The Evolution of Manet: Transitioning from Realism to Impressionism, 1860-1880

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The Evolution of Manet: Transitioning from Realism to Impressionism, 1860-1880

Although at first glance, Realism and Impressionism appear to be completely separate movements in 19th century art, they in fact were both bred as a response to the new order of Europe that had evolved as a result of the marks made by both the Industrial Revolution and a series of European continental wars. Realist painters and Impressionist painters alike faced controversy in challenging the status quo of the Salons, and took risks to no longer romanticize drastic changes within society caused by industrialization, but instead acknowledge them head-on. Edouard Manet in particular exemplified the gradual transitions from Realism to Impressionism and even to
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Through its depictions of the new age of materialism, Realism eventually became a symbol for the bourgeoisie who had, from humbler origins, recently risen to new positions of power within the Parisian government. Nevertheless, Realist works had begun to gain acceptance in salons only reluctantly; some still scorned their work as “monstrously ugly”.
Impressionism, in contrast, strove not to capture the toils of society in a moralistic setting like Realism did, but to evoke a general mood in the viewer. Painting was transformed from the idea of capturing a moment on canvas to creating a moment on canvas; painting was reduced to its own surface, “no longer transparent means but opaque ends” (Schneider 43). This was exemplified by Manet’s own ideas of painting not as “sight” but as “insight” into the human condition, driven by an artist’s intuition. Manet and the impressionists began painting en plein air, outdoors in the fresh air where they were closer to their subjects and captured the light of fleeting moments like sunrises and sunsets with quick brushstrokes intended to evoke general mood in the viewer based on the capture of light and tones in the painting, leading to the namesake “impression” left by the movement.

Courbet countered that because beauty was the domain of the upper classes, so ugly was

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