Edouard Manet and Claude Monet are artist friends from Paris, who are both considered fathers of the art movement Impressionism. They lived in the same country, were close friends, and were both renowned painters in their lifetimes, they also shared one very crucial and similar thing, their name. In this article we will talk about some of their renowned works and hopefully dissolve the confusion between the ‘a’ and the ‘o’.

Manet, The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, Oil on canvas, 61 x 99.7 cm, 1874 (www.metmuseum.org)

Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was born in Paris into a rich family. He was a painter of everyday life; the people amid their daily activities, portraits of them, some of which are his friends, and coffee houses. He wanted his individuality accentuated and so sought freedom in painting, which was the reason of people, and especially The Salon where artists display their paintings, rejecting his work during his lifetime.

Manet was a rebel; he did not want to paint traditional themes, such as religion and mythology that are usually approved of by The Salon. He believed in the Realism of his subjects and wanted to portray them as they really are or how he perceives them and not to make them appear idealized” as the classical artists did.” There’s no symmetry in nature.” The artist said, “One eye is never exactly the same as the other. There’s always a difference. We all have a more or less crooked nose and an irregular mouth.”

Manet, The Luncheon on the Grass, Oil on Canvas, 208x264cm, 1862-1863, (manet.org)

One of his “scandalous” paintings is The Luncheon on the Grass, originally entitles The Bath. It was, of course, rejected by The Salon. The painting depicts two men amid conversation, fully clothed, with whom sits a nude woman, her right hand on her chin with her attention and gaze towards the viewer, leaving her dress and hat on the ground beside her. Behind them is a woman in the water; kneeling with one hand partly in water and the other holding her clothing from falling. The figure of the woman was considered obscene because it did not refer to a mythological figure but signifies an ordinary woman which was considered inappropriate.

Manet, Olympia, Oil on Canvas, 130.5×190cm, 1863 (wiki.org)

Another controversial work by the artist is “Olympia” which portrays a woman, possibly a prostitute. It is also considered obscene by the public back then because of its realistic characters and again, the fact that this is in fact an ordinary woman and not an idealized mythological figure. The painting depicts the woman setting on some kind of bed and a black cat at her feet. She still has her shoes on and underneath her is a decorated shawl with flowers at the sides. Beside her stands a servant holding a bouquet of flowers as if presenting it to the woman. The woman here also holds a direct gaze to the viewer, breaking the fourth wall once more.

Titian, Venus of Urbino, Oil on Canvas, 119x165cm, 1532-1534 (wiki.org)

Manet here appropriated the painting Venus of Urbino by the Renaissance artist Titian, except -according to Manet’s audience at the time- he disrespected Titian by substituting the goddess of beauty with an imperfect ordinary woman.  “To an eye trained in the classical style, Olympia was clearly no respectful homage to Titian’s masterpiece; the artist offered instead an impoverished copy. In place of the seamlessly contoured voluptuous figure of Venus, set within a richly atmospheric and imaginary world, Olympia was flatly painted, poorly contoured, lacked depth, and seemed to inhabit the seamy, contemporary world of Parisian prostitution.” (khanacademy.org)

Monet, Haystacks-At-Giverny, Oil on Canvas, 1884 (drawpaintacademy.com)

Oscar-Claude Monet was also born in Paris in 1840. He, at the age of 5, and his family moved to Le Havre, a port in the Normandy region, where he spent his childhood. Le Havre is the place where everything started, he had been always passionate about painting of course, but in Le Havre he met a local artist, Eugene Boudin, who encouraged him to paint “en plein air”.  Monet observed and studied nature; noticed the details, pondered his surroundings and the changes it went through during a day, a year, or even a couple of hours, contemplating how altered, yet the same, everything appeared.

Monet, Impression: Soleil Levant, Oil on Canvas, 48x63cm, 1872, (wiki.org)

Impression: Soleil levant (Impression: Sunrise) is a painting by the artist, which gives the Impressionist movement its name. The painting depicts Le Havre as the sun rises and the bright orange color is reflected on the surface of the water. The port is misty and at first, the viewer does not notice the cranes and the ships on the right or the smoking chimney on the left. On the water, which appears sparkly and calm, are silhouettes of people and boats heading left. The blazing color of the sun indicates warmth which contrasts with the cool blue color that implies early morning.

Monet’s interest in the alteration of the atmosphere and light during a period of time in his surroundings grew; so he started painting series consisting of paintings of the same place but from different points of view and duration. One of these series is called The Haystacks and consists of 25 paintings representing a stack of harvest wheat or oats outside the artist’s house at Giverny. He portrays the stacks in winter, summer, spring, and autumn; in different times of day to illustrate these changes of light and weather and how it affects the scenery or view of a place or certain subject.

Monet, Water Lilies, Oil on Canvas, 88.3×93.1cm, 1899 (nationagallery.org.uk)

From late 1890s and till 1926, the year in which the artist passed away, Monet worked on the well-known series Water Lilies. A series includes around 300 paintings all depicting a water lily pond he had installed in his house at Giverny. The Water Lilies also portray the water pond during different times of  day and from different angles. The artist also focuses on and paints in detail spots on the water surface in a close-up that nothing appears in the painting but the water and lilies. Monet had a studio in his house for this series to work on, he did not paint Water Lilies like the rest of his previous works which were at the moment of perception by the artist.

Monet, Water Lilies, Oil on Canvas, 101x200cm, 1919 (wiki.org)

In conclusion, Monet was fond of nature and light; he wanted to represent them in his art. His subjects were mainly landscapes demonstrating the effect of light and change on them.  On the other hand, Manet in his revolutionary artworks portrayed people in their day-to-day activities, depicting realistic rather than idealized figures. The two artists had different techniques in painting; for instance Monet‘s brushstrokes were fragmented and rough showing the effect of light and atmosphere. As for Manet‘s, they are smooth and more connected in a way.  They are both quite phenomenal painters whose art has stood the test of time and keeps leaving their viewers in awe.

All images courtesy stated in captions.

Nuha Zalloum

I am a student at the University of Jordan majoring in English and German language. I am interested in all forms of art and am an amateur photographer.

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