Edouard Manet is an important artist of the nineteenth century, often called the father of modern art. In many ways he sat on the fence - he kept his position at the Salon, whilst dipping a toe in the Impressionist movement. He was half traditionalist and half modern painter. Similarly today people sit on the fence about Manet's art, we recognize his importance as an artist but we rarely fall in love with his work as we are apt to do with the works of Monet, Cezanne and Degas.
This book makes Manet accessible, it gives a background to the painter's life, what was going on in the art scene at the time, his influences and his art. Rubin explains the story behind the man and his place in art. Manet's early paintings were influenced by the Spanish masters. Manet became a controversial figure when he painted 'Dejeuner sur l'Herbe'. If you know one Manet painting, it is possibly his most famous nude, l'Olympia, very reminiscent of Goya's LaMaja Desnuda' or Titian's 'Venus of Urbino'. Another very famous Manet painting is 'Bar at the Folies Bergere', which hangs at the Courtauld in London. Yet there will be many paintings you have perhaps not come across before. There are also some lithographs and etchings I have never seen before as well as numerous paintings shown here. Rubin amply examines all parts of Manet's art including the often alleged theory that Manet is no more than a pastiche artist. Manet's paintings are often far too reminiscent in the early years of the Spanish painters and the Venetian school and later of those of Monet or Degas. Like Monet and Van Gogh, Manet was influenced by Japanese art at the time. In his looser paintings, we can see Manet 'the modern painter'. I particularly like 'Self Portrait With a Palette', 'Cafe-Concert de Reichshoffen' and 'In The Mirror'.
The reproductions are brilliant and the close-ups are superb offering great detail. Quality art books are not cheap to produce and I feel this book is a real keeper and is priced correctly. The 416 pages explore Manet's work thoroughly. You will enjoy getting to know the artist and his art - portraits, landscapes, waterscapes and still life. This review first appeared on Karen Platt's book review website.