Édouard Manet was born into a wealthy family in France in 1832. He was first exposed to painting through his uncle, who recognized Manet’s talent and encouraged him to pursue it. Due to his social status, Manet was able to appreciate artwork from different eras, and was particularly drawn to that of Catalan painter Francisco Goya and his paintings of Majas on the Balcony. This influence can be seen in Manet’s own painting titled ‘The Balcony’ which he completed in 1868.
‘The Balcony’ became one of Manet’s most iconic works, yet it caused much controversy at the time due to its odd colouring and lighting which differentiated it from other works of the period. The painting depicts four figures on a balcony: two men (one of whom is standing) and two women, one of whom is sitting and is thought to be the painter Berthe Morisot.
Manet continued working throughout his career despite disapproval from critics but never achieved widespread success. After ‘The Balcony’, another notable work is ‘Races At Longchamp’, executed between 1867-1869 which shows the grandeur and elegance of horse racing at the time. Whether painting scenes from everyday life or investing emotion into large-scale pieces such as ‘Races At Longchamp’, every work by Edouard Manet echoes back to his core belief: that painting should be an attraction for viewers today, just as much as for viewers hundreds of years ago.