8 Terrific Édouard Manet Quotes About Painting

The painter was welcomed into the art world with a slew of insults.

Drawing of Edouard Manet by Henri Fantin-Latour.
Image: Courtesy of Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Édouard Manet was born on this day in 1832. In those 184 years, the painter came of age, was welcomed into the art world with a slew of insults, and rose above the critics to create an enduring appeal that only strengthens with time. At some point during this journey, he regrettably died of syphilis. During his lifetime, his lack of attention to perfection in perspective and line, and his use of “low” subjects caused quite the stir in 19th century Paris. But today, many laud him as the father of modern art.

In 1863 Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe was rejected from the official Parisian salon, so the painting made its public debut at the Salon des Refusés—the exhibition of rejects—alongside works by Paul Cézanne, James Whistler, and Camille Pissarro. While Manet’s subject matter could be traced to Renaissance traditions, critics were nonetheless outraged.

Today, Manet’s works stir little controversy, unless they are engaged with by naked performance artists. Instead of disrobing to celebrate, we’ve rounded up eight quotes by the rebellious painter to honor his legacy.

A women looks at Edouard Manet's "Olympia" (left) and Titian's "Venus of Urbino" at the exhibition "Manet Return to Venice" in 2013. <br>Image: Courtesy of GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images</br>

A women looks at Edouard Manet’s Olympia (left) and Titian’s Venus of Urbino at the exhibition “Manet Return to Venice” in 2013.
Image: Courtesy of GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images.

  1. On being a painter:
    “No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.”‘
  2. Manet to Claude Monet about Pierre-Auguste Renoir:
    “He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him please to give up painting.”
  3.  On insults:
    “No one knows what it feels like to be constantly insulted. It sickens and destroys you… The fools! They’ve never stopped telling me I’m inconsistent; they couldn’t have said anything more flattering.”
  4. On timing:
    “One must be of one’s time and paint what one sees.”
  5. On nature:
    “In a face, look for the main light and the main shadow; the rest will come naturally — it’s often not important. And then you must cultivate your memory, because Nature will only provide you with references. Nature is like a warden in a lunatic asylum. It stops you from becoming banal.”
  6. On staying off task:
    “You must always remain master of the situation and do what you please. No school tasks, ah, no! No tasks!”
  7. On craft:
    “It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.”
  8. On the real audience:
    “If I’m lucky, when I paint, first my patrons leave the room, then my dealers, and if I’m really lucky I leave too. ”

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