Édouard Manet’s paintings were just as controversial as he was himself. This is clearly seen through some of his very famous paintings which include The Absinthe Drinker/The Philosopher (1859) and The Luncheon on the Grass (1863) which were rejected by the Salon at the Louvre. His other controversial and rather shocking painting is Olympia which also received its share of criticism. Through these paintings, it is clear that he was a man who went about provoking the people’s minds and therefore sparking arguments and different perceptions.
The Absinthe Drinker/ The Philosopher (1859) and The Luncheon on the Grass (1863) were rejected by the Salon at the Louvre for the sole reason of them displaying rather openly things or issues that society at the time chose not to talk about leave alone see in the open. The Absinthe Drinker/The Philosopher depicts a drunken man (Kleiner 2009). By the time it was painted, drinking and being out drunk was considered a social vice just like showing off one’s nakedness as seen in the painting The Luncheon on the Grass was unacceptable. His reputation as a flâneur may not have influenced the decision to reject the paintings.
His other painting Olympia may have been meant to shock the people because it fully exposed a nude courtesan tended by a black woman. At the time, the French practice dictated that women be modeled in such a way that they portrayed biblical, mythical and historical them something that is clearly not present in this portrait (Boime 2007). But if the painting was to be unveiled in our society today, I believe it will not raise an eyebrow because media has made nudeness an obvious phenomenon.
Manet introduced a new but rather shocking form of art whereby he chose to be more elaborate way of expressing art. Verdi and Wagner too choose to go against the grain but their work was equally great. Their audiences may have been astonished by their performances (Abbate & Parker 1989). The audiences may have been smitten by their artistic attributes and thereby always wanting more and more. Manet may have been controversial too but he may have been liked secretly by his audiences because openly, he was abhorred.
Abbate, C. & Parker Roger. (1989). Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner. Los Angeles: University of california
Boime, A. (2007). Art in an age of Civil Struggle, 1848- 1871. Chicago: University of Chicago
Kleiner, F. S. (2009). Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Concise Global History. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning