refus%C3%A9s