Édouard Manet (1832-1883)

Though the French painter Édouard Manet had created a scandal in the 1863 when he debuted Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) in Paris, at the Armory Show fifty years later the press grouped him with the artists who were “‘wild men’ in their day, but infinitely civilized now.” [1] By 1913 Manet’s international reputation as an innovator and precursor to Impressionism was well established. His works were exhibited in American museums and had made their way into prominent American collections. [2] His early urban realist style greatly influenced the artists of the Ashcan School, and the Armory Show co-organizer Walter Pach credited him with the notion that, “art to be really significant must be born of its own time…This ‘revolutionary’ idea of Manet’s has become the cornerstone of the art conditions we see about us here in America today.” [3]

At the Armory Show, Manet was represented by four oil paintings—two portraits, a still life, and a bullfighting scene—but the consensus among critics was that they were “by no means equal to his greatest works.” [4] Even Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., who lent Manet’s Still Life to the Armory Show, wrote that he was, “adequately but not strikingly represented.” [5] The diminished impact was likely a result of the works’ placement within the exhibition, dispersed across three galleries. This may have been an attempt by the organizers to demonstrate his widespread influence, illustrating his connection to Impressionism in Gallery O, American “historical” painting in Gallery P, and Post-Impressionism in Gallery R.

[1] “Ultra Moderns in a Live Art Exhibition at 69th’s Armory,” New York Evening Mail, February 17, 1913, 8.

[2] The Chicago lawyer Arthur Jerome Eddy was an early collector of Manet’s work. One of his first purchases was Manet’s Philosopher (1865), a work he bought in 1894, before Manet was well known to many American collectors. Milton Brown, The Story of Armory Show, 2nd ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 1988), 122-123.

[3] Walter Pach, “Manet and Modern American Art,” The Craftsman 17, no. 5 (February 1910): 483.

[4] “International Art,” The New York Evening Post, February 20, 1913, 9. Three of the paintings were lent by American collectors, and one by the dealer Stephan Bourgeois.

[5] Frank J. Mather, Jr., “Old and New Art,” The Nation 96, no. 2488 (March 6, 1913): 241. Mather later questioned the authenticity of this work. See Frank Trapp, The 1913 Armory Show in Retrospect (Amherst: Amherst College, 1958), 24.

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