Want to learn more about famous artists with your kids? Check out this free homeschool artist study on Édouard Manet. He was a French modernist painter and was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life and a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

“There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another.” ~Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet Early Life

Édouard Manet (pronunciation) was born January 23, 1832, into a well-to-do family in Paris. His mother was the goddaughter of a Swedish prince, but his father was a judge and wanted Manet to pursue a career in law. Manet, however, wanted to be a painter. His uncle supported this interest by taking him to the Louvre. When he was thirteen, his uncle encouraged him to enroll in a drawing course. During that time, Manet met another student named Antonin Proust, who became his lifelong friend.

The Cafe Concert

In 1848, Édouard Manet’s father insisted that he sail to Rio de Janeiro and enlist in the Navy. Reluctantly, Édouard reluctantly agreed, but failed the examinations. After the fact, his father finally gave in and allowed him to pursue a career as an artist. So Manet began to study under Thomas Couture, and was able to travel through Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The Railway

Édourard’s Career

Édouard Manet was inspired by artists such as Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, and in his spare time, he would copy the master artists at the Louvre. In 1856 he opened an art studio. This happened around the time that his painting style changed, becoming more realistic as inspired by Gustave Courbet. He started to paint more contemporary settings, illustrating social gatherings like masquerades and bullfights, or scenes from everyday life; such as people in cafes, gypsies, and beggars.

The Spanish Singer

Two of Manet’s paintings were accepted at the Salon (an art exhibition in Paris) in 1861: a portrait of his parents, and a painting called The Spanish Singer, which was highly praised by artists and art enthusiasts alike. However, many other pieces Manet submitted during the 1860s were met with a lot of controversy. Especially so in regards to the way he depicted nude women, as well as various religious and historical scenes.

The Reading

Marriage of Suzanne Leenhoff

In 1863, Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff, who frequently modeled in many of Manet’s paintings, such as The Reading. Suzanne gave birth to a son, Leon Leenhoff, who also posed for Manet in some of his paintings, such as Boy Carrying a Sword. Although Impressionism had a great influence on Manet, he didn’t want his art to represent that style. So while he preferred to use lighter colors, he usually incorporated black and other dark colors that impressionists did not use.

Boy Carrying a Sword

Manet believed that it was important for modern artists to display their art at the Salon. However, when he was not accepted into the exhibition in 1867, he set up an exhibition of his own. The project proved to be so expensive that Manet’s mother worried he would use up the rest of his inheritance. And although it was poorly received by critics, in the end, it was through this exhibition that Manet was able to meet several people who would later become well-known Impressionist painters, such as Edgar Degas.

The Races at Longchamp

The End of Édourard’s Life

In fact, Édouard Manet was friends with several other renowned artists, including Degas, as well as Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Another artist friend, Berthe Morisot, convinced Manet to try plein air painting (painting outdoors), though he preferred to spend most of his time painting indoors. Berthe later married Manet’s brother.

Chez le père Lathuille

In the later years of his life, Manet suffered from several painful medical conditions, including a partial paralysis in his legs. However he never stopped painting. His last major work was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, after which he kept to smaller projects, such as flowers in vases. He died in 1883.  

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Books recommended for further study…

Note to Parents: These Édouard Manet biography books are not written for children and contain nude paintings.

Manet: His Life and Work in 500 Images: An Illustrated Exploration Of The Artist, His Life And Context, With A Gallery Of 300 Of His Greatest WorksManet: His Life and Work in 500 Images: An Illustrated Exploration Of The Artist, His Life And Context, With A Gallery Of 300 Of His Greatest WorksManet: His Life and Work in 500 Images: An Illustrated Exploration Of The Artist, His Life And Context, With A Gallery Of 300 Of His Greatest WorksManet: A Visionary Impressionist (The Impressionists)Manet: A Visionary Impressionist (The Impressionists)Manet: A Visionary Impressionist (The Impressionists)ManetManetManet


Manet Virtual Tours

This video is about Olympia from Smarthistory:

Olympia (and now, with Laure) from Smarthistory:

Check out The Balcony from Smarthistory:

Take a closer look at The Railway from Smarthistory:

In the Conservatory from Smarthistory:

Get to know Émile Zola from Smarthistory:

Below is a video of the Plum Brandy from Smarthistory:

Take a glimpse at the Corner of a Café-Concert from Smarthistory:

Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe from Smarthistory: