"An artist, a man truly worthy of this great name, must possess something essentially his own, thanks to which he is what he is and no one else.”
This was Charles Baudelaire’s call to artists of modern life and the most notable person to have heeded it was Édouard Manet. Manet (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883) was a painter of French origin and among the first of the artists of the nineteenth century to reject conventional traditions and pursue modern- life subjects, other impressionists soon followed suit. Another impressionist painter who also answered Baudelaire’s call and is perhaps best known as the figurehead of this movement is Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926). An open composition, a palpable illustration of light, and visible brush strokes are some hallmarks of Impressionism derived from Monet’s art.
Origins of the Confusion
It isn't uncommon to confuse the two painters. There was even animosity among them on their first meeting because a contemporary critic had written about one of Monet’s submissions, “Monet or Manet? Monet. But we have Manet to thank for Monet. Bravo, Monet. Thank you, Manet.” Manet believed that Monet was copying his style to an extent and then leaving on them a signature that was too close to his own. However the confusion was soon cleared, and the two men gradually grew closer. So what are there other points of difference between the two artists besides the change in vowels? Unsurprisingly, there are several!
Both Manet and Monet are honoured as the Fathers of Impressionism, it was on their canvases after all that Impressionism was born. This movement even got its title from one of Monet’s artworks. But herein also lies the first and major point of difference, through his artistic journey, Claude Monet remained strictly an impressionist. But Edouard Manet can be classified as both an impressionist and a realist. He played a vital role in the transition from Realism to Impressionism that occurred in the 1860s.
Who Inspired Them?
Manet was interested in both Spanish culture and classical Spanish art. He visited Spain in 1865 and returned with an appreciation for the works of Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, which was showcased with the change in his style and even subject matter. He was not only an influence to the Impressionists but was influenced by them as well, especially Monet and Morisot which is seen in the gradual increase in his use of lighter colours. Claude Monet on the other hand, was heavily influenced by Japanese art, he admired the work of Hokusai and owned an impressive collection of his prints that undeniably swayed his creativity. Beyond the artists, how can you tell the difference between a Manet and a Monet painting?
Key Points of Difference
A very important area to start with is the colours.
Monet was the unparalleled painter of light, especially bright daylight. Monet's secret to evading the use of muted hues was mixing white into his pure colours. Due to this he was able to create paintings such as the Magpie, that were almost spotless white with the sky and snow and clouds reflecting in shining waters.
Monet avoided use of the colour black like the plague replacing it with dark browns instead, but Manet achieved mastery over it. He manipulated the colour black to stamp his bold yet subtle mark on a range of subjects. His works like Masked Ball at the Opera and Music in the Tuileries are reflective of this.
Manet played with colour using his brush strokes, he used longer brush strokes of similar colours but different shades. The ripples present in his works are a product of the changing quantity of white paint mixed in.
Monet’s paintings are easily identifiable by his brief but messier brush strokes that created the perfect Impressionist perspective. Individual forms dissolved into each other on the canvas and gave rise to a cohesive tapestry of colourful strokes instead.
Inspired by the French artist Eugène Boudin, Monet painted outdoors, ‘en plein air,’ and made his name as a landscape painter. The subjects of his paintings were more often than not, natural like a pond of water lilies or the coast of Normandy. Often, he painted tangible structures such as Houses of Parliament on the river Thames. Although he worked relatively quickly, Monet put great focus on the depiction of time elapsing, by placing a series of canvases alongside each other and painting each at different intervals to follow the changing light and shadow. His depiction of Normandy’s Rouen contains more than 30 paintings all documenting a different time of day.
Unlike many other impressionists, Manet who was classically trained, chose to paint indoors in his studio. He would spend dozens and dozens of hours slaving away on a painting often needing to call back the model posing for him. Manet also had the tendency to paint people rather than places with stark contrast between shadow and light. Rejecting the technique of building up colours in layers, Manet would immediately lay down the hue that was the closest match to the reference. This technique was known as alla prima painting and was popularised by him. Although Manet painted indoors, this approach came to be adopted by the impressionists painting en plein air to effectively capture the shifting effects of light and air.
Where is their Art Today?
While it was common for European artists to display their artworks in exhibitions together, Manet and Monet never did in fact exhibit their artwork in the same place, until recent years. The works of Edouard Manet and Claude Monet can be found on display at prestigious museums, including the Musee d’Orsay (Paris) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City). The Musée Marmottan Monet at Paris, holds the greatest collection of Claude Monet paintings with around 100 of Monet’s works. Their paintings are known to set records during the auctions at Sotheby’s, among other artists such as Picasso and Cézanne.
Since Edouard Manet passed away prematurely, his works are outnumbered by those of Monet’s, therefore it is easier to encounter a Monet. Nonetheless, they are both undeniably prolific painters that have contributed heavily to their fields of interest. The art of both Manet and Monet will continue to influence not only artists for generations to come but the very perception and appreciation of art itself.
How does Ruggism come into the picture?
We too at Ruggism have been inspired by the greatness of these two infamous artists among others, and to a keen eye, their influence will shine through our designs both directly and indirectly. We wish to continue upholding this honour of creating art and answering Baudelaire’s call to artists in our own pursuits. We also have a whole collection to honour the works of the French artist Georges Valmier, who was known for his contributions to Cubism and Abstraction and also famous for his use of bold colours and odd shapes. Check out our Valmier Collection here.